An Introduction and Reader Edited by Mariah Larsson

swedish film
Swedish Film
An Introduction and Reader
Edited by
Mariah Larsson
Anders Marklund
nordic academic press
To Joel Ohlsson,
our first film teacher
Nordic Academic Press
P.O. Box 1206
S-221 05 Lund, Sweden
[email protected]
© Chapter 22 University of Texas Press 2003, reprinted by permission
© Chapter 37 Wayne State University Press, 2005, reprinted by permission
© Nordic Academic Press and the authors 2010
Typesetting: Stilbildarna i Mölle, Frederic Täckström,
Cover: Lönegård & Co.
Cover image, top: Scene from Tillsammans /Together.
Photo: MEMFIS FILM AB/Per-Anders Jörgensen.
Bottom: Director Mauritz Stiller and photographer Julius Jaenzon in 1923.
E -book ISBN: 978-91-85509-75-1
Print ISBN: 978-91-85509-36-2
1. Editors’ Preface 9
Acknowledgements 17
i. institutions
Changing Institutions for Film Screenings
2. Introduction 20
Mariah Larsson
3. Going to the Cinema 23
Kjell Furberg
4. Censorship in Sweden 34
Jan Holmberg
ii. silent cinema
Introducing Cinema to Sweden
5. Introduction 44
Anders Marklund
6. Film Exhibition in Örebro 1897–1902 47
Ã…sa Jernudd
7. Georg af Klercker, the Silent Era and Film Research 63
Astrid Söderbergh Widding
The Golden Age and Late Silent Cinema
8. Introduction 72
Anders Marklund
9. Victor Sjöström and the Golden Age 76
Bo Florin
10. Selma Lagerlöf and Literary Adaptations 86
Leif Furhammar
11. Travellers as a Threat in Swedish Film in the 1920s 92
Tommy Gustafsson
iii. genre cinema
Popular Cinema in the 1930s
12. Introduction 106
Anders Marklund
13. The Melodramas of Gustaf Molander 109
Bengt Forslund
14. The 1930s’ Folklustspel and Film Farce 119
Per Olov Qvist
15. Celebrating Swedishness
Swedish-Americans and Cinema 134
Ann-Kristin Wallengren
Hollywood’s Influence after the War?
16. Introduction 144
Mariah Larsson
17. Youth Problem Films in the Post-War Years 147
Bengt Bengtsson
18. Little Miss Lonely
Style and Sexuality in Flicka och hyacinter 161
Mia Krokstäde
Documentary Filmmaking in Sweden
19. Introduction 169
Mats Jönsson
20. A Fly on the Wall
On Dom kallar oss mods and the Mods Trilogy 173
Bjørn Sørenssen
Genre Filmmaking in a Difficult Film Climate
21. Introduction 182
Anders Marklund
22. Pippi and her Pals 186
Chris Holmlund
23. The Criminal and Society in Mannen på taket 198
Daniel Brodén
24. Contested Pleasures 205
Mariah Larsson
iv. auteurs and art cinema
Art Cinema, Auteurs and the Art Cinema ‘Institution’
25. Introduction 216
Mariah Larsson
26. Ingmar Bergman and Modernity
Some Contextual Remarks 219
Erik Hedling
27. Peter Weiss: Underground and Resistance 229
Lars Gustaf Andersson
The New Generation of the 1960s
28. Introduction 239
Anders Marklund
29. The Reception of Vilgot Sjöman’s Curious films 243
Anders Wilhelm Ã…berg
30. Poetry in Sound and Image
Jan Troell’s Early TV Films 256
Madeliene Lilja & Johan Nilsson
31. Modernity, Masculinity and the Swedish Welfare State:
Mai Zetterling’s Flickorna 263
Mariah Larsson
Changing Conditions for Auteurs after 1970
32. Introduction 270
Mariah Larsson
33. The Complex Image 274
Roy Andersson
34. Distinctive Films in Mainstream Cinema
Suzanne Osten’s Bröderna Mozart 279
Anders Marklund
v. before and after the new millenium
A Renewal of Swedish Film?
