It had been referred to be 10 years ago by a classmate in high school. I had been Netflix friends with this individual. 2005. Back when Netflix was mail only. I quickly rented it and copied it. I didn’t even know but I’d already seen the director’s first film and liked it. Fucking Amal, the title attracted me and the good reviews shortly after it came out. I still love that movie. I guess I am a sucker for certain romances caught on film. Now consider this a spoiler filled mini review focusing on only one aspect. A symbol/theme.
Now to this day I am still terrible at identifying symbols in music, film, literature, and art. I haven’t forgotten the tools from High School and college especially but unless forced to identify symbols they are usually immediately lost on me, or never found. However, after watching Lilya one of the thing’s that hit me in the face was the McDonald’s symbolism.
In the film Lilya is treated to McDonald’s food and ice cream first by the man whom traffics her to Sweden by posing as a romantic interest. I recall the famous photograph of 100’s of Russians lined up in 1990 to try McDonald’s when it first opened in Russia. Fast food was a treat and a curiosity in the former Soviet Union, thanks to American capitalism and business tact. In the beginning of the film she is believed to be going to America with her Mother and boyfriend but she is quickly left to rot in the former Soviet Union, with no money and support.
Second after Lilya is taken captive in Sweden she cleans the apartment she is held prisoner in. A large McDonald’s bag and leftovers are among the items she cleans. The garbage remains belonging to the prisoner whom no longer lives there. A small burger join that started in America reaches desolate Russia and Sweden the same. You don’t get a chance to escape McDonald’s.
After Lilya is finished with her “customers” she is taken to eat through the drive through at McDonalds. Her “reward” for making money for the piece of human garbage who keeps her prisoner and sells her body to sick old fucks. Basically forced to eat McDonald’s because it’s fast,convenient, and cheap for that dirty Swede. Thanks to the American capitalist “give me convenience or give me death” ideology. They can thank the US later for the concept of drive-thru.
Three instances, a symbol I finally noticed and still think about. The McDonald’s is America, capitalism, freedom and a future. America would be a future with hope. Lilya’s only options to eat, as stated by her Aunt are to “spread her legs in town”. She does this without a complaint. A seemingly normal boyfriend leads to her becoming a forced sex slave. The freedom and globalization of America just goes to show it remains out of reach. You can taste American style food but you can’t live there. Instead it will taunt you and offer a reminder of useless hope that freedom is out there, but untouchable. You can taste America but you will never live it. It’s all the more worse when you learn the film was based on a true instance of events.