Questionable motifs

Jonas Eskilsson

The 50th birthday party in Skövde is big and lively. The hostess, who’s known by some as fearless and outgoing and by others as noisy and annoying, has arranged a rock'n'roll theme. There’s Jack Daniels on every table and you can serve yourself chilli con carne from a large tin.
“Hi, great you could all make it. No goddamn speeches please,” she says in a broad dialect. But some guests still want to hold speeches and my stepmother is among them. It’s a rather moving speech about the strength of her sister and something about growing up under tough conditions and still surviving. The hostess isn’t interested and keeps interrupting with jokes and sighs. No haughty speeches are to be held by the sister from the city. Don’t people want to have fun and not hear about all this fuss? I walk around with a HDV-camera zooming in my distant relatives. What can you see in the gaze of drunken people? When the face relaxes and the eyes go blank it often looks like sorrow. My stepmother’s father’s half-brother has returned to Sweden and I’d have liked to film him, but can’t find a reason to take out the camera. His name is Bengt. He’s got a strong face. A killer in a movie could’ve had that face. Deeply seated, piercing eyes in a furrowed face. Grime and charismatic despite the horse shoe moustache. Bengt has lived in the Mediterranean for many years. He became a millionaire and lost everything. He travelled around Australia by motorcycle. And he’s been in the Hollywood film “Clash of the Titans”. He’s also worked as a chef, a publisher and he’s been homeless. Good stories.

Speaking of stories, I have cousin in the same family, Robin. Robin is first-rate documentary material. He’s been in and out of different juvenile homes. If hasn’t been transferred he’s escaped. Things went wrong early on and he hasn’t been able to turn things around and now he’s got a son. He’s seventeen.

As it turns out a couple of moths after the 50th birthday party, Robin is on his way to move in with Bengt. I imagine the following will happen; it’ll be a rough journey filled with conflicts but eventually Bengt will become like a father to Robin and Robin will get back on track. While we see Robin struggle with school and different relations we find out more about Bengts hardships in life and the painful past he’s surely had. I would like to thank the Academy...

I went there with my step mom. We took the car through the forests of Värmland. I felt that I to check out the situation:
“If Robin too down then there’s no film”. I’d heard that Robin had been feeling bad for quite a while now. At the last institution where he was placed it was bad. He was put in isolation for several days, something that is completely against the regulations. Ever since he’s kept things within himself. I try to remember the last time I meet him? I have a vague memory of a blonde little kid at a family get-together.

The house is a mansion-like building, old and skewed. It’s a white house with the long wing sides of the building heading out into the overgrown garden. On the left, behind a fence, the dogs start barking when we approach. I catch a glimpse of a small heard of Cocker Spaniels in the mud. On the opposite side sheep bleat nervously.
Bengt comes out waving at us where to put the car. Bengt’s got a wide body and even though he’s got a decent size stomach you can see that he’s strong. The muscles are still there even though not what they used to be. The woman Bengt lives with, Maja, turns out to be the complete opposite. She’s tall, skinny and at least a head taller than Bengt. Her heavy eyelids, wide mouth and high cheekbones are framed in by lank hair. She also has a furrowed face. The fact that she’s so thin makes her body language a bit girlish. She sits on a chair, legs pulled up under her chin. They’re like a wading bird and a badger. They’ve put out coffee and cookies on a rustic chest that’s in the same room as the computers and a fireplace that heats up the bottom floor. We start a slight conversation and then Robin shows up in a cloud of Axe deodorant. He’s got broad shoulders for seventeen-year-old with a prison tattoo on his neck. Barely readable it says “Veni Vidi Vici” in blue ink. He moves like all hoodlums I’ve known. Straddled, with a walk that swings back and forth. His shoulders and arms are flexed to give an impression and gain size. He has beautiful cheekbones, rich lips and very bright greyblue eyes. His smile doesn’t reach his eyes and he hardly blinks. There isn’t much movement in his face at all, except when he licks his lips, which does a lot.
“Nice that you came,” he says.