35. Introduction 284
Mariah Larsson
36. Distinctive Films in Mainstream Cinema
Yrrol & Tic Tac 287
Anders Marklund
37. ‘Immigrant Film’ in Sweden at the Millennium 292
Rochelle Wright
Swedish Films and Filmmakers Abroad
38. Introduction 306
Anders Marklund
39. Lasse Hallström: Family Secrets 311
Tomás Fernández Valentí
Production and Producers
40. Introduction 321
Anders Marklund
41. Local and Global
Lukas Moodysson and Memfis 325
Anna Westerståhl Stenport
42. The Regional Turn
Developments in Scandinavian Film Production 334
Olof Hedling
Contributors 346
Index 350
chapter 1
Editors’ Preface
Mariah Larsson & Anders Marklund
This book has a long history, which starts at the point when two doctoral
students shared the same office and taught the same course, namely
Swedish Film for exchange students at Lund University, in the autumn
of 2003. We both felt that, considering how much literature there was
on Swedish film in Swedish, the lack of such material in English was
conspicuous. There was – of course – an enormous amount of literature
on Ingmar Bergman, but very little on almost everything else. Until
recently, scholarly tradition had it that most studies on Swedish cinema
were published in Swedish. Although our own doctoral theses dealing
with Swedish film – Mai Zetterling as a director in the 1960s and Swedish
film between 1985 and 2000, respectively – were also written in Swedish,
the notion of editing a larger, educational volume by translating already
existing Swedish-language material into English was born there and then.
Thus, this book is compiled to cover Swedish film history from
the early film screenings to contemporary filmmaking. Included are
articles and excerpts on topics as diverse as censorship, comedies from
the 1930s, specific auteurs, Swedish filmmakers abroad, and ethnicity
in Swedish film. The aim is to present a wide and yet concise introduction to the history of Swedish film, through a number of carefully
selected in-depth articles by Swedish and international film scholars.
By translating research already published in Swedish, we want to make
that research available to international students and researchers.
Undoubtedly, the scope of such a project raises issues of historiography and scholarly canons – questions not only of the exclusion and
inclusion of certain films and directors but also of the exclusion and
inclusion of certain authors and scholars. This, however, we have found
unavoidable. In order to steer clear of misunderstandings and provide
a preliminary guideline for how this book may be used, we want to
delineate how we have related to a number of issues.
swedish film
Established Swedish film history: At first, Swedish film history was
formulated by film critics such as Robin Hood (pseudonym for Bengt
Idestam-Almquist, 1895–1983), writing from the 1930s to the 1970s.1
Cinephile and filmmaker Gösta Werner (1908–2009) contributed with a
more thorough volume which for a long time served as an introductory
text to Swedish film history.2
Later, film students would also read Rune
Waldekranz’s (1911–2003) Filmens historia parts 1–3, which covered
international film history but also included large sections on Sweden.3
Since its publication in 1991, however, Leif Furhammar’s Filmen i
Sverige: En historia i tio kapitel has been the standard Swedish-language
film history for students of Swedish film.4
Furhammar was the second
full professor of film studies in Sweden, succeeding Rune Waldekranz
at Stockholm University. Many scholars have taken his volume as a
starting point in order to examine phenomena that Furhammar mentions very briefly, or, occasionally, neglects to point out. In this reader
Furhammar is only represented by a short piece, which of course does
not reflect the influence he has had on generations of film students.
However, Furhammar is indirectly present in about one third of the
contributions to this volume through references.
