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HomeEntertainment'The Gullspang Miracle' review: Bloodline Mysteries meet true crime in a riveting...

‘The Gullspang Miracle’ review: Bloodline Mysteries meet true crime in a riveting Scandi Doc


The theme park water ride featured in the introductory minutes of The Gullspang Miracle bears no resemblance to the wild emotional rollercoaster the film is about to unfold. Contacted by two sisters in their 60s who had made an exciting discovery – an older sibling, one whose existence they never suspected – director Maria Fredriksson became a confidante of all three women, as well as the chronicler of their shaky attitudes versus the unexpected relationship. The resulting work, her first full-length documentary, is an astonishing and cleverly structured exploration of serendipity, belief, social divisions, family ties and personal identity. It delves into some of the same themes that created it Three identical aliens look so compelling, yet the canvas is one of a kind, a powerful blend that also encompasses a terrifying unsolved crime, complete with Lynchian echoes of Twin Peaks.

Fredriksson does not hide her role in telling this complex story. The film opens with her directing sisters May and Kari entering a stark white kitchen in Gullspang, Sweden, to describe to the camera the epiphany they experienced in that same room. They do different takes, Fredriksson encourages them to be more ‘technical’, less actor. They are happy to obey, the story they tell loaded with joy and amazement. At least for a while.

The Gullspang Miracle

It comes down to

Fasten your seat belt.

The event they remember, oddly enough, revolves around a framed needlepoint. Recovering from a water ride injury while visiting Kari in Sweden, May took on a mission to fill the downtime before she could return home to Norway: she went on some real estate shopping. But her main goal was to find a certain type of still life to hang in whatever house she found. Walking into the kitchen of an apartment for sale in Gullspang, she saw what she was looking for, in all its mind-boggling glory. Most people would have seen a standard still life of fruit. To May, that tapestry was an answered prayer. Kari, noting that it was the central element in a triptych of decorative pieces, saw a sign of the Christian trinity, a blessing.

Then they met the woman who sold the apartment, and the miracle deepened: Olaug was the spitting image of their sister Astrid, known to all as Lita, who died by suicide in 1988. Some genealogy research and a DNA test later, and Olaug was welcomed into the fold as half-sister May and Kari didn’t know they had, twins separated at birth from their beloved Lita.

If Three identical aliens stares head-on at the wanton brutality of scientific experimentation, The Gullspang Miracle recognizes the consequences of avoiding it. In 1941, when Lita and Olaug were born in occupied Norway, wary parents and midwives knew that twins were a problem that had to be hidden—or go their own way—because of the Nazis’ gruesome fixation on them as raw materials for medical experiments. . That angle alone would make this story fascinating. But there are many more angles to come, some of which are unusually tearing.

Tracing the branches of the family tree is not Fredriksson’s concern. For instance, the marriages of the three women’s fathers are never described, and in the present day, aside from a few mentions of husbands and exes, the film remains a laser focus on the siblings. That group soon expands to include Kari and May’s brother, Arnt, and their sister Solveig. Olaug also meets Lita’s daughter and the nanny who took care of baby Lita while her parents took care of the harvest.

In the early, heady days of the groundbreaking reveal, Olaug, who never knew she was a twin, describes her lifelong sense that something was missing – the primal pain of twins being torn from her sister? Kari recalls Lita confiding in her own deep, vague feelings of loss. Thirty-year-old home movies of Lita reveal an unmistakable resemblance between her and Olaug, who eagerly points out their physical similarities to the filmmakers and, in her home filled with tchotchkes and antiques, finds pride of place to hang a picture of her new discovered brother or sister. Another photo of Lita, a formal portrait, can be seen in Kari’s home in a shrine of sorts, and when Pia Lehto’s nimble camera zooms in on it, it’s an eerie reminder of Lita’s portrait. Twin PeaksLaura Palmer – who, like Lita, was found dead at the edge of a lake.

Olaug isn’t just questioning the suicide story — she’s seeking answers from the police, whose autopsy report, it turns out, was never shared with the family. And while the findings are a source of comfort to May, Kari, Arnt and Solveig, a schism that has cracked the clumsy surface erupts wide with Olaug’s continued questioning and her insistence that Lita was murdered. Her investigations, and Fredriksson’s, are both enlightening and disturbing, ultimately breaking through layers of resistance to touch hearts and minds. It is the differences of class and temperament that are much more difficult to bridge.

Kari and May’s ecstasy gives way to pain and resentment, and it becomes increasingly clear that after the initial thrill of connection, Olaug is keeping them and the whole situation at bay. Artistic, elegant and urban with her asymmetrical hairdo and a dangling earring, she starts out uncertain “how to find my place among these people” – people whose lives are steeped in small-town tradition and religion. By the time she makes another visit to Arnt’s farm to clear the air with him and the sisters, the air is thick with wariness.

Olaug, who grew up in a wealthy household across the fjord from May and Kari and their farmer parents, speaks condescendingly and inaccurately of their childhood “poverty” and “misery.” In interviews on camera, her struggle to sidestep the disruptive idea of ​​a whole new family at 80 is understandable, but her displays of superiority become increasingly bizarre, with pointed mentions of her IQ and her military know-how. Olaug, an infidel, is particularly furious that her half-siblings want to convert her – an accusation for which the film offers no evidence.

It is impossible to see ill will when the extended family sings a short, joyful song of thanksgiving to Jesus before a meal. But if that song and all it represents is unforgivably offensive to a visiting relative, she should sort that out — as Olaug apparently does, stunningly. “Is someone lying?” asks Fredriksson, from behind the camera, when a crucial reversal is revealed. She adds in exasperation, giving voice to the audience’s thoughts, “What’s going on?!” Answers are another matter. But as things unfold, it’s impossible not to draw parallels to the inflexible us-versus-them social climate in the United States, or be reminded that urban sophistication is hardly the opposite of narrow-mindedness.

All this – the joy, the heaviness, the tense interactions, private confessions and sit-down interviews – is captured with poignant intimacy by Fredriksson and her small team of collaborators. From the sunlit symmetrical compositions at the beginning of the film to the painterly views of winter forests near the scene of a young woman’s mysterious death, Lehto’s gripping cinematography attains a subtle intensity. Editors Mark Bukdahl and Orvar Anklew shape the scenes with a pulsating, sharp sensibility, the rousing score of Jonas Colstrup (Jehane Noujaim’s The square) one with the swirl of emotion, tension and shifting loyalties.

“This movie was supposed to be something positive,” the candid Kari says, in a hurt complaint, in a voicemail to Fredriksson as the twists and turns reach a new level of the strange and heartbreaking. The Gullspang Miracle does not follow the merry celebratory path that Kari and May envisioned, but is “positive” in the eyes of the beholder. It’s an awe-inspiring film, full of details, profound and resonant. From beginning to end (a kind of punchline to the credits), it’s an illuminating exploration not only of how we tell the stories we tell, but how we choose what we believe—sometimes in spite of all that lies ahead, or how much of it has been denied us.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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