I think Bengt already now tells the story of how he met Maja (and it’s a good story because Bengt is a great storyteller). 2005 Bengt was living in London where he worked for a publisher selling western newspapers to China. He met Maja through a dating site on the net and they got on straight away when e-mailing and chatting on the net. Soon they where speaking on the phone for hours. It took Bengt a few weeks to convince Maja to come and visit him. It was the first time Maja had been outside of Sweden in all her life. As soon as Maja arrived Bengt said they had to go out and get a beer at each stop along the Circle line. They both laugh at this memory. When the weekend was over Bengt thought that; either they could decide to be together and then Bengt would move back to Sweden or just leave it at that and then they would never see each other again. They had known each other for less than two weeks.
While Bengt tells the story I study Robin. His movements come in thrusts. It feels like he thinks before he makes a move. “Now I’m getting a cookie” And then he get’s a cookie. Like the movements of an amateur actor; mechanical and insecure. I think it must feel strange for him to sit here or maybe he’s just heard the story before.
“I said yes,” says Maja.
“The farm came later on,” Bengt tells us. Apparently the farm had been abandoned for years after the sisters who had inherited the place had a falling out about selling. Bengt convince them to sell it dirt-cheap.
Now Robins starts talking a bit. He’s happy he and Bengt are buying studio equipment and are planning to start making beats. Bengt says “The sound will be more rock-oriented,” and Maja says “can’t you play that song you made when living at the home?” Robin is ambivalent in the way you are when you’re worried what people might think but you still need the confirmation. He puts up a half-hearted resistance but then lets him self be persuaded. The track is Robin rapping in dialect over a dated beat. The flow may leave some things to wish for but it’s straight from the heart. The song is about Bengt, that Robin has come to live there and how he want’s to become a better person “You’ve given me a chance and I’m gonna take it”. My arms go all prickly and I think that there will be a film after all.
Bengt isn’t stupid and when I call about a week later he’s already discussed with the others “that Jonas want’s to make a film and how do we go about doing that?” You could say he’s sold the idea before I had to.
“We can make a film that’s good for Robins career as a rapper,” says Bengt. I agree. He already has several ideas for what we could film.

“Why are you going to make a film about them?” Isabel asks before I leave.
“It’s a good opportunity,” I say.

At the train station I get a bad feeling. Bengt’s late or maybe he thought I would get here later. He drives his Volvo extremely fast on the narrow road (he always does this, it’ll turn out). When we pass speeding-cameras he lets go of the well and the gear stick and crosses his arms in front of his face so he wont get caught on film.
“Robins in a bit of a mood” says Bengt. “It’s sensitive for him to be on the countryside, he feels it doesn’t suit his image”.
When we arrive there’s fog and garbage burning outside. I think the smoke and the fog look great so I pick my camera straight away. When standing there, camera towards my chest, Robin comes out of the house and lights up a cigarette. When he sits down on a chair I turn the camera in that direction. Robin becomes even more less at ease than earlier. His gaze is fixed upon an undistinguishable point and he sits with his back completely straight. Bengt stands beside him, a bit lost, trying to start up a conversation. It’s a great shot with the fog and the drifting smoke in the foreground but with a complete lack of presence or real content.
I shut the camera of and approach Robin but I’ve already made a fool of myself. Robin doesn’t look at me but over my shoulder. His whole body is tense as before a fight or ready to flee. He’s going to hit me, I think. We shake hands and then Robin disappears into the house.
It’s a lot messier than the last time I was there. I’m filled with adrenaline but nowhere to do away with it. I feel an uneasy pressure in my chest and my legs just want to run. When I put my stuff down in the computer room I see Robin sitting in the dark in the next room.
He’s sitting in a sofa in front of the TV that’s not switched. His face obscured by darkness. I mess about with my bag for a bit and the batteries for the camera. I go out into the kitchen where Bengt is preparing food and out into the yard and back in again. Robin is still in the exact same spot. I walk into the room and sit down in the other sofa. He doesn’t look at me.
“How are you?” I ask.
“What are you worried about?” I can’t show that I’m scared.
“It’s nothing.”
“Let’s do like this. I’ll put the camera away now and we wont film anything else unless we’ve talked about it.”
I leave and Robin stays. What a damn beginners-mistake, taking out the camera to early. Damn.