Scholarly writing: At the end of Janet Staiger’s 1985 article ‘On the
Politics of Film Canons’, she notes that not only films are selected and
preserved by film historiography; scholarly writings on film also share
that same destiny.5
We are, needless to say, well aware of this. The texts
chosen here, however, have not generally achieved canonical status,
mostly for the simple reason that they are quite recently published –
and a handful of them are published here for the first time. However,
other articles or excerpts are canonical. For instance, the excerpt from
P. O. Qvist’s study of Swedish film in the 1930s has been selected due
to the respect and authority this study carries. Although nearly twenty
years old, it is still the most thorough account of Swedish cinema in
this period. There are, naturally, other works that have been similarly
influential, but that still have not been possible to include in this
selection. Moreover, some of the texts selected – although written by
film scholars – have been taken out of a non-scholarly context: one
example is Furhammar’s study of Selma Lagerlöf adaptations, originally
published in the arts section of a newspaper. Most of the contributions
in the volume are quite recently written, because we have made new
research a priority. We have primarily chosen rather short texts and
editor’s preface
excerpts (or abridged longer texts) in order to include a fairly large
variety of contributions.
Established film canon: Many texts are included because they deal with
films or filmmakers that are regarded as important within Swedish film
history, i.e. that belong within the Swedish film canon. Texts on Victor
Sjöström, Bo Widerberg, Vilgot Sjöman and Stefan Jarl, for instance,
are included not only because the scholars who have written them have
done so in a forthright and novel manner, but also because these directors and these films are part of established Swedish film historiography.
We have not set out to revise the existing canon. Rather, our goal has
been to select texts that make it possible to understand (or question)
the merits of such a canon. Other texts deal with more contested areas,
such as sex /pornographic film in Sweden in the 1970s, or use novel
approaches, such as a queer reading of Flicka och hyacinter/Girl With
Hyacinths (Hasse Ekman, 1950).
Gaps and omissions: Sometimes when an area is not covered in this
book, it is because relevant research is still lacking. This is, for example, the case with many important filmmakers such as Hasseåtage
(Hans Alfredson and Tage Danielsson) and the Swedish films of Lasse
Sometimes, however, we have chosen to disregard existing, and often
very interesting, material. A good example concerns Victor Sjöström’s
Ingeborg Holm/Margaret Day (1913), one of the most well-known
and respected early Swedish films, which we mention only in passing.
In some of these cases there already exists relevant works in English.
Regarding Ingeborg Holm one can suggest Jan Olsson’s article ‘Nils
Krok’s Social Pathos and Paul Garbagni’s Style – Ingeborg Holm as
Object Lesson’, Erik Hedling’s ‘Swedish Cinema Alters History: Ingeborg Holm and the Poor Laws Debate’, or even David Bordwell’s blog
entry ‘Lucky 13’ where the film is discussed together with some other
films of that same year.6
To mention a few other areas not covered in this volume, television
and new digital production and distribution technologies are only
touched upon in a few of the articles. Also, since the focus is on fiction and feature-length films, genres such as documentary films and
experimental films are not comprehensively covered, although there
are articles dedicated to these areas. The introductions to each chapter
swedish film
compensate, to some extent, for these gaps and omissions. Nevertheless, since this is an introductory volume, our central focus has been
on what might be described as belonging to a more or less general
Swedish film culture.
Ingmar Bergman: The immediate response to anyone who attempts to
cover Swedish film history is, How are you going to deal with Bergman?
