Fredrik Edfeldt / Sweden/Finland /2013 / 88 min
Nature is the third character in this gentle story of a father and daughter whose relationship develops as they hide from the law. And whilst both Jakob Cedergren as The Father and Clara Christiansson as the young Hella deliver hugely impressive performances, their power would not be the same without the towering cliffs, ancient forest and sparkling waters which conceal them whilst also serving to remind us of their vulnerability and the fleeting nature of their peace.
Sanctuary – or, to give it its original name, Faro (taken from The Father’s happy memories of his travels) – is a slow-burning, subtle sort of a film. It takes time to find out why the police are looking for The Father, longer to find out whether he has actually committed a crime. The lead characters may be fugitives from the law but there are no shoot-outs here, no black and white, no one who is not shown to deserve our sympathy. We are given no names but Hella’s. The dialogue is sparse and each scene underplayed, techniques that only serve to highlight the emotion inherent in the situation.
Sanctuary is reminiscent of the recent American indie film Mud in its subject matter, its gifted child actor, its ambiguity and its stunning use of landscape. But the former film resists the urge to push the story along, and it’s that exquisite, tenuous unfolding of emotion that elevates Sanctuary to such a memorable experience.