When we hear about movies that address the theme of religious cults, we certainly expect a drama-thriller that explores some of the purest manifestations of evil. However, ‘Skilleveien’ takes distance from this formula, without diminishing the impact of its central conflict. At the same time, although the identity crisis and, implicitly, the refuge in spirituality seem to be the main topics of this short film, Peter Bjerre Salling is much more concerned with the interpersonal relationships that give the specificity of a friendship. The project is, instead, a radiograph as tender as it is incisive of the emotional chemistry between two fellows confronted, at some point, with an incompatibility in their perception of life. Thus, the short film tackles subtle nuances of human reactivity, questioning the nature of personal truth in relation to others. In fact, one of the protagonists faces a dilemma that somewhat synthesizes the entire narrative of the project: when do you know how to give up a friend to save a friendship?
When Matias notices that his friend Janus has chosen to spend his life in isolation as a member of a cult, he feels that he must do something to stop this “brainwash” process. Still, he will discover that his own perception of a context is not always the most pertinent. Fluctuating between past and present, in spatial and temporal parallelism depicting the identity changes of the two characters – each faced with the beginning of maturity and various personal existential questions –, the short film signed by Peter Bjerre Salling manages to offer us through its narrative coherence an authentic and delicate picture of the human soul. The project has a somewhat Bergmanian emotional stake played against the background of a contemplative, Tarkovskian-beauty corner of nature. Likewise, the spiritual crisis, the adulthood perceived through the eyes of the other, the courage to see in a friendship not only a way of self-knowledge, but also a blockage, are filtered by the director’s camera with an impressive artistic and technical firmness. In fact, ‘Skilleveien’ is the proof of artistic maturity that we hope will offer us through this excellent project the beginning of a long and beautiful career in the field of cinema.
For the attention and intuition with which it captures neuralgic points of interpersonal relationships and for the expressive force of the cinematic construct, ‘Skilleveien’ was awarded with the Film of the Month distinction in the May 2021 edition of TMFF.