IFFR 2023 review: Superposition (Karoline Lyngbye)

“Combined with Lyngbye’s tight albeit slightly predictable direction they make Superposition a delightful watch for those who like their symmetry strong.”

Stine (Marie Bach Hansen) and Teit (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) have decided to escape Copenhagen’s rat race and retreat to a remote cabin in Sweden’s vast woods, together with their young son Nemo (Mihlo Olsen). She hopes to overcome a writer’s block working on her first novel. He intends to document their ‘adventure’ in a series of podcasts that he will send back to Denmark periodically. But although it is a flight from their previous life, there are some things you just can’t escape. It doesn’t take long for the cracks to start showing, and idyllic life turns into relationship therapy. When they spot people across the lake outside the cabin, Stine is upset; weren’t they supposed to be completely cut off from the outside world? Strange things start to happen when Stine and Nemo take a walk in the forest. Stine spots another person and she leaves Nemo out of her sight for a moment. Once she reunites with him the boy stubbornly denies that she is his mother. Stine and Teit decide to abandon their plans and go home, only to find out that no matter what road they take they always end up back at the cabin. And then a pair of angry doppelgängers show up, looking for their young son…

Whereas doppelgängers in art are often given an evil slant as a sign of impending doom, Superposition uses them to examine Stine and Teit’s relationship issues and their respective identities. Although the film can get chaotic and confusing towards the end, the openness with which the characters initially face off, the key point of contention being Teit’s infidelity years prior – and then each one reflecting upon themselves with their body doubles to play off of after the halfway point of the film – serves up a tense dynamic between the characters and provides some sizzling discussions. The plot itself mostly sticks to its genre tropes of spooky woods, jump scares, and people disquietingly appearing and disappearing in the distance, while the resolve wraps up the story a little too neatly and without much explanation of the physics of it all, but given that Superposition is as much a relationship drama as it is a supernatural ghost story this doesn’t subtract from the enjoyment.

For her debut feature Danish director Karoline Lyngbye doesn’t exactly set the world on fire in terms of originality, but the film is a bit more sly than you would expect from the premise; even the title alone suggests Superposition is more layered than your average supernatural thriller. Lyngbye blends these ideas into the cinematography (by Sine Brooker) and staging, with lots of reflections and parallel imagery. These slick stylings do not take anything away from the painful conversations between the two (or is it four?) protagonists as they peel at the scabs of their relationship. It is in these scenes that both actors shine, the icy looks they exchange in moments of silence during their heated discussions saying more than any dialogue could ever do. Small differences between the two versions of each of their characters could have helped answer who’s who in the final act, the film now relying mostly on costume to figure that out, but both performances are strong and aptly frantic. Combined with Lyngbye’s tight albeit slightly predictable direction they make Superposition a delightful watch for those who like their symmetry strong, while offering more for those who prefer to look beneath its (reflecting) surface.