#42 — We Are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson, 2013)
“Hate the Sport,” the signature song from Sweden’s finest teen punk trio, properly carries the rebellion of rock ‘n’ roll inside it. Written as a direct challenge to the bullying, patriarchal bullshit that constantly presses in on the band’s three girl members — Bobo (Mira Barkhammar), Klara (Mira Grosin), and Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) — the song is tough and unadorned, all the barnacles of rock excess knocked away, which fulfills the most important mandate of punk. Better yet, the song’s simplicity allows it to be highly adapted, the ire of the lyrics switched from general athletic endeavors to, say, the name of the town in which the band is performing, which is precisely the sort of savage insolence Johnny Rotten might have opted for back in his messy, bloody heyday.
The film that is home to “Hate the Sport,” Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best!, doesn’t have quite the same cavalier abrasiveness as the tune, but it does share a thrilling sense of freedom. Based on the graphic novel created by his wife, Coco Moodysson, the film traces the sparkler-burst career of the amateur band populate by three classmates, each testing out the claimed autonomy of pending adulthood. All around the age of thirteen, the girls are still somewhat guileless, banging out their feelings with the unchecked urgency of youth. There are innocents ablaze, but their battles remain small-scale. The intra-act skirmishes are over family-imposed belief systems and boys’ attentions. At that age, though, such concerns loom large, and Moodysson and his charismatic young actresses convey the emotional intensity with bright honesty.
Perhaps the primary way We Are the Best! mirrors its bright, brash protagonists is in its freewheeling spirit. Without sacrificing any amount of professional assurance, Moodysson riles the film with the strands of indie flick ingenuity that come from to-the-bone resources. The film crackles like an amp that’s been properly blasted by music played ferociously at top volume. As in that simile, the ramshackle rawness is an indication of pure determination, a thrill in plying art for the sake of doing it, with maybe a touch of provers doubters wrong. And if the doubters can’t be proved wrong, at least they can be pummeled into submission. The joyful satisfaction of creation and collaboration is more valuable anyway.