Directed by Karoline Lyngbye
Starring Marie Bach Hansen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, and Mihlo Olsen
This film kinda sucks, but I think it’s great. Let me explain.
Director Karoline Lyngbye’s 2023 psychological thriller Superposition is a provocative parable about self-help in the modern world. When Danish couple Stine (Marie Bach Hansen) and Teit (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) decide to live ‘off-grid’ with their son in a remote area of the Swedish forest, they encounter a very strange yet familiar force: themselves.
Stine and Teit are a very modern couple. She’s a successful writer. He’s a ne’er do well. They have one kid. Modern. It’s their goal to live a sustainable life while they attempt to mend their strained relationship. Apparently, a sleek cabin far from the city and some basic recording equipment is all they need to accomplish said goal. The plan is to remove themselves from the distractions of modern life and record honest conversations about their marriage. This, again, is very modern. So many people want “a return to nature” so they can distance themselves from all that’s wrong with society. They will, of course, still need their laptops, but to them, “return to nature” is a moral choice—the righteous choice. They, like most modern people, believe that with the right circumstances and the proper conditions they can perfect their lives and themselves. Superposition holds a black mirror up to that belief.
**Potential Spoiler Alert**
The doppelgänger trope, or plot device (whatever you wanna call it), in this film was somewhat popular at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. Only two other films that I’m aware of had it, but considering how unusual it is, I’d say that’s a lot. And I like it. For me, it’s an effective metaphor for self-help—a trend that crowds the shelves of every bookstore. But again, this film pushes against that idea. How much self-help is possible? Is there a cure for the human condition? Director Karoline Lyngbye plays with the doppelgänger trope brilliantly. She has the characters make unexpected yet believable choices. Choices that unearth layers of our nature like strata of soil; exposing dark, infested motivations. This could be one of the film’s drawbacks: it’s very cynical. Or at least it seems to be. I still haven’t decided how to interpret the ending.
Stine and Teit and Stine and Teit all made choices throughout the second and third acts that deeply disturbed me. I don’t want to say exactly what those choices were, but they sure were scary. Maybe it’s because I, like this film, am too cynical? Or maybe the human animal is deeply untrustworthy? Which bugs me because what the heck am I supposed to do with this information? Cynicism is difficult for me to process because when I’m pointing a finger at people those three other fingers pointing back at me scream “You’re deeply untrustworthy too!” Which might be true. But I’m also very trustworthy. This film leans heavy on the negative. Sometimes we need that, and in the case of Superposition, I was unsettled by it.
And that is why I say it sucks. But it’s great too. Danish filmmaker Karoline Lyngbye nailed this film tonally and thematically. Taking cues from the works of Von Trier, Lynch, and Eggers, Lyngbye builds a compelling, character driven plot in a smart blend of genres. With the opening shot of a vertically inverted lakeside reflection, Lyngbye lets the audience know she isn’t painting on a Bob Ross canvas. The happy little trees have something darker inside them. By blending familiar tropes from psychological thrillers, marital dramas, and science fiction, Lyngbye develops a modern parable from which I feel unwilling to draw a lesson.
I hate to use the word liminal, but when the troubled family enters their sleek, off-grid AirBnb, director Lyngbye sets up a clever shot of the cabin’s exterior that creates an ominous lake-reflection effect as they enter the cabin. It’s as though they’re entering into the Upside Down, but the only monsters they’ll find look very familiar. This is my type of horror. In my opinion, nothing is scarier than human nature, and Superposition pulls back the cadaver’s skin so we can inspect ourselves. And sometimes, we suck.
Great film. VERY CINEMA.