LFO (2013)

LFO first published by VODzilla.co

“Do you want to change the world?”

So asks Robert (Patrik Karlson), giving expression to the grandiose scope of his own personal ambitions – but bear in mind that Robert is a bespectacled, middle-aged homebody, in his basement chatting online with like-minded geeks (each hiding behind geeky pseudonyms) about DIY research into sound waves. Already Robert imagines receiving the Nobel Prize for his contributions to humanity, and even rehearses his English-language acceptance speech – in his house shoes. Yet if these delusions of grandeur betray a certain megalomania on the part of this amateur acoustic engineer, they also suggest someone with big ideals – or at least fantasies. At home on extended sick leave and off his meds, Robert is grounded only by his estranged wife Clara (Ahnna Rasch) who, along with their son Sebastian (Björn Löfberg Egner), drifts in and out of the house, reminding him of the real world beyond and his need to conform to certain minimal societal norms.

Still, our understanding of power always begins at home – and when Robert does indeed create a special synth tone that makes anyone who is hearing it utterly, irresistibly susceptible to his suggestive influence, he is quick to realise the implications – and potential dangers – of such a discovery. “In the wrong hands,” he observes, “this could produce disastrous consequences” – and so, before unleashing his tone on the world, he first sets about thoroughly trialling it in the relative safety of his own home, with new neighbours Linn (Izabella Jo Tschig) and Simon (Per Löfberg) as his unwitting test subjects, substitute family, and slaves. As these experiments in extreme mesmerism move in directions not always relevant to Robert’s long-term goals, our schlubby protagonist emerges as precisely the kind of sinister, all-too-human Svengali whom you would probably never want to have changing the world.

Written and directed by Antonio Tublén (Original, 2009), LFO is a tale of ordinary madness, an origin story for a superhero (or villain), and an allegory of power and its abuses. Brilliantly embodying Robert as a man of both high ideals and low drives, Karlos instils his character’s wildest whims with a mundanity that is comically pathetic. The action, confined almost entirely to the Ikea-like interiors of Robert’s suburban home, comes with a surreal sense of the absurd, as huge ideas are threshed out on the smallest, most domesticated of scales, before eventually being amplified in a manner that enables the whole world to hear one man’s deeply flawed yet divinely empowered voice. The results are all at once funny, unnerving and sad, and now seem, entirely by accident, the perfect primer for the age of Trump – as though the Nordic sociology of Bent Hamer’s Kitchen Stories (2003) had been updated to our era of apocalyptic anxiety.

Summary: Antonio Tublén’s creepily surreal parable modulates the fantasies, follies and foibles of power.

© Anton Bitel