What goes on three miles north of a small Swedish town called Molkom? Well, it’s a rural area in lush countryside so you’d expect the usual mix of hunting, nature walks, sightseeing and so on, plus maybe a decent sized logging industry. But in actual fact there is a large hippie commune called Angsbacka. Labelled a 21st century playground for adults, the sprawling space opens its gates of thousands of international international visitors, including two British filmmakers, to spread their lifestyle.
The film follows a hand-picked group of festival-goers as they engage with one another in ‘sharing groups’, get roasted in a pitch black sauna while a shamen purifies their spirits, indulge in some tantric sex, fight one another user the power of their auras and, of course, hug some trees. This festival is the perfect subject for an entertaining documentary, and debut directors Robert Cannan and Corinna McFarlane really make the most of it.
The first thing to note is that group dynamic they pull together works perfectly. They have a thinker, an arrogant exhibitionist, a troubled soul, an archetypal hippie (who used to be a goatherd) and, the icing on the cake, a cynical Australian who unwittingly ends up at the festival and denounces the whole thing as a cult. This bunch creates a great atmosphere for drama and fun, but Aussie Nick is the production’s blessing that allows the audience in. Through his initial skepticism, occasional disdain and frequent frustration we are fully inducted into the bizarre proceedings of the festival.
Another oddball addition to the group is Regina Lund. Supposedly the Swedish Madonna (the singer rather than mother of Christ), Regina Lund reportedly had her agent contact the filmmakers early on and indicate that she wanted to get involved in order to dispel her public image and show the ‘real her’, on being told she’s have to turn up and talk to the filmmakers at the start of the festival just like every other attendee who wanted to be involved, interest dissipated. However, on the second day of filming she turns up at a group sharing session, sits down, and starts gushing.
It’s a weird experience, but soon her presence becomes just another example of how alarming the various dis-armouring (by which they mean self-revelatory) exercises at Angsbacka can be. Not only does she struggle to handle the level of commitment and candour this world demands, but her supposedly grand persona is often overshadowed by the real-life drama of the ‘ordinary’ folk around.
It’s not all about the people though, it’s about a collective atmosphere, and the attractions of an alternative lifestyle. But rather than explain this through humdrum interviews which run through the various ideologies and beliefs that underpin the way of life at Angsbacka, the ethos shines through in each of the strange undertakings the festivalgoers embark on and, better still, infuses the cinematography and camerawork of the filmmakers. Whether it’s rolling around on the floor like a baby as a huge group of people free themselves from physical constraint all around or hurling the audience into the bustling crowd around those brave souls who choose to walk barefoot across the fire, this film is not afraid to immerse its audience into the action.
Overall, THREE MILES NORTH OF MOLKOM provides a great journey. Full of laughter, weirdness and raw emotion it’s a documentary that shuns the approach by which an audience is dictated a series of facts in order to provide a real experience with the narrative structure and playful plot-lines of a fiction film. Well worth a look for a bit of fun with a quirky edge.
This article was first posted on September 18, 2009