fomo or jomo? review of mig äger ingen / nobody owns me
Title of this text is me, desperately wanting to be down with the kids... But feeling fomo or jomo has a grain of truth regarding books and movies. Should I catch up with something immediately or it's okay to slip it through my fingers? And we're not talking here about any classical positions. I picked Åsa Linderborg's book just because, it was either for the title, the cover, the description. I bet you get what I'm talking about.
NOBODY OWNS ME - FEW WORDS ABOUT THE BOOK
Åsa Linderborg is Swedish historian and journalist. She works for one of the biggest Swedish newspapers, Aftonbladet, where she conducts the cultural division. Nobody Owns Me from 2007 is her debut. The book was nominated to Augustpriset, the most influential book prize in Sweden. In 2013 a movie, based on that title, was made by Kjell-Åke Andersson. First I dived into the literature, then I watched the movie to compare. Is it also how you do it? First read the book, then watch a movie? Or the other way around?
Nobody Owns Me is an autobiographical book. Linderborg tells the story about her relationship with her dad, Leif Boris Andersson. It consists plenty shorter or longer chapters with no name, organized basically in chronological order. When Åsa was four years old, her mother left the family. Leif never recovered from this lost. Daughter stayed with him and of course he really loved her, but he couldn’t really properly take care of her, even of himself. Leif was Åsa’s hero, the strongest man on earth, fighting with a dragon, and someone who, unlike her mother, never left her. At the same time he was extremely irresponsible, replacing parental skills with pure love. As Åsa grew older she realised all her father’s faults and maladjustment to the world. A reflexion that maybe the world was maladjustment to Leif came to Åsa much later.
Leif and Åsa were fed by his mother or his sister, one of them was also washing their clothes or simply buying needed items, Leif’s father often made sure that his son paid the bills or went to work. Cause Leif had a job, good one, well-paid and if only something in his personality was different, he could have provided decent and happy life for him and his daughter. The stories about Leif’s job, about the city were he worked and lived (Västerås), about the time when most of the action takes place (the 1970s and 1980s), are great value of this book. Leif is a factory worker, dealing with steel processing, in Västerås. Västerås is one of the oldest cities in Sweden and northern Europe, the main administrative centre of the Västmanland region, 1 hour and a half away from Stockholm. It’s famous for its cathedral and its industrial past. It was a home town for many large electrical companies, ironworks and… even H&M. Leif was gaining from it as almost all his male members of the family did - by working at those factories. The other thing is that they couldn’t do anything else. It was fine during first decades after the second world war, but when in the 1980s global markets started to shift, many factories in Sweden underwent major changes or simply had to be shut down.
Linderborg is describing all of that, more or less explicitly. She shows us Västerås, not the touristic side of it of course, just those parts around which all her family’s life revolved. She, due to her mother’s side connections to communism, refers to political and social changes, that happened in Swedish society during her youth. The books is full of anecdotes almost about anything that you would expect a Swedish leftist woman to remember from the 1970s and the 1980s.
Linderborg smoothly combines anecdotes with the main story – relation with Leif. It was a difficult, repelling, absorbing, absurd, unbelievable and sad story. There were moments when I was out of my mind, angry, wondering how they could live the way she described it. Leif was a disgusting, weak man, who put her daughter into many dangerous situations. Åsa knew it. And yet, he was left alone, singled out, treated as the black sheep in the family, abandoned by his wife and later by his daughter, who previously treated him as the biggest, the only hero in her life. He just simply didn’t know how to take care of her and himself. Åsa knew it too.
The book appeared to be a perfect script. Good story, easy to make into scenes, vividly written. Is it something you should regret you haven't read? No. It won't shake you up, it won't enchant you. But for sure you won't regret that you did read it.
I cannot say the same about the movie.
NOBODY OWNS ME - AND EHH, FEW WORDS ABOUT THE MOVIE
Åsa Linderborg wrote a book about her life. So what she described, looks pretty reliable. We might not like what we find out, but I don’t have a reason not to believe her that she portrays the truth. The movie, well, treated her story like movies do. The plot was changed to this extent that it exterminated life, it’s genuineness.
The strength of Nobody Owns Me lies in the atmosphere of all those anecdotes. From all the descriptions I saw Västerås with nontouristic eyes, I discovered more nuances of Swedish communism versus social democratism, I gathered countless facts. All of that is gone in the movie or very much simplified. As there is the first-person narrative in the book, it would have helped to save the movie if the heroine was telling all the things that were impossible to show.
And what could have been shown? All the dirty and all the crud. Åsa's father had many issues, two are easy to point out - hygiene and alcoholism. For me the former was bigger flaw than latter. Of course, drinking problem is not easy to deal with, but I perceive it as a sickness, disease that can be cured. Having no self-control in hygiene regarding yourself, your flat or your daughter is something repelling to me. In the movie the only issue that Leif had was his drinking, which shallowed any messages. Åsa did not leave her father just because he was an alcoholic – it was combination of his behaviour, irresponsibility, alcohol, sloppiness and seeing differences in their interests. He gave her love and attention, but that was enough for her when she was a child. As a teenager and later, she needed much more, foremost intellectual stimulation, which she could receive from her mother’s side part of a family, educated and engaged communists.
The book felt real cause it didn’t have a happy ending. It had a normal ending. Åsa and her father, despite the fact that she moved out to another city, kept in touch, she was still visiting him. One time she felt sorry for him, other time she wanted to run away again from his flat the minute she stepped in. He didn’t stop drinking. Leif and Åsa didn’t have “the big conversation” about their life together. In the movie Leif is finally moving on, improving his life, furnishing the flat with books, quits alcohol, regains contact with Åsa, ready to enter her life again. Bullocks.
Here we reach another defect of this movie – technical execution. It is filled with cliché scenes, which are unbearable. Beside the final scene, the big reconcilement, the most disturbing one was when Leif took 5-year-old Åsa to his factory and she was sleeping in front of giant blast furnace. Seriously? Add to this all those close-ups, to the face or to the falling goldfish, and the terrible music. Like someone recorded guitar playing at some camp by a fire. Brr.
To finish up with some praise, I really admire Mikael Persbrandt's work as Leif. He reached the top with his skills. If there is any reason to watch the movie, it would be him, to see this great actor doing fantastic job. But if you skip the movie and focus just on the book, fear no fomo. However, fear it, if you don’t check my Facebook, Instagram or YouTube channel.