UFO Sweden Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2023

To believe is one thing. To know is something completely different.

UFO Sweden (2022) is the emotionally driven sci-fi thriller that every fan of The X-Files needs to see. Don’t let the title throw you; there are no tiny green men or cliche flying saucers in this film. Instead, director Victor Danell and co-writer Jimmy Nivren Olsson deliver a fascinating story about a troubled young orphan who will do whatever it takes to unravel the mysteries hidden in her father’s old notes to figure out what happened to him. What she finds in the end is not what anyone expected. Without spoiling the film, it is important for viewers to understand that this is not another Fire in the Sky or Contact styled movie. UFO Sweden does focus on the potential for alien visitors, but the science they uncover is far more interesting. Think quantum physics and conspiracy theories that prove to be real. With so many streaming services pumping out nostalgia-driven movies and series right now, Danell’s take on the 1990s UFO trope is refreshing, and the twist ending will be difficult for many viewers to see coming.

 

UFO Sweden
UFO Sweden – image courtesy Toronto After Dark

UFO Sweden is an unofficial scientific department of study composed of five quirky people who hope to find proof of alien life, but after years of disappointment are more attuned to disproving the odd claim that comes across their desks. Enter Denise (Inez Dahl Torhaug), the teenage orphan of Uno (Oscar Toringe) who went missing during a UFO investigation in 1988. Denise is convinced that he was abducted by aliens, a belief that cements itself when the car he was driving crashes through the roof of a barn not too far away while the sky turns unearthly red. Denise is ‘savvy’, and she continues her father’s studies of weather anomalies and the earth’s magnetic fields after his disappearance. When she believes she has pinpointed the location her father vanished from, she tries to enlist the help of Tomi (Sara Shirpey), a police officer who is familiar with the troubled teen after multiple incidents with her foster homes over the years. Tomi is less than understanding, though, so Denise decides it’s time to go to her father’s old friends at the UFO Sweden office.

 

UFO Sweden
UFO Sweden – image courtesy Toronto After Dark

Set in 1996, Danell manages to recreate the era subtly, rather than forcing nostalgia. Characters are wearing period clothing and personal cell phones are rare, but he refrains from adding splashes of 90s marketing and product labels like most filmmakers would. While the film does have a Stranger Things feel at times, the UFO Sweden team more closely resembles the “Lone Gunmen” from The X-Files. Their scenes take place in regular locations like office buildings and farm fields, far away from shopping malls and neon lights. Their tools are low tech, and references to the internet are surrounded by questions about how it works. The effect is a subtle immersion in the time period; it does not feel forced. The special effects are saved for the truly big moments in this film, which makes them seem even more spectacular, set against the darker/duller scenery in the film. The last fifteen minutes of UFO Sweden are mesmerizing, and heart wrenching, and so filled with awe-inspiring effects that the viewer will not soon forget them. 

Where Denise’s fight to learn the truth about her father is the primary plot line in this movie, her relationship with the UFO Sweden team members and Tomi the police officer is the secondary plot line, and the driving force behind the high level of emotion Danell creates. The question of trust is an underlying current throughout the film, both between Denise and everyone she encounters, and between the team members, themselves. Her character revives the dreams of the disillusioned department, spurring them into action, waking them out of an anhedonia they hadn’t realized they’d fallen into. Tomi the police officer seems to care about Denise, but it is unclear who’s side she is on until the end of the film. UFO Sweden’s most senior member Gunnar (Hakan Ehn) is consistently clear about his disagreement with the team’s decision to help Denise, and we watch as his character stoops lower and lower to foil them. It’s Denise’s relationship with UFO Sweden’s director Lennart (Jesper Barkselius), though, that becomes the most important element in the film. It is through their exploration of their ability to trust one another that all other plot points are actioned, and the seminal emotional axis that carries the story. 

 

UFO Sweden
UFO Sweden – image courtesy Toronto After Dark

With several nods to The X-Files, the influence for UFO Sweden is clear. The team of scientists helping Denise is reminiscent of the “Lone Gunmen” in their compatibility and camaraderie. Posters featured in Mulder’s office hang on the walls in UFO Sweden. Some of the electronic gizmos and MacGyvered tools could have come straight from the Lone Gunmen’s lab. And just like The X-Files, the story driver in this film is the unstoppable search for the truth. 

UFO Sweden is a must-watch for any sci-fi enthusiast with a secret love of quantum physics and nerd humour, but watch out, Danell’s film will hit you right in the feels, too.

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We watched UFO Sweden (2022) at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2023.

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