“They’ve given him all possible diagnoses. It’s not true but he’s ashamed. He’s afraid he’ll come across as crazy or an idiot,” says Bengt.
“That doesn’t interest me,” I say.
“I‘ve tried explaining to him that the film could be a good thing for him. He can show that he is functional, right? That he can be a part of society.”
“I though we could take out the wagon and film when we go for a spin with the horse and wagon,” says Bengt.
Bengt makes exceptionally good food especially under these circumstances – the queasy taste of deep-frying fat is hidden by large amounts of barbecue spice and salt. Robin later tells me it’s the best food he’s ever eaten. Now he’s making a veggie burger, which he refuses to reveal content of, but it tastes fantastic. If you open the kitchen cupboards there are at least twenty different frying pans, most of them woks – at least as many knifes and two well used deep-frying pans. In a corner there’s a gigantic plastic container from which Bengt scoops up a glass of wine.
“Taste,” he says and looks at me. I carefully smut at the homebrewed wine.
“Not that bad,” I reply. It’s rather watery but not sour.
“Good isn’t it? This is how they make vino de la casa in Spain.”
“Is it legal?” I ask.
“Don’t you worry it’s not illegal if it’s below fifteen percent”.

I get to bed in the computer room. The furnace quietly snaps and I stare up at the selling. The fire makes the air dry and thick and the smell gets into all your clothes. This I realize first when I get back home. I think I’ll have a hard time falling asleep but I do so almost immediately.

There is a thick layer of dead grass behind the house and between the white outdoor furniture there’s brushwood shooting from the ground. Bengt stands astride with his hands shadowing his face as he looks up at the roof.
“We’re taking that down”, he says and point at a satellite dish near the ridge “and maybe we’ll move it over there. Maybe build a ledge”.
I turn the camera towards Robin who’s standing at a distance.
“Okay”. He says after hesitating.
“We’ve got to get ladders,” Bengt says gladly.
In the next scene they’re carrying a ladder each past some timber and a heap of old junk. A cocker spaniel excitedly runs beside them.
“I’m not climbing up there,” Robin mumbles.
“Okay then I’ll do it myself,” says Bengt.
“Is it that heavy?”
“No it’s a question of balance”.

Cut. Bengt comes around the corner with a screwdriver in his hand. Robin has moved away from the ladders and from me.
“It seems unnecessary that we both climb up,” he says.
“Well then never mind,” Bengt snaps back at him. Now clearly irritated.

A wide shot. Bengt’s furthest up the ladder taking the satellite dish down. He slowly climbs down the ladder, which looks unstable

Response shot Robin. Robin wets his lips. He looks at Bengt for a while, who’s up on the ladder, then he kicks at the ground for a bit.

Back to the wide shoot: Bengt down on the ground.
“So are you gonna help me put it up?”
“That went well” Robin defends himself.
“Yeah, thanks for nothing”.
“I just though it seemed unnecessary for both of us to climb up that ladder”. Somehow he’s now even further from the camera. Bengt starts moving the ladders so he can put up the satellite dish in its right place. After a while Robin comes up and starts helping him. Together they climb up and put it in place.

Transcribed from the timeline. “Interview with Bengt about his childhood”.
“Mom was out and fribbled together four of us, she kept no one at home, adopting away us all. I don’t know what the hell she was thinking. She sent me of to a foster home then she brought me back home and realize she didn’t want me, so she sent me of again and that’s how it went on. So that created a kind of anxiety within me, some sort insecurity. When you arrive in a new town, or at a new school you know you won’t be there for long but you still want to make friends so you seek out the ones that are the easiest to get and they aren’t always the best friends. I wasn’t more than eleven and a half, or twelve when I helped steal my first car and went on the run.

I walk with Maja, as she takes the cocker spaniels for an evening walk. There’s a beautiful sunset and I film her when she tells me about her scooter accident that’s given her chronic back pain. She tells me the medicines make her tired and that certain days she’s to tired to do anything. But that’s how it is in life. Then the dogs start barking and chasing cows and Maja has her hands full. It’s beautiful, the sunset, the yellowed fields, and the dogs spinning around in the dry grass.

