In a world that seems so incredibly divided right now, writer/director Jimmy Olsson's 14-minute short film 2nd Class is like a gentle salve for the societal soul.
In the film, Charlotte (Hannah Alem-Davidson) is an up-and-coming physics student who unexpectedly, and rather idealistically, decides to switch her focus toward education with the noble vision of impacting young hearts and minds. Indeed, the minute we watch her inside a second-grade classroom it easily appears that Hannah has made the correct choice.
One night, Hannah is out on the town with a couple of friends (Dan Andersson and Carl Kumlin) when they encounter a relatively small but increasingly aggressive Nazi rally. Mesmerized by the ongoing chants of "Our people, our race!" that are filling the chilly nighttime air, Hannah ignores her friend's admonishments to detour away from the rally. When the dark-skinned, good-hearted teacher is eyeballed by one particularly angry Nazi participant, played by Olsson himself, she is brutally beaten and left broken and battered in the middle of the road as the angry crowd simply moves on as if nothing had ever happened.
Quickly recovered by her nearby friends, she awakens in a hospital eager for release and prepared for a lengthy recover. When she finally returns to her classroom just in time for lessons on family trees, she unexpected learns something about one of her students (Mio Ademark) that creates the opportunity for her to make the difference in her students' lives she set out to make in the beginning.
2nd Class is a film comprised of several little choices that help to turn it into something much, much bigger.
For example, the mere fact that the film's main attacker is played by Olsson himself, who has created such a poignant and meaningful script, is a particularly powerful statement whether directly intended or not. Can love change us? Olsson seems to think so and Charlotte certainly seems to think so.
There's a character in the film, portrayed with sublime perfection by Nesma Saleh, who essentially has 1-2 lines within the framework of the film but whose quiet, intentional presence clearly plants something resembling love and perseverance within Charlotte. It's simply a small yet essential role played absolutely beautifully.
There's the fact that Hannah's two friends who are with her on the night of the attack move away from the rally yet don't simply leave their friend behind, again a subtle choice that hints at the foundation of love and presence that seemingly guides Hannah's life as she has surrounded herself with good people even as she is forced to deal with the darkness of the real world.
There's more. There's really more. 2nd Class is the kind of film where you find yourself watching the little things that are unfolding, little things that make the big things that much more more meaningful.
Hannah Alem-Davidson is simply wonderful as Charlotte, intelligent yet idealistic and remarkably thoughtful as a young teacher seemingly aware of the power of her actions on future generations. She's just the right amount of vulnerable post-attack, her steely reserves unquestionably going to allow her to survive, and even thrive, but when she re-enters the classroom she's a transformed young woman whose actions forward plant the seeds for transformation in subtle yet remarkable ways.
As Anton, the young student that Charlotte encounters most vividly upon her return to the classroom, Mio Ademark gives a performance that seems beyond his years. Given we know a bit about his story, we've almost immediately built up his homelife our minds yet Ademark's performance is one of guarded humanity that feels like this young man has likely grown up at least a little bit faster in a world in which, he too, could easily become mesmerized if something doesn't mesmerize him even more powerfully.
Love could very well be that thing.
2nd Class has already proven to be incredibly successful on the indie film festival circuit with prizes at Jaipur International Film Festival (Best Short Film, International Competition), Giffoni Film Festival (Best Short - Parental Control), Hidalgo Film Fest (Best International Short), Leeds International Film Festival (Special Mention, Short Film), Oregon Short Film Festival (Best Ensemble Cast), Rhode Island International Film Festival (International Humanitarian Award), Short to the Point International Film Festival (Best Screenplay), Sao Paulo International Short Film Festival (Audience Favourite), and the list is really going on and on and on.
As it should.
2nd Class doesn't attempt to solve the problems of the world within the short span of its 14 minute running time. In fact, it doesn't even attempt to truly solve Charlotte's problems within that short span. That, at least in part, is its power. Within its 14-minute running time, this incredibly impactful Swedish-language short film does exactly what its lead character, Charlotte, promises to do with her life - plant the seeds of love and hope in the hope that they will grow.
Some will. Some won't.
We know this to be true.
Yet, we can't help but feel hopeful about this very story because Charlotte herself has not allowed hate to define her actions or her existence.
In Charlotte's life, and hopefully in Anton's life, love has already won.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic