“LFO: The Movie” (2013): Dark Science Fiction Dramedy from Sweden
A cuckolded husband, a sound engineer by avocation, discovers a combination of sound frequencies (involving LFO, or Low Frequency Oscillation) that enables him to control others. He uses this knowledge first for his own benefit, then decides to put it to more altruistic purposes — at least, as he sees them. Or does he? The man, Robert (Patrik Karlson) suffers from a paranoid psychosis for which he takes medication. We learn this when we realize (very early in the film) that his cheating wife Clara (Ahnna Rasch) is actually dead; he is hallucinating her presence. Can we believe his discovery is real?
In the long run, it doesn’t really matter. The fact that the audience might be viewing the entire story through the lens of Robert’s insanity only heightens the dark comedy and satire of this film, which exposes and dissects the human capacity for narcissism in the average person. Written and directed by Antonio Tublen, the film is shot almost entirely in the rooms of Robert’s house, which heightens the eerily claustrophobic feel already present in the story. The musical score, which includes and eventually incorporates the synthesizer sounds that Robert uses to hypnotize others — primarily a couple, Linn (Johanna Tschig) and Simon (Per Löfberg), who live in the house next door) — nicely complements this tone.
For much of the film, Robert’s links to the outside world are limited to the electronic — telephone, Internet, radio, television — which is itself a commentary on the isolation in which technological progress has enabled us to live our lives. Alone with the gear in his basement sound laboratory, Robert (who is on leave from his job due to disability) accidentally stumbles upon a combination of sounds that causes him to go into trance-like state. He hypothesizes that this could be used to influence others’ minds. After collaborating on this idea over the Internet (with other otaku nerds like himself), he hits upon a mathematical solution that involves the “golden ratio” of 1618. Once he tests it out and finds that it works, he quickly dumps his online “colleagues” and sets about controlling his neighbors.
This decision leads to a progression of increasingly absurd and darkly funny scenarios in which Robert becomes ever bolder in the uses to which he puts his discovery. While avoiding various investigators (who are looking into the circumstances of his wife’s death) and one jealous, jilted former collaborator (who vows revenge for cutting him out of the discovery and its technology), Robert first uses his mind-control machine to satisfy personal desires, such as sex and money. This progresses to virtually enslaving his neighbors. A huge change occurs when Robert decides to get out of his house to see the world. On his return, he announces that the entire human race is evil and vows to change it. He sets out on an ambitious (and ultimately grandiose) project to create “World 2.0.” At first figuratively, but ultimately literally, this mission requires him to play God.
By turns frightening, sobering, and hilarious, LFO: THE MOVIE (unrated; runtime 94 minutes) is a masterclass in how to do social satire via science fiction film. In Swedish with English subtitles, it is currently available on DVD and on VOD via Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.