Bergman has, at least since the 1960s, been of immense importance to
both Swedish filmmakers and, eventually, Swedish film scholars. Being
a very tangible presence within Swedish cultural life, it is only after his
death in 2007 that we can fully grasp the gravity of his persona. Our
approach has been guided by pragmatism, and we have decided to keep
contributions on Bergman to a minimum. There already exists a large
corpus of literature on Bergman published in English, researched and
written by notable scholars in Sweden as well as internationally. We
have therefore decided to include only one article which deals directly
with his films. This article offers a perspective which takes Bergman’s
relation to the Swedish welfare state into account. To some degree, we
have complemented this minimalist approach by adding brief remarks
on Bergman in some of the introductions. Those teachers who wish to
put more emphasis on Bergman should use this volume together with
other selected works on him, for instance Ingmar Bergman: Revisited
(edited by Maaret Koskinen), Paisley Livingston’s Cinema, Philosophy,
Bergman: On Film as Philosophy, or any other of the many studies of
Bergman published in the past years.7
An exhaustive resource is Birgitta
Steene’s Ingmar Bergman: A Reference Guide, and anyone interested in
Bergman should look up the web page devoted to him and maintained
by the Ingmar Bergman Foundation.8
Theories: In order to be an all-encompassing textbook on Swedish
film, one may have wanted to include articles which elaborate certain
theoretical perspectives, for instance on national cinema, gender, or
genre. Obviously, all the texts included in the book are influenced by
different theoretical perspectives. The approaches in the selected articles
range from auteurial and industrial/economic to social/political, but
the main emphasis in the texts is on describing national film historical
phenomena rather than on theory. In the final analysis, we decided
that it is better to leave the possibility open to combine this anthology
with a couple of theoretical articles which can shift this present volume
editor’s preface
in the direction that the teacher wishes. Furthermore, since the book
may be read for courses on Swedish culture and society, we have chosen
to highlight texts which may facilitate an understanding of Swedish
culture and the conditions for filmmaking in Sweden. The volume is
intended for students who may not have a background within film
studies, although such a background would be beneficial.
Language, translations, names and titles: Most of the articles have
been translated by their authors. For consistency throughout the book,
we have conformed all texts to British English, even those that have
been published in American journals or anthologies.
Certain terms have proven difficult to translate. For instance, many
articles refer to the Swedish term folkhemmet. The word has a long history within Swedish politics, but since 1928 it has been associated with
the social democratic welfare project, having been used by the social
democratic leader Per Albin Hansson in a speech to describe the goal
of this project. Through the years, it has become loaded with ideological implications and value, and most certainly, it is a word which every
Swede seemingly intuits the meaning of, although it may have slightly
different meanings for different generations. As of today, it contains a
utopian dream as well as nostalgia for a time when the welfare project
seemed simple, but additionally, it can involve a criticism of a nationalist narrow-mindedness, petit bourgeois ideals, and a too uncomplicated
notion of equality. To translate it literally to ‘the people’s home’ would
not convey all its various layers of meaning. For long-term students of
Scandinavian culture, folkhem will most probably be a term for which
understanding comes gradually, but for the purpose of this book, regarding it as a metaphor for the welfare project will suffice.
Another such term is folklustspel. The folklustspel is a comedic genre
which came out of theatre. It is aimed at a wide audience and contains
a folksy, lowbrow humour. Since it has its origins in outdoors theatre,
the humour is sometimes condescendingly referred to as buskis (‘bush
humour’), and it was for a long time despised by the cultural elite who
considered it unsophisticated and ‘low’. There are similar traditions in
other countries, such as the ‘end of the pier show’, vaudeville and the
farce, but each national expression is somewhat different, which means
that there is no perfect equivalent in the English language, especially
as the farce, in Sweden, can be regarded as a related subgenre to the
swedish film
In the case of film companies, organisations and administrations, we
have used the Swedish names throughout, e.g. Svensk Filmindustri (SF),
not Swedish Film Industry. On the other hand, official administrations
such as Svenska Filminstitutet (SFi), the Swedish Film Institute, or
Statens Biografbyrå, the National Board of Film Censors, have official
English names and in those cases, these are used. Abbreviations may be
used if they are well established. For example, Svenska Biografteatern
is better known as Svenska Bio.
We have chosen to use the Swedish film titles, but the first time a
film is mentioned in an article, the English title follows, e.g. Jag är
nyfiken – gul/I am Curious – Yellow. If the film, to our knowledge,
has not been released in an English version, the title in English is a
translation and this is noted by not italicising it but by putting it in
quotation marks, e.g. Grevarna på Svansta /‘The Counts at Svansta’.
