The story told in some Scandiavian films could cause some viewers real confusion. Such is the case with the 2008 Swedish drama The King of Ping Pong (Ping-pongkingen). Figuring out the main theme of the film (a Coming-of-Age narrative with focus on self-acceptance and forgiveness) doesn’t present much of a challenge, but following the plot development and understanding the motives behind the actions and choices of the protagonists can baffle even film buffs familiar with the particularities of European cinema.
The story revolves around two teenagers: 16-year-old Rille (Jerry Johansson) and his younger brother Eric (Hampus Johansson). They are complete opposites – physically and mentally – Rille being overweight and insecure while Eric is athletic and popular, thanks to his good looks and self–confidence. The only sport Rille excels at is table tennis and he viciously guards his position as key master and ping pong coach at the local youth club.
The boys’ parents are separated — the father works on an oil platform and rarely manages to pay a visit to his sons amd the boys live with their mother who, to their embarrassment, is having an affair with a bald, wrinkled shopkeeper – the complete opposite of their own father who they idealize. The plot develops at a painfully slow pace and, if it were not for the excellent acting performances of the young Hampus and Jerry Johansson, I doubt that I would have finished watching the entire film. That statement, by a Coming-of-Age buff like me, should serve as a warning for the more impatient among you. Granted the story, while confusing, is original and devoid of clichés. But I think a few clichés in this case could have actually helped the viewer to be less confused about the storyline.
I would love to know why the boys’ father randomly slipped in a phrase or two in Bulgarian, while all the other characters spoke Swedish. Maybe most of the viewers wouldn’t be as familiar with the Cyrillic languages as I happen to be and would miss this oddity, but it just came as a surprise to me.
I expected to be moved or at least entertained by the story. Instead, I only opted to finish the entire film for the sake of objectivity when writing about it. As far as cinematography and camera usage are concerned, the film possesses some good qualities. Overall, I blame the unconventional directing style of Jens Jonsson for the ruined effectiveness of this Swedish rite of passage flick.
The King of Ping Pong (2008) Trailer
Film Title: Ping-pongkingen (2008)
Also known as: The King of Ping Pong
Release year: 2008 – BOB Film Sweden AB
Director: Jens Jonsson
Cast: Jerry Johansson, Hampus Johansson, Georgi Staykov, Ann-Sofie Nurmi, Frederik Nilsson and others