The day after we visit the horse. It’s a trotter that’s going to be trained and hopefully will compete again. More or less ready for slaughter, after a leg injury, Bengt and Maja got to take care of it for almost no money and they truly believe they can bring it back. If Robin was uncomfortable when putting up the satellite dish it’s nothing compared to me being in the stable. As soon as I pick up the camera he leaves with a haunted look in his eyes. He stands outside smoking and after a while he goes and sits in the car. I take a wide shoot of Bengt chasing the horse in circles.

We drop by the local supermarket.
“I’m just gonna get something”
After a while Bengt comes back with a large black garbage bag he throws in the back of the car. When we get back to the farm he sorts threw the content. There’s meat, old dairy products and vegetables with stains on them. Some are thrown away and some given to the animals.
The best bits end up in the fridge or freezer. Both are already full of items marked “short date”. I never come to understand if it’s because they’re so poor or if it’s Bengts attitude to doing things. The same reason he’s always biding on bankruptcy auctions and looking for finds on different Internet sites.

Bengt falls asleep in the sofa and Maja laughs and says, “Check this out. You should film this”. Soon after Bengt starts talking in his sleep.
“First I didn’t understand but it’s Portuguese,” Maja laughs. I tape a couple of minutes when Maja ticles Bengts in the face with a feather. He twitches and yells in whatever language it is. When he wakes up I show him what I’ve filmed on the cameras display.
“Damn, that sure wasn’t nice of you” he says with dark eyes. He’s more than irritated, he seems down right angry. “What the hell.” I tell him I’ll erase it and that it was just a bit of fun. He doesn’t look at me, he just rolls his eyes with anger, so I excuse myself and go to the bathroom even though I don’t’ need to go.

The same day I leave I ask if I can film Robin one on one. I didn’t think he’d say yes but he doesn’t seem to care. We go for a walk and I film him on the way. He struggles in the wind in is thin white jacket, constantly smoking. Behind him a dead winter landscape under a dramatic grey sky with single red barns as the only splashes of color.
“Everything came as a shock you know”, he says when I ask him about being apprehended by social services. “They came to my home you know… I can’t remember what was doing, I was sleeping I think and the social services came there and they said: we want to talk to you. So I went down to the living room and two policemen where sitting there who told me I was going to be apprehended. I couldn’t say much. It was hard. I was pissed of, and really mad but now I’m thinking it was my fault.”

Cut. Now there’s brush passing by. The microphone rustles from the wind.
“We met at a rehab clinic and I sort of fell in love with her. But there was lots of hassle. We had fights. We where together for a few months, going back and fourth the whole time. Broke up and got back together and broke up and then she got pregnant.”

Jumpcut. “I’ve got to do things right this time. If I mess up I sort of feel like I’m a bad dad. It motivates you to pull yourself together and get back on track. You know what I mean? First when I found out she was pregnant I was mostly shocked. I thought “shit, is this really happening” but when you think about it you’ve got to face up to it and just make the best of it.”
I wonder how he feels about living with Bengt and Maja.
“They’re good people”
“How long do you think you’ll stay here?”
“Not that long. Until I get a job or something”.

The next time I visits it’s to film Robins 18th birthday party. This time I leave the camera in my bag when I arrive. Still the first thing I hear Robin say is:
“I’m not gonna be part of that fucking documentary”. Robins mother, Marie, has started calling and questioning the film. Bengt’s upset. He calls up Marie.
“You’re ashamed of you’re son” he screams at her. Robin listens with a roving gaze.
“You can’t stand up for him being seen”. Bengt hangs up. Robin looks pale during the rest of the dinner and in front of the TV and then goes of to his room to be alone. We stay seated in front of CSI. Maja is obsessed with all the forensic science shows. She makes a delightful hum every time new evidence is brought forth, that may lead to the case being solved.

Bengt has built a bar in one of the sheds that we clean, when preparing for the party. It’s full of straw and rabbit shit.
“You know, that’s from some of the meat rabbits who have escaped and live in here now,” Robin tells me, when Bengt isn’t there; “Bengt’s been trying to kill them but they live on.”
I sweep and scrub. It feels unreasonable to film Robin now that he’s obviously sad.

Marie calls again during the day. She promises that she isn’t ashamed of Robin but Bengt keeps it short when he talks to her on the phone. I ask to talk to her. Marie thinks it’s unnecessary that the friends of Robins little brother find out about Robin. And, no, it’s hardly something she’s brought up at work. “But Bengt can convince anyone to do anything” she tells me. I answer her that Bengt only wants what’s best for Robin, that I only want what’s best for Robin.

