Writer-director Kristian Håskjold came to Austin, Texas, this month from Denmark to present his short film Forever Now. At a scant 20 minutes, it’s an unassuming work about that thing that unites us all, love. But ask anyone who saw it this month at South by Southwest, and they’ll rave.
In the film we watch a couple, Cecilie (Frederikke Dahl Hansen) and William (Ferdinand Falsen Hiis), as their relationship ends. With a dose of MDMA, Cecilie and William spend a weekend together recalling the ups and downs of their romance. It’s immediately resonant for anyone who has ever had a hard time letting go.
Hansen captures the sense of knowing the breakup is overdue, yet not being ready to accept it. It’s an expressive performance that tells more with a look than a paragraph of dialogue—one that was reportedly improvised. Cecilie is in the volatile space between wanting to appear fine and being on the edge of a collapse. It plays well against the more emotionally stoic William, who is trying to minimize the damage as much as possible while still being sympathetic. Hiis is a good foil to Hansen, showing enough vulnerability through his tough demeanor to let us know that William is hurting just as much as Cecilie is.
Forever Now fits in enough highs and lows to create the sense that we’ve spent much more time with the couple than we have. It captures an experience specific enough to become universal by the time the melancholic ending plays out.
As a festival, SXSW seemingly finds new ways to expand its lineup and cultural clout every year. But the films and musicians who are the lifeblood of the shindig now give way to giant directors looking to make a splash, or rock stars stopping by for a “surprise” corporate performance. SXSW matters when the world finds something good, and that sense of discovery was nowhere more joyous this month than with Forever Now.
The film is based on Håskjold’s own breakup, part of which he was able to record and eventually became the blueprint for Forever Now. He brought the film, his third short, as part of the short film competition at this year’s festival. The international trek was worth it for the 27-year-old filmmaker, as Forever Now came out as the Jury award winner in the narrative shorts category. It’s a success that Håskjold is hoping to parlay into a longer festival run before the film makes it to its eventually resting place online. It’s a key start for a film that speaks to universal ideas and feelings, a promising start for a young filmmaker, and we can’t wait to watch it again.