Furthermore, the first time a film is mentioned, the director and year
of the film are given, either in the sentence or within parentheses.9
The structure of the book: The book consists of five parts: ‘Institutions’,
‘Silent Cinema’, ‘Genre Cinema’, ‘Auteurs and Art Cinema’ and ‘Before
and After the New Millennium’. This structure does not really offer a
clear historical narrative. We have wanted to give a sense of chronology,
but that has not been a main priority. Part one, ‘Institutions’, deals with
the institutions of cinema, most notably two significant institutions:
exhibition and censorship. The two articles selected here cover large
parts of cinema’s history in Sweden and serve – to some extent – as a
timeline or frame for the rest of the book. For those who want a more
thorough historical outline there are other resources available.10 The
second part, ‘Silent Cinema’, deals with the thirty-odd years of silent
cinema in Sweden and focuses on directors as well as early screenings
and representation. The period between circa 1930 and 1990 is organised into two parts, ‘Genre Cinema’ and ‘Auteurs and Art Cinema’,
each chronologically covering these decades. Although the distinction
should not be seen as a clear one, it indicates the divide between popular culture and what is regarded as the more prestigious culture of art
cinema. In the final part, ‘Before and After the New Millennium’, five
articles chart some important elements in the still ongoing development
during the past two decades.
Each part combines the specialised in-depth articles with brief,
contextualising introductions. The introductions serve as a comple-
editor’s preface
ment to the other texts. However briefly, they attempt to suggest a
general development within the period; comment on the industrial
development of film or technological changes; or briefly introduce
other information and perspectives. We have striven to incorporate
further names and titles in the introductions. This is partly in order to
make the book more inclusive and partly to suggest areas for readers to
study more closely on their own or in class. Finally, the introductions
contextualise the texts in the respective parts, suggesting, for example,
how typical the excerpt is or what happened to the filmmaker later.
Swedish Film: An Introduction and Reader is the result of our collaboration and our experience in teaching different aspects of Swedish
cinema through a number of years. It is intended to be used for courses
on Swedish film, Scandinavian film, and Swedish culture, and we have
tried to make it as accessible and teachable as possible.
1 For instance: Bengt Idestam-Almquist (1936), Svensk filmparad: vita dukens ansikten
i närbild, Stockholm: Saxon & Lindström; Bengt Idestam-Almquist (1939), Den
svenska filmens drama: Sjöström, Stiller, Stockholm: Åhlen & söner; Bengt IdestamAlmquist (1959), När filmen kom till Sverige: Charles Magnusson och Svenska Bio,
Stockholm: Norstedt; Bengt Idestam-Almquist (1962), Svensk film, Copenhagen:
Det Danske Filmmuseum; Bengt Idestam-Almquist (1974), Svensk film före Gösta
Berling, Stockholm: PAN/Norstedt.
2 Gösta Werner (1970), Den svenska filmens historia: en översikt, Stockholm:
PAN/Norstedt, (2nd, expanded edition, 1978).
3 Rune Waldekranz started out as a film critic, became a producer at Sandrews, and
in the 1960s head of the newly founded film school. In 1970, Waldekranz was
appointed to the first professorial chair in film studies at Stockholm University, a
position he held until 1978. His books on world film history are: Rune Waldekranz
(1985), Filmens historia: deförsta hundra åren, del 1, Pionjäråren, Stockholm: Norstedt;
Rune Waldekranz (1986), Filmens historia: de första hundra åren, del 2, Guldålder
[1920–1940], Stockholm: Norstedt; Rune Waldekranz (1995), Filmens historia: de
första hundra åren, del 3, Förändringens vind [1940–1990], Stockholm: Norstedt.
4 Leif Furhammar (1991), Filmen i Sverige: en historia i tio kapitel, Höganäs: Bra
böcker & Svenska Filminstitutet, (2nd edition 1993, 3rd revised edition 1998, 4th
revised and expanded edition with the title Filmen i Sverige: en historia i tio kapitel
och en fortsättning, in 2003.)
