Every day we make a million little choices. Deciding to brush your teeth while your bread was toasting meant it came out burnt, which meant you were late to work, which meant you missed that deadly collision. Some call them coincidences, others call them miracles from God. Their names don’t really matter though, it’s the uncanny feeling that you’re not in control that stays with you.
When two sisters plan to buy an apartment in the tiny Swedish town of Gullspång they are at a loss when they discover the seller looks exactly like their sister who committed suicide 30 years prior. What begins as a sweet tale of long-lost siblings, twists into a nightmare of mistaken identity, bitter familial infighting, and murder in The Gullspång Miracle.
In most documentaries, there are usually moments that reveal what side the film sympathises with. Yet, The Gullspång Miracle never betrays what it believes. Is it about divine intervention, or personal choice? Is it a heartfelt story of second chances, or a lesson in messing with the past? The answers are never clear, and on first watch, the effect is a film that doesn’t know what it is trying to say.
“What begins as a sweet tale of long-lost siblings, twists into a nightmare of mistaken identity, bitter familial infighting and murder in The Gullspång Miracle.“
But when given time to sit with it, The Gullspång Miracle becomes something more complicated yet wholly familiar to us. Life rarely gives us the answers that we are looking for, it rarely provides shiny wrapping paper with a satisfactory ending. Neither does The Gullspång Miracle. Director Maria Fredriksson is not looking to solve the mystery of Gullspång, only to show how messy it can be.
The young filmmaker is not afraid to cross the traditional boundaries to poke and prod at her subject matter. We often see the sisters, not through the camera, but in frantic voice messages left for Fredriksson. Their relationship increasingly stretches what a creative partnership can be. When a blood-test reveals yet another fork in the road, Fredriksson sounds audibly upset alongside the sisters. The director acts as an omnipotent guide stopping the frame to ask for directions when the mind-boggling maze sprawled out in front of us gets too much.
Watching The Gullspång Miracle is frustrating. Meanings constantly change, family alliances suddenly sour, and closed cases open and shut like an automatic door. But it is fascinating to see how quickly a miracle can feel like a curse.
Featured Image Credit: Ballad Film