As a rule, the Danish speak fantastic English. Some of the Danes in Copenhagen are so ‘accent’-free you might think they’re American. But there’s something tinny-sounding about Reaching Julie, Dane Fili Seifert’s 10-part web series for Filmaka.
The show reinforces my unofficial mantra of short-form, online video content: it’s tough to pull off a drama without any comedy.
Aesthetically, Reaching Julie has much going for it. Small town and country Scandanavia provides a beautiful backdrop to the expertly framed action, and the pleasant country house that plays a recurring role is reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s Saraband (which was made for TV but could essentially be seen as Bergman’s last film). Indeed, much of Reaching Julie was shot in Sweden, not Denmark.
But otherwise, let’s not attempt to compare Seifert’s work with Bergman’s. It just wouldn’t be fair. Limiting your scope to 10 three-minute episodic shorts is a completely different type of filmmaking, but it’s the fact that Seifert goes for the dark and emotionally tormented in such a format that puts him in an uphill battle where he’ll always come up short.
The series is framed by the title character re-telling past events to her daughter, Cecilia, as she makes a long drive home for a birthday party.
Much of the tale pertains to the foursome of Julie (Nana Francisca Schottländer), her husband Peter (Søren Mühldorf), and the couple they’re close friends with, Eric (Adam Løwert) and Jennifer (the blond beauty Maja Muhlack). Peter, who is frustrated and worn down by Julie’s dark and unpredictable moods, is having an affair with Jennifer. Eric is infertile, so he and Jennifer apparently want a little assist from Peter’s sperm (or perhaps more than that?).
There’s a mysterious, recurring, tiny Gobstopper-like ball that is either Julie’s medicinal savior or her poison, it’s not clear which. As the couple spends time together – at home, on the road, and in the country – Julie continues to look back in time as she recounts the events from her kitchen and snow-covered lake porch to daughter Cecilia (Maria Kihlberg) by phone.
Here it should be mentioned that Schottländer has something of a Babs-like appearance, with a little Amanda Plummer circa Pulp Fiction mixed in, which appears multiple gene pools away from Kihlberg’s Cecilia, aka her daughter. As if there needs to be more confusion. The series is peppered with Julie’s flashbacks, or in some cases flash-forwards, of a ‘catastrophic’ event that comes from a familial confrontation (I won’t spoil it for you, even if you don’t know what happened after you watch it).
The five main characters of Reaching Julie all have potential for complexity, but 3-minute blips just aren’t enough time to expose it. For some, the series will unfold as a mystery: why is Julie so often tripping, or going off into the forest to meet her maker?
“Memories, Cecilia. Memories clouding our minds like a thousand veils. A thousand layers keeping us from salvation…” repeats Julie to her daughter at the start and end of each episode. Three-minute salvation: a nice ambition, perhaps, but for now there’s only clouding.