5 Janet Staiger (1985), ‘The Politics of Film Canons’, Cinema Journal 24, no 3.
6 Jan Olsson (2010), ‘Nils Krok’s Social Pathos and Paul Garbagni’s Style – Ingeborg
Holm as Object Lesson’, Film History vol. 22, no 1, pp. 73–95; Erik Hedling (2000),
‘Swedish Cinema Alters History: Ingeborg Holm and the Poor Laws Debate’, Scandinavica (39), pp. 47–64; David Bordwell (2008), ‘Lucky 13’, in David Bordwell
and Kristin Thompson, Observations on Film Art (blog), 29 August, http://www. /?p=2674 (accessed 22 April 2010).
swedish film
7 Maaret Koskinen, ed. (2008), Ingmar Bergman Revisited: Performance, Cinema
and the Arts, London: Wallflower; Paisley Livingston (2009), Cinema, Philosophy,
Bergman: on Film as Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Koskinen should
be mentioned as a national authority on Bergman, with an extensive production
of research since her dissertation, Maaret Koskinen (1993), Spel och speglingar: en
studie i Ingmar Bergmans filmiska estetik, diss. Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.
Her most recent study is of Tystnaden/The Silence: Maaret Koskinen (2010), Ingmar Bergman’s The Silence: Pictures in the Typewriter, Writings on the Screen, Seattle:
University of Washington Press, but in English one can also recommend ‘Tvålen
Bris/Bris the soap’ in Tytti Soila, ed. (2005), The Cinema of Scandinavia, Wallflower:
London, pp. 102–109, about the commercials Ingmar Bergman made in 1951.
Other recent examples of studies of Bergman which are not written by Swedish
scholars are Geoffrey Macnab (2009), Ingmar Bergman: the Life and Films of the
Last Great European Director, London: I.B. Tauris; or Laura Hubner (2007), The
Films of Ingmar Bergman: Illusions of Light and Darkness, Basingstoke, Hamsphire:
Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills.
8 Birgitta Steene (2005), Ingmar Bergman: a Reference Guide, Amsterdam: Amsterdam
University Press; ‘Ingmar Bergman face to face’,
9 A good, although not always completely accurate, resource is Here, you can search for individual films as well as persons, companies
and so on. Also, in printed form, there is Svensk filmografi 1–9, each covering a
decade of Swedish film. These volumes contain – in Swedish, however – production
information, plot summaries and valuable comments on for instance reception and
production. They also contain some essays which elaborate on significant trends
during that particular decade.
10 ‘Film in Sweden’, a brief but informative text written by Leif Furhammar is available
at See also P. O. Qvist (2000), ‘Introduction’, in P. O. Qvist & Peter
von Bagh, Guide to the cinema of Sweden and Finland, Westport, Conn: Greenwood.
A much longer outline of Swedish film history is written by Tytti Soila, available
as the chapter ‘Sweden’ and published in Tytti Soila, Astrid Söderbergh Widding
& Gunnar Iversen, eds. (1998), Nordic National Cinemas, London: Routledge, pp.
An enterprise such as this is dependent on a network of individuals who,
in one way or the other, are helpful along the way. We would, first of all,
like to thank all contributors who were patient when progress was slow,
and quick to respond when haste was needed. Also, we would like to
thank Annika Olsson at Nordic Academic Press who kept encouraging
us. Olof Hedling and Anders Wilhelm Åberg offered valuable comments, not least on the editors’ preface. Colleagues in Lund, Malmö
and elsewhere always provide a supportive network.
The book was made with generous financial support from the following foundations: The Holger and Thyra Lauritzen Foundation for
the Promotion of Research into the History of the Cinema, The Royal
Patriotic Society and The Crafoord Foundation. We would also like to
thank the International Offices at Lund and Malmö Universities for
offering stimulating courses and generous support.
Finally, our warmest thanks go to our families: Heike, Edgar and
Marlene, and Olle, Albert and Martha.