We drink beer at dinner. Bengt wants me to film when he and Robin have a beer together.
“Finally we can have a beer together as men,” he tells the camera.

We don’t get started especially early on the day of the party and nothing’s ready. I feel stressed out for their sake and help with the cleaning and drying glasses in the bar. When Robin’s dad arrives we’ve just finished putting up the colourful Christmas lamps that are part of the lighting.
Robin says; “Wow, look at that car. That’s one damn fine car. Dad’s got style he’s got class”.
“Do you usually ride around in that car?”
“No. I don’t think we have,” he answers.

Both Robin’s dad and grandmother refuse to be filmed.
“Don’t film me I’m a tax-dodger,” his dad says with a grin. He’s a wisecracker with nervous body language. Later I find out that the woman he’s together with now is a police officer.
I hardly have any time for filming anyway. I’ve got to help Bengt with the food or there is no party. We sweat in the kitchen and Bengt is grateful for me helping out and I’m grateful to help out so I somehow I can deserve being here. Also I don’t have to sit by the table with all the relatives who don’t want to be part of the film. When everyone’s got his or her food Bengt brings out the guitar and that’s the only thing I film that evening. Bengt’s got a good voice and performs the song he wrote to Maja when they had just meet. I the refrain he sings: “I feel your soul”.

The guests leave one by one, but Robin doesn’t feel he’s done with his party – he thinks it’s a damn shame everyone’s leaving. He drags me into the bar. He thinks we should hang out there. I’m too tired to care and get rather drunk on the birthday whisky he’s been given. I say I’d like to film him with his son and he answers:
“I guess that’s okay, you’re a good guy.” All of a sudden Robin seem to think most things are okay, as long as I don’t film him clearing out dung or doing something with the animals.
“I’m not a farmer you know”

A couple of weeks later Robin disappears and doesn’t show up till the next day. He’s met a girl at school where he’s just started. Bengt is furious that he’s left without keeping in touch. By law he’s only allowed to be in school if he’s not under Bengts supervision. Robin’s asset to money, cigarettes and his freedom is put on hold. When I show up to film Robin he’s in bad mood and wants to be by himself. Maybe the trust I’ve felt at the bar was merely imagined.

It’s an unusually warm spring. Bengt’s got a friend who’s also named Bengt. The other Bengt is constantly under stress. He’s worked in a rodeo I Australia for years until his body couldn’t take it any more. Maybe that’s why he’s so nervous? If that’s not it, it’s because his back is in such pain. The other Bengt moved back to Sweden a couple of years ago when he meet a Polish woman. His grown children live in Australia and she has no desire to go there to meet them. This also stresses the other Bengt. He chain smokes and sweats where he stands by the fundament of an outdoor grill, he’s helping Bengt build in the garden.
“When it’s finished we can put out tables and have a barbeque restaurant here in the summer.”
To have something to do I film them in the spring sunlight, now that Robin seems to have disappeared within himself again. I waste a couple of tapes on what really won’t result in more than a couple of minutes. The cement’s finished. There’s only enough to make the foundation and it’s too expensive to buy more. The outdoor grill will become yet another unfinished project. Just like the building timber, meant to become a porch, stacked on the backside of the house or the old motorcycle without an engine, standing in a shed rusting away.

One of Bengt’s better stories, I think we both agree, is about his years as a salesman in Mallorca and Portugal. He came there in the eighties and quickly managed to get into the business of selling apartments. This was a golden age and it was possible to make large amounts of money in a short time. Bengt sold for more than double what he bought for. An opportunity arose going in as an investor in an enormous apartment building project in Portugal. A small community was being built, that then would be split up and sold to wealthy Brits, Germans and Scandinavians. Everyone put in three million pounds each. Bengt had to borrow half of that, to bring up the money. Then he went of sailing and when he came back everything was gone. It had all been a swindle and the fraudsters had left with the money. What was worse was that Bengt now stood in debt more than a million pounds. He hadn’t borrowed the money from a bank. It was a loan from some shady characters with large amounts of money at hand. Setting up a payment plan wasn’t an option. Bengt sold all his watches, his car, his boat and his motorcycles. He wanted to sell his girlfriends jewellery as well, but she took of when she saw where things where heading. The money he got together wasn’t even close to enough. He went to the men he’d borrowed the money from, gave them what he had and said: “This is all I have. Tell what you want me to do for you and I’ll do it”. They where nice. They let him live. Here the story usually ends when Bengt tells it. But I wonder what they made him do to pay of his debt? I try to make Bengt tell the story on camera, but it just gets boring and drawn out. He thinks too much about how he formulate himself. I’ve noticed that this happens when I’m going to film him. He thinks too much about it and puts on a show.

