Glasgow Film Festival 2022 Review: Tigers (Tigrar)

Based on the story of Swedish footballer Martin Bengtsson, Tigers (Tigrar) captures the trappings of major league football and the pressures that the club system can place on young players. With a skilful lead performance from Erik Enge, Tigers is a raw and asserting glimpse into the cost that relentlessly seeking to achieve your dreams can have.

Writer-director Ronnie Sandahl (Borg McEnroe) presents the story of obsessively focussed sixteen year old Martin (Enge) who is signed to Inter Milan. Moving from his native Sweden to Italy, Martin quickly impresses on the field but struggles to fit in with his unkind teammates. Isolated and thrust into this ultra-competitive environment, Martin’s journey sees him pushed to uncomfortable extremes.

Tigers proves an interesting entry into the canon of sports films, not obsessively centred on capturing the glory of the sport that is so regularly showcased, but the darker underbelly of that domain. Although driven and pushed to extremes of physical fitness, Martin is still young man – previously living with his mother and spending his days training and playing his games console. Exploring a sense of out-of-depth naivety, Martin is placed in the hyper-competitive world of professional football in the major league team of Inter Milan. Away from his home and lacking any form of support network (his teammates haze and ignore him), Martin is subjected to pressures of major league football and the scandal it attracts – fame, boozy nights out, and press attention.

Finding some support in teammate Ryan (Alfred Enoch), Martin’s fish out-of-water nature is further highlighted with the young footballing professional unaware of what to spend his money on. Supported by Ryan, Martin splashes out on a used car – despite being unable to drive. Unlike his teammates Martin is not interested in the drinking and hook-up culture of his team. The scenes between Martin and Ryan impressively develop him out as a character, capturing an emotionality that we do not always see when he is on the pitch. The narrative also delves into Martin’s budding romance with a fellow Swede, further crafting a sense of the youthful character behind the footballing talent.

Enge’s performance is an impressive one that captures Martin’s relentless desire to pursue his dreams of football stardom. The actor showcases the young man’s footballing prowess with a real conviction, yet he is at his most interesting when navigating the darker elements of the narrative. Exploring Martin’s isolation and failure to gain acceptance from his teammates, gives Enge the opportunity to deliver a performance steeped in a naturalistic intensity.

The dark realities of club football are highlighted as players are cut from the team and dreams are dashed, whilst the domineering nature of coaches and club leaders further adds to the pressure. The tense atmosphere of the team’s lodgings is captured with a claustrophobic intensity by Sandahl with Martin enclosed in a space with bullying teammates – and later told they cannot leave other to train as events turn dramatic. The lack of support structures in place makes it so surprise that Martin gradually spirals out of control with the confines of isolation and the relentless pressure to succeed piling on the young player’s psyche.

Tigers captures the perils and pressures of the world of major league football on young players through the brutal, sometimes tough to watch story of Martin Bengtsson. Told with an absorbing honesty by writer-director Sandahl, paired with a skilfully intense performance from Enge, Tigers is an impressive watch.

Tigers plays as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2022. Find screening details here.

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