X&Y is not always easy to grasp as life imitates art, and art imitates life. It's an arthouse film that makes you jump through hoops keeping up with the personalities within the personalities. A star-studded cast comes together to play the alter-egos of the main characters that are actor and director Anna Odell and actor Mikhael Persbrandt in this provocative, exploratory film from the controversial artist and filmmaker Anna.
The concept is that every person has three identities; the self, the one we would like to be and the way we are seen. Much like there are three sides to every story; your side, my side and the truth. It's also a stimulating exploration of hidden female/male identities brought forward for examination by a stellar cast hailing from Sweden and Denmark.
In a test-environment setup, three actors each play the alter-ego of Anna and Mikael. You get to be the fly on the wall, spying into people's lives. It is also an investigation into the alpha male and why society is so forgiving towards the bad boy and welcomes them back like the prodigal son.
In an interview with Big Screen Talk Anna says it was like a real-life experiment. Everyone had to stay in character at all times. Upon instruction from Anna, it was confronting for Mikael to meet with one of the actors who had been instructed to act exactly like him. How would it be, if you met yourself? Actors were on an exploration of feelings and reactions, not knowing if what was fed to them was the truth or not.
The film meanders through the different reactions and feelings of lust, sex, jealousy, dominance, obsession and more via the alter-egos played by both sexes for each character. It's a way of showing emotions are also not gender specific. This is the sort of contemporary film where you may walk out of there contemplating what you've just witnessed, or you may think it's 112 minutes of your life you'll never get back. No matter, this stellar cast will keep things interesting by the sheer power of their talent. Anna Odell holds her own amongst the professionals.
Quoting the aforementioned interview, Anna as always uses her experiences to explore what she's interested in. An artist not from a film making background she challenges ideas and investigates to find something that's real. She sees other people's ideas on how they see you, as an added layer to whom you appear to be. At art school, her Unknown Woman staged a part of her own life and mental illness. She claims it was not so much about mental illness as it was challenging the power structures of the medical world in Sweden.
Her film Reunion also challenged the power structure of bullying in high school. Again she says it's not about her history of being bullied, but exploring how other people see it from the outside. X&Y again deals with the power structure, this time, of man. It's obvious Odell has not lost her talent to be controversial or to excite.