A couple of days pass and all I film is shit. Bengt at the vehicle inspection, Bengt with the animals, Bengt and Maja buying books, clothes and stuff at a unbelievably large department store. It’s placed in the middle of the forest and only sells surplus goods. Bengt and Robin messing about in front of the camera. With cloth covering they’re heads they pretend to be gangster rappers. All kinds of pictures of all the junk standing around the house. Spring light seen between birches and anemones. Pictures of sheep and of ducks.

Bengt wants us to drink the last evening before I go back home. He pours up some of his homemade wine. I think that he’s the most entertaining after he’s drunk a few. He boasts and brags more then, but I think it’s wrong to film someone who’s been drinking. That would be breaking the trust. Bengt tells me about when the dogs started barking more than usual an evening about a year ago and how he’d seen thieves, gypsies he tells me, trying to steal a lamb.
“So I went out, completely still, with a sledgehammer in my hand and then they let go of the sheep and there hasn’t been any trouble since. If you look around on the yard you’ll see I’ve got different weapons standing around, an axe here, a sledgehammer there.”
“That’s no way to reason” I reply half-heartedly.
“ I never thought I’d own a house and now that I do, this land is mine to defend and do what I want on”. Maja nods in agreement. And then Bengt wants to show me something in the shed. I go with him and wait by the door to a room that’s surprisingly large and filled with rusting junk. Bengt looks through a couple of toolboxes and finally finds what looks like a giant hunting knife.
“Check this out. There’s a cartridge in the handle and if you pull it like this you can shot it like a pistol. Wanna try?”
“Hell no,” I answer. Bengt laughs and waves it around in front of his face.
“You should work out”, he says. “It’s not impossible for you to get muscles”.

I go home. On a hunch I watch “Clash of the Titans”. Bengt is nowhere to be seen. I think of what I’ve shot. Is it possible to edit together something out of that at all?

Before I bring myself to go back it’s summer. Bengt has fallen and crushed his thumb so his whole arm is in bandages. I film him and Robin in the kitchen making food.
“And when you need to spank the monkey?”
“I’ve got a tall blonde for that,” Bengt says and they both laugh.
“I heard that,” Maja replies from the living room.
“Damn” Bengt grins.
Robins changed. He jokes a lot and for short moments he looks me in the eyes with an anxious teenage gaze and willingly talks about different stuff in front of the camera. Bengt has gotten him an apprenticeship at a firm that builds temporary stages for different events. Right now they’re working in Karlstad. One of the bands playing is The Harrowing Men, a folk rock band with Swedish lyrics that are big in Dalsland. Bengt knows one of the band members and insists that taping the concert is important.
“I can get us rights to use their music in the film”, he promises.

From a timeline called “Bengt hospital”:
Small metal hooks stick out of the flesh in his hand. White plastic gloves remove the last of the bandage.
“I can say this much, it feels very strange now,” says Bengt.
“I’ll be outside if you need anything,” the nurse replies.
“I’ll yell at ya, if I need ya”.
He shows the hand to the camera.
“Gross isn’t it?”
He pulls his arm towards himself and holds it like a baby. His eyes roll when he thinks about it.
“Damn I’d like this undone”
Silence again.
“…how…I’d like it undone this… “, gasps for air”…this whole thing”.
“That you fell?”
“I’ll tell you the truth, I didn’t fall”. Now he’s decided to talk. “That’s just what I told people because… Robin was so damn stupid. I got so mad at him that I smashed my hand through the wall, where we’ve got the rabbits. My thumb hit the spline, so that’s what crushed my thumb. I was so mad that either I’d of hit Robin or hit the wall. My boundaries told me to hit the wall. So that’s what I did.”
He studies me beyond the upper framing of the camera.
“Robin knows that as well. He’s aware of that, that’s how it happened.”
“But still, then it’s good that you did what you did”, I say, because what else can I say?
“Yes, if I’d hit Robin I’d really regret that. I really would. And with the force of that punch I would’ve crushed him. I’d never forgive myself for that.”
Three stickers with birds sit on the hospital wall behind.
“I’m not a violent person. I was when I was younger but I’m not any more.”
He looks at me very closely. I look down at the display. Maybe I nod.
“When I was younger I liked fighting, because I was pretty strong and pretty good at it.”
“Mmm” I answer.

