Some directors make a great movie on the beginning of their career, as if they had it in head and heart since they have been born, and just waited to present it to us. Some of them never repeat the success, because it was the only movie that had grown in them; some use it like a base and build their career on it.
Some directors have to develop, their start is slow, they have to go through an evolution, still confused on the beginning - or just don't get a chance to make that personal movie the former directors had. Lasse Halström had to make more than a few to catch our attention with 'Mitt liv som hund' (My Life As A Dog), a classic coming-to-age masterpiece, still one of the best in the genre, and for many of us one of the best Swedish movies made so far.
'Två killar och en tjej' was made only two years before, and was the last before 'My Life...', but it doesn't show anything that could make people expect such a great movie to follow. It has a simple, promising story, but the editing and directing ruined it (it would be just a little too hard to say destroyed). Every piece, every component of the movie could have been better, but it is the proportion between them what disables a good construction. In fact, the construction reminds on 'The Sleepers' with de Niro, Hoffmann and Bacon: a long prologue where one of main characters' voice talks about past, and later in the movie all main characters are back together in present time. Both in 'Sleepers' and in 'Två killar och en tjej' this first part is long, but while 'Sleepers' last more than 2 hours and justify its length, in 'Två killar och en tjej' we soon become afraid that we'll see only flashes too long for pictures and too short to tell us anything, neither amusing nor important (though some of them appear to be important later); avoiding or cutting these scenes would adjust the length of film to the story that can't feed more than 1 hour track. And, like in 'Sleepers', after this introduction we are transported many years forward. From vaudeville scenes that might be found anywhere on Earth in reality as well as in movies (from 'Blue Angel' and 'Cabaret' to 'Man in the Moon' and 'Seinfled') we now understand it's Sweden: relations between characters are almost Bergmannesque; but Hallström isn't Bergmann. The feelings are superficial and the characters leave us cold. When two men find they love same woman, we don't chose side - we just don't care. And we are not wrong: they don't care anymore either, one of them very quickly finds another girl... A friend who is going to marry has too much timing (he is a mover of events, but doesn't influence them) while we never see Thomas' former wife. Stage scenes are too long for a non-musical, too short to make us laugh. If Hallström understood the jokes, he didn't share them with us.
'Två killar och en tjej' looks like washed-out Bergmann mixed with nonpolitical 'Cabaret', as 'Rooster' (made before it) looks like washed-out Czech rural comedy mixed with washed-out mild sexy movie (like grown-up 'Lemon Popsicle'). We must be thankful that the Swedish audience and producers had enough patience ad belief in Hallström so he was given a chance to make 'My Life As A Dog', followed by 'Alla vi barn i Bullerbyn' (boring for adults, but targeted to preschool kids), and I believe American producers neglected some of his early works when they invited him, so he rewarded us with some more beautiful movies like 'Chocolat' or 'Cider House Rules'.
So, this movie is watchable as information if you like Hallström, to find how did he become what he is now. But, to be honest, I can hardly find any connection between first movies including 'Två killar och en tjej' and all the rest beginning with 'Mitt liv som hund'.
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