LILJA 4-EVER (Lukas Moodysson, 2002)

This film takes an actual socioeconomic phenomenon—in the epidemic of suicides of children, from the former Soviet Union and its satellites, who have been forced into prostitution—and heartlessly exploits it. This is one of the least edifying, least analytical, most sickening movies I have seen. Its 16-year-old protagonist is brutalized by writer-director Lukas Moodysson, who hides his cruelty behind a profession of Christian values.
     On camera, Lilja is repeatedly raped (if you can believe it, this includes a whole montage of these occurrences that Moodysson has spliced together like Milos Forman used to splice together auditioners singing the same song), and there are two young suicides that are minutely detailed. All this is after Lilja’s mother runs off to the States with her American boyfriend, abandoning Lilja to fend for herself, and her aunt abuses her even worse than her mother did. Finally, Lilja meets what appears to be a decent young man who will treat her well; but his is a deception to deliver her to the Swede who becomes her warden and pimp.
     As you may know, this film comes highly praised, and festooned with prizes for Moodysson and his young star, Oksana Akinshina; the reality, however, is that this film revels in human misery and thereby contributes to it.
     It is based on an actual case study, of a Lithuanian girl who in the film is Estonian. Moodysson has said he wanted to make audiences angry, presumably at the child sex trade, but he may have erred in the first place by gearing his efforts toward eliciting any kind of response from his audience rather than calmly, clearly developing his thematic material.

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