‘Superposition’ Review – An Uncomfortable Reflection / Available On Streaming Rental or Purchase


It’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that actions and behavior can be truly detached from ego. It’s easier still for ego-obsessed people to acknowledge their own egotism (without doing anything to combat it) just to make it appear like they’re more intelligent and self-aware than everyone else. Such pretensions are second nature to narcissists, who have no idea how to communicate or empathize without centralizing their own experience, their own desires, their own prejudices. 

A satiric vein runs through Superposition, a film dripping in the language and conventions of genre cinema, but ends up being a stealth psychological drama. Directed by Karoline Lyngbye and co-written by Lyngbye and Mikkel Bak Sørensen, Superposition follows two Danish writer-academics who relocate with their young child to the Swedish forest to document a year living completely off-grid, only to find their exact doppelgangers living almost identical lives. 

As the logline cannily explains, Stine (Marie Bach Hansen) and Teit (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) “hope to find themselves as individuals.” She has a long-gestating novel project; he will record podcasts of their progress, his voice loaded with all the intrusive smugness of a very unethical psychotherapist. Their marriage is fracturing; efforts to keep an active sex life feel artificial. There’s a real sense that, under everything, they kind of resent each other. 

Critiques of the bourgeoisie have always thrived in Scandinavian cinema, with popular filmmakers from throughout the past century depicting their spiteful self-destruction. Ingmar Bergman comes to mind, as do Lars Von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg. In Teit, there are shades of all three of actor Anders Danielsen Lie’s characters from Joachim Trier’s “Oslo Trilogy.” He and Stine call to mind a simmered, mature version of the parasitical creative dynamic in Sick of Myself. There’s even something satirical about Superposition’s setting, the Swedish wilderness—the Danish citizens see it not as a natural place worthy of being studied or appreciated on its own terms, but as a generalized blank space in someone else’s country which they will appropriate for their very individualized self-actualization.

Unlike the commentary from other Scandinavian filmmakers, there is no broader bourgeois society or arts scene to disappear into or interact with in Superposition. There is only Stine, Teit, their resentment, and the child, Nemo (Mihlo Olsen), complicating their urge to stop putting effort into their marriage. In escaping to the wilderness, they have inadvertently sealed a tomb with themselves inside it. All they have brought out to that forest is themselves: their ego, communication problems, self-deceptions, and insecurities. These are issues that cannot be confronted with the artifice of podcast equipment and candid but filtered confessionals—they need to be plunged into the uncanny. Who better, then, to upset their pretense of tranquility than externalizations of what they can’t express themselves? 

These doubles are more direct, in control, and introspective, something that’s alarming and disquieting for our original couple.

Stine loses sight of Nemo in the forest, but the Nemo she recovers refuses to acknowledge Stine or Teit as his parents. After a couple sightings of people around the forest, they venture across the lake to find an exact copy of what they just left. But if this is Nemo’s home, where is their Nemo? Superposition begins as a carefully satiric relationship drama before sharply turning into an eerie thriller, with doubles turning on each other, copies being locked up, and Stine pretending to be her own doppelgänger. This propulsive midsection is a sign of the debut feature director’s deft tonal skill, plus the film’s playfulness in indulging in genre thrills. Here, DOP Sine Vadstrup Brooker’s camerawork feels more distinct; it moves around our characters in open spaces, not overly shaky, more like an animal honing in on its prey.

It’s a shame that the most exciting tension doesn’t settle until the final act; the morbidly curious psychological probing between both pairs is the lifeblood of any doppelgänger story. You don’t have to worry about different clothes or hairstyles, Hansen and Følsgaard wear the suspicions and motives of their primary characters’ counterparts with a masterful ease. There must be countless tiny discrepancies between each Stine and each Teit – some bigger ones are articulated, like how the doppelgängers have decided to separate – but instead of explaining them in dialogue, Hansen and Følsgaard have internalized the collective weight of these differences. These doubles are more direct, in control, and introspective, something that’s alarming and disquieting for our original couple.

Running through the film’s second half is a burning dramatic question: what’s going to happen now there’s only one Nemo? As great as it would be for these couples to coexist with their own alternative status quo, one must be left without a child. But as Stines and Teits converse, mock, and gel with each other, it’s clear that this uncanny encounter has made it impossible to return to their original lives – and it’s especially unappealing to stay with their original partners.

Superposition’s final sequence, which attempts to explain the mechanics of its liminality, may feel like unnecessary science-fiction plotting in a confidently psychological film, but it’s just set up for the most probing and confronting of Lyngbye and Sørensen’s relationship commentary. As Stine and Teit’s doubles realize the only way to escape their liminal space (via a handy telegraph pole, a staple of Lynchian cross-dimensional stuff), we’re pointed towards the inherent violence that exists within any unhealthy relationship – yes, the urge to deconstruct and rebuild your partner how you’d like, but also the self-destruction of romantic sacrifice. 

Instead of assimilating into their partner’s idea of them, two people who see the attractive and artificial nature of marital love commit to violence that feels honest to their own needs. Self-deception is the healthiest way forward. That’s marriage though, Superposition seems to think. You can’t solve it, you can’t enjoy a perfect version of it. You just look yourself in the eye and tell yourself the most convincing lie you can.

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