“I thought fighting was fun, you know”. I never got beaten. Maybe I got some resistance, but I never lost.”
“But how did you see you’re yourself when this was going on?” I ask. My voice is unaffected, strangely enough. The camera makes me strong.
“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it. If I look back at myself today, how I was then, I think it’s strange that I’m still alive”, he says, laughs and gives me a mischievous smile behind his biker moustache.
“I’d go up against gangs tougher than myself.”
You can hear the doctor entering the room outside the frame of the shoot.

We stop at an isolated café by a lake and grab a cup of coffee on the way home from the hospital. I pick up my camera and film a long sequence when Bengt sits by the lake drinking his coffee. Above the willows are weeping.
“What are you thinking about?” I ask.
“I’m thinking of when I used to live by the sea. I miss it. To live where there’s sun and warmth, near the water,” he says sadly and turns towards the lake. There’s a breeze that ruffles his hair and heightens the weeping of the willows.

There’s a clip of Robin sneaking up on a rabbit with shovel. Bengt’s screams at him because he scares it of, but it’s not in that clip that Bengt gets hold of the rabbit. He manages to shot it first a couple of hours later. I stand at a distance and let the camera pan down towards the ground, even though Bengt’s told me to not film at all. I think he hits it with the third bullet. Robin starts cheering. Bengt immediately goes in to the kitchen and fetches a meat cleaver.
“Get over here and I’ll show you how to butcher a rabbit”, he tells Robin. “You’ve got to aim for the neck so the blood can pour out”. Robin grabs the axe. The first strike doesn’t go all the way through, so he does it again to get the head of and the guts spill out. I can feel my stomach turn. Bengt throws the head and intestines to the cocker spaniels.

Timeline “Robin Summer”:
“Cheers Märtis, you want some, you want a little, little bit, here Märtis. No, she doesn’t want more beer…” Robin lifts the bowl he’s poured beer into, to the height of the cocker spaniels face. The dog starts lapping up the beer he’s poured from his can beer. “That’s good isn’t it, that’s good…”
He stops talking as if to a baby: “I think that’s enough. She’s soon drunk half a can of strong beer. You’re a little drunk, just like me Märtis“ He grins towards the camera, then laughs a bit embarrassed.

Cut to. “Did you see where Märta went of to?” Robin calls out for the dog. The camera wobbles past a roaster. Then she shows up, running out from the house. “Hey Märtis,” says Robin, while digging for a pack of cigarettes in the pocket of his short sleeved shirt. “What the hell she’s not drunk.” The dog jumps upon his leg. “Are you sober Märtis? Do you want another beer? You can notice she’s a bit tipsy.”

“Okay Märta we’ve had some trouble,” he can’t keep from laughing. “We’ve had some trouble with this, me and Märta. She gets so damn angry when she’s hung-over. All complaining and moaning and shit. If you give her some water and tomato juice then it usually work better. Sometimes we go to the next village for a pizza.”

After a while Märta throws up and then shamefully goes to bed. We’re on our way to Karlstad to film The Harrowing Men as promised. Bengt and Robin both drink heavily. I skip my principles and film them while they’re drunk in the crowd. The shots are nothing special, Bengt’s face is as red as his colourful shirt and he’s let his long hair out. He’s got his arm around Robin, who all of a sudden reminds me of a yapping dog.
Without true involvement I dutifully film the band from a dead boring angle and then I put away the camera for good. When we get home Bengts legs won’t carry him. He’s more than drunk- actually he’s completely wasted. Maybe there’s something left of those strong painkillers he’s been eating for his thumb, even though he’s not taken the pills today. Maybe he’s just had to many beers. Me, Maja and Robin, who’ve gotten a lift from Karlstad, we together try to get Bengt up the stairs. He’s heavy and limp and in the hall one of us trips and Bengt falls head first to the ground. With a bang he hits the floorboards. We finally get him in to the living room and from there on Maja want to take him the last bit herself. Her slender body patiently supports his heavy frame.

