Existential doppelganger drama from Denmark that rubs salty narcissism into the septic wounds of broken trust.
Creative Copenhageners Stine and Teit have traded their middle-class existence for complete isolation in the Swedish wilderness. Along with their young son Nemo and family dog Tarzan they are seeking peace, simplicity, and a way to make good on their climate ideals.
Together they make a deeply pretentious and cringingly honest podcast for a radio station Teit works for. However, there is an infidelity elephant in the eco-friendly room that’s simmering on the backburners of blame. When Nemo becomes emotionally imbalanced after a brief disappearance in the woods, the family tries to leave but to no avail as they are always returned to their original starting point.
Panicked and petrified they row across the lake to get help from the shadowy figures they have seen in the distance, only to find…. exact replications of themselves.
Director Karoline Lyngbye’s highly intelligent psychodrama brings quantum physics theory into a painful relationship crisis in order to heighten the tension and distress. Influenced by fellow Dane Lars von Trier and the master of suburbanite surrealism David Lynch she has crafted a thrilling drama, but for me, the vibe has more in common with the naturalistic strand of Swede Lukas Moodysson’s work.
The dynamic between the couple we first meet is stranded in the limbo of retained affection and blazing contempt, but when their doppelgangers are introduced into the equation the ripple effect is exponentially toxic. Not least because their counterparts believe that the version of Nemo they have belongs to them.
After the initial confrontational atmosphere dissipates, but not before the film delivers a shocking twist to up the secret-keeping ante, the two couples uneasily agree that there is only one Nemo, a concept the original Stine readily clings to instead of entertaining the possibility her child might actually be wandering alone in the woods.
It is at this juncture that they and the film trade theories as to what is creating the chilling phenomenon that envelopes them. Singular psychosis, a version of purgatory to punish them for deception and spoilt entitlement, and a parallel universe built on the theory of Superposition are all on the table.
Considering the film’s title we know which is true. This is beautifully illustrated by the fact Superposition is closely linked to the work of Schrödinger only in this case the potentially missing version of Nemo is the cat.
Despite the uneasy truce, Lyngbye insists on exploring her agenda of narcissistic privilege further and plunges the film into hedonistic eroticism. It’s a fascinating section of the film and although it stops short of a carbon copy clusterfuck it asks thorny questions of the viewer regarding subjective perception and sexual experimentation with oneself.
Even though Superposition deals with extremely complex concepts and themes it refrains from disappearing up its own philosophical posterior. Crisp editing and smart uncluttered writing make sure the audience always keeps its bearings and is left unhampered to soak up all the mindfucking goodies. The timeline is mercifully linear and the visuals refreshingly pragmatic leaving the film the breathing space it needs to be engrossing and entertaining. Any additional confusion is generated by our own internal reaction to the unnerving questions it poses.
The final third is deliciously manipulative and lands every rug pull and curve ball it aims at the politics of blame, the context of happiness, and the price of survival. I will reveal nothing here but the final scene is both stunningly nuanced and deeply powerful. If you have lent this movie your full attention it will repay you with a smashed moral compass and a recalibrated interpretation of hope.
Impeccably acted by a cast willing to embrace the subtlety of body(double) language and minuscule divergences in psychological shading Superposition is a mesmeric exercise in making the fantastic believable.
At one point the film deploys the Ludwig Wittgenstein quote – “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” – and just as he is suggesting this film dares us to recognise the entrenched symbiosis between expression, perception, and reality.
PSYCHOLOGICAL DRAMA | Denmark, 2023 | Cert. TBC | 105 mins | TrustNordisk | Dir. Karoline Lyngbye | With: Marie Bach Hansen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, Mihlo Olsen.