I am Curious: Yellow

Directed by Vilgot Sjoman (Sweden, 1967)

I am Curious: Yellow is a unique film in every sense. Perhaps the only film to come close is Godard's La Chinoise (1968). For a start, the subject matter was, and still is revolutionary. Very few films deal with politics in a similar way - the low level, unglamorous politics of committed activists. Ghandi and In the Name of the Father, for example, both glamorise political and social events and the participants, taking them out of the reach of the people they claim to represent. Yellow does none of this; Lena, the main character, is entirely human. She is susceptible to all of the misfortunes that occur in daily life, although she tries to raise herself above them. Whilst cycling into the country to escape the repressive city life she is drenched by a pa ssing car as it goes through a puddle. The idea that we should be aware of the difference between people and their roles is constant throughout the film. Lena's boyfriend is the crown prince of Sweden but catches VD just as easily as the daughter of a pic ture framer. The scene in the clinic shows us that we are all the same in many ways. near the start of the film an interviewee tells us this same thing.

The first thing the viewer is aware of is that this film has no standard narrative. Instead it is more of a film within a film, with the qualities of a documentary. We watch Lena's life as though it were a video diary. The days are counted off for us (in a most unusual way). Sjoman never lets us forget that a film is nothing more than an idea in the directors mind, unless we make it something else. He and his film crew pop up just when we least expect it. The yoga scene in the country is similar to parts of Man Bites Dog (made 22 years later) in its surrealistic disregard for standard cinematic, conventions, as Man Bites Dog ignored social and moral codes. On many levels this is not an easy film to watch. The viewer must put some work in before being rewa rded. The plot doesn't unfurl properly until the second reel where one realises that the protagonists are at the mercy of the director. In real life we are lucky if there are any satisfactory structures to help us get by. It is no coincidence that Lena's father is a picture framer. it is an occupation loaded with metaphors. He is responsible for constraining works of art within preset boundaries, in an even stricter way than a film director is. It is time that is controlled by a director, not so much spac e, And Lena, as a wild, enthusiastic young woman, takes advantage of the security offered by her father, but at the same time is disgusted by his control over her life. With Sjoman, she is at first pleased that he wants her to be in his film, but then gro ws to resent him for trapping her in a life she doesn't want to live.

When Yellow first came out it shocked and stunned audiences where it was allowed to be shown. European cinema has always been ahead of Hollywood as far as new subject matter is concerned and it took 4 years and a long court battle to get the film into the States. The film's strange title and reputation made it one of the most talked about films of it's time and since then has influenced many other films and film-makers. To todays viewer the amount of sex may seen fairly small, but at the time the nudity a nd sex (and the frankness of it) was unprecedented. This is not an erotic movie in the way a film such as Basic Instinct was. The viewer is not waiting for anyone to cross their legs in this film.

Another interesting point about the film is its use of interviews. This has the advantage of providing a large amount of information (as a documentary report does) without having to squeeze it into a plot. But the down side is that the film does appear a little dated because of the unavoidable changes in fashion and technology, Although what hasn't changed, alarmingly enough, are peoples attitudes and beliefs. The late 6Ts were a time of great hope to many people and it is sad to see how hard society is t o change, even with the energy of enthusiastic and committed people. The two famous interviewees, Martin Luther King (a Clive James style interview) and Olaf Palme (then a minister in the government) have now both been killed by assassins.


I'm sure the film list is round here somewhere.