Robin doesn’t want to stop partying. He’s got whisky left from his birthday at the bar that he pours up in a beer glass. He wants to talk about slaughtering the rabbit.
“It’s the grossest thing I’ve ever been part of. A lot worse than when I was part of that manslaughter.” What manslaughter? I though Robin had “only” been sentenced for assault and in drug related matters. But manslaughter? Robin tells me he took part in starting a fight, which resulted in a guy dying from the injuries.
“I didn’t kill him”
I just nod and agree as if I knew what he was talking about.
We go out into the yard and Robin lights a cigarette.
“Have you been with older women?” he wants to know. Robin tells me about the first time he came to the farm. That’s when he was on the run. Bengt had heard about it from Marie and called and asked him to come. Bengts former girlfriend from London had been there celebrating midsummers eve. They’d drunk wine and then Bengts twenty-five years older, former girlfriend had taken Robins seventeen-year-old hand and they’d gone of and had sex with each other.
“But it wasn’t gross cos she had a body like a twenty-year-old”. We sit up for a while and drink until Robin get’s to drunk and I make sure he gets to bed.

After getting back home I get a job as a film teacher and that takes most of my time. Sometime I think I should do something with the film, but mostly I just think it’s nice not having to visit the farm again.
One night in September Marie calls and tells me Robins run of. He’s at a home for juvenile delinquents. Apparently he’s tried to get the social services to get him out of the farm but they’ve refused, so now he’s run of and shown up at this home, where he’s been placed before. I get a number where I can reach him and I call him up straight way. An unknown man answers the phone and I tell him I’m Robins cousin and ask if I can speak with him. Robin’s calm when he comes to the phone. He says Bengt’s went crazy and that he once took a stranglehold on him and another time he pushed him down the stairs. It’s a bit incoherent but it seems like alcohol was involved both times and then there’s something about what Robin’s said to Maja.
“People tell me I get in a bad way when I drink, but that’s nothing compared to Bengt.”

After Robin’s left Bengt been furious. He gets the social services on his side and they immediately want Robin back at the farm, but Robin refuses. Bengt even calls Marie and threatens that if Robin doesn’t come back he’ll take back the dog Maja has given her. After a while I realize that with Robin came money from the social services, money that has now disappeared, money that Bengt was constantly calling and trying to get more of. The only money coming to the farm now is Maja insurance money. I try calling Bengt once but he doesn’t answer and I think I probably won’t try again. I’ve already interfered enough as it is. After a couple of weeks Bengt stops contacting the social services and Marie.

A couple of months later Robin’s back in a closed institution. He’s been acting threateningly at the home, they say. He’s also been tested positive for cannabis and the social services in Karlstad have decided to put him away indefinitely, again. It’s winter and frosty when I go to visit him in the small house where he now lives behind closed gates. The boys who live there aren’t even allowed out to smoke. They are only outdoors when they’re moved back and forth from the gym. Robin’s just been given his own room – it’s been full so he’s spent the first weeks living in a visitors room where everyone could see in and he couldn’t be by himself at all. He’s still alive and smiling though. He’s gotten new tattoos and he hair is close-cropped. He’s also lost a few pounds, now that he’s no longer eating Bengts food. He’s mostly worried that he’s missed the start of term at the Health Care Programme where he was going to start.
“But you change”, he says, “You have to change when you end up at a place like this, you have to be hard. And then it’s difficult not to be hard”. He’s says he wishes he could go to prison instead. There the sentence is a sett time and you can serve your time and then you’re free. We talk about Bengt and Maja, mostly fun memories. We talk about the way Bengt would get sometimes and how obsessed Maja was with CSI. Robin seems to feel it’s sad that Bengt’s turned violent. But I notice no bitterness from him for what’s happened.