Changing Institutions
for Film Screenings
chapter 2
Mariah Larsson
The medium of moving images is many things. For about one hundred
years, it usually implied projection onto a screen in front of a crowd
of people at a public venue. Although challenged by television in the
1950s and by the VCR in the 1970s, film during the larger part of the
20th century equalled entertainment in theatres. As such, it existed
in the public sphere, within different contexts and subject to various
institutional influences. It would be the object of moral panics and
fears, causing debates and leading to laws and regulations. It could be
a promising business area producing and distributing films supporting
audiences’ habitual consumption of moving dreams. It could also be a
form of expression considered to be valuable from aesthetic, political,
educational and financial perspectives, supported by small organisations
as well as state institutions offering support.
Among the more controversial institutions influencing cinema has been
that of censorship. Most well-known, perhaps, Hollywood regulated its
own censorship through the Production Code from the 1930s and into
the 1960s when the code was replaced by the rating system still used
today. In Sweden, as early as 1911, film censorship was regulated by an
exception to the constitutional freedom of expression, and enforced by
Statens Biografbyrå (the National Board of Film Censors). Although
often criticised by film scholars, censorship – state-regulated like in
Sweden or industry-regulated like in the US – is an important part of the
institution of film screenings and intricately interwoven with its public
nature. As later debates concerning video and the Internet have shown,
i. institutions
there is a huge difference between the approaches to what is regarded as
belonging to the private spheres and the approaches to things existing
in a public sphere. Nevertheless, in Sweden films distributed on VHS
and DVD and screened at home on television were also subjected to
regulations which made it possible to censor them as well.
Furthermore, the public exhibition of films needed venues for their
screening. As Ã…sa Jernudd demonstrates in the excerpt from her book
on early cinema in Örebro (in the next part of this volume), the earliest
film screenings were not in cinemas but in other locales. Soon, however, film theatres were built, and their history is no less a film history
than the history of film censorship, film production or of film policies.
The rapid changes during the past ten or fifteen years – home movie
set-ups with DVD players, home projectors, surround systems with
multiple loudspeakers, Internet with legal as well as illegal file sharing
of films, YouTube, digital television with pay-per-view options, the
latest developments with high resolution images resulting in Blu-ray
discs and flat screen HD televisions – have altered our concept of what
film is, changed distribution patterns, challenged as well as reinforced
hegemonic Hollywood and made ‘going to the movies’ only one of
a number of ways to watch films. Cinephiles consider the darkened
auditorium and images projected on a large screen to be the only true
cinema; others prefer cinemas as a public place for entertainment and
meeting friends, and still others do not really differentiate between
the ways in which a film can be stored, distributed and experienced.
A movie is a movie.
In the two first texts, different aspects of the institution of film
screening are highlighted. Kjell Furberg’s piece deals with the public
exhibition of film, the movie theatres where films, for the largest part
of the 20th century, were most often screened. Retracing the steps of
generations of film-goers, Furberg describes the development of theatres: their architecture, their customs, their demographics, and their
geography. Accordingly, Furberg also expresses sorrow over what he
regards as the disrespectful treatment of cinemas and the detoriation of
cinema-going practices during the past decades. Originally published
in a photo book consisting of images of different theatres in various
parts of Sweden as well as brief articles on each theatre, Furberg’s text
outlines the history of the buildings where films were screened.
The second text was written by Jan Holmberg as an introduction
to a series of screenings at the Cinematheque in 2003–2004, dedicated
swedish film
to the issue of censorship. Most of the films mentioned in the text
were screened in the series and, as can be seen, censorship applied to
foreign as well as domestic films. In 2009 a specially commissioned
report recommended that the National Board of Film Censors should
be abolished and that film censorship for adults should no longer be
allowed. However, the National Board of Film Censors has for film
scholars for a long time been a highly contested institution, and when
Holmberg’s text was written no end to film censorship was expected.
This attitude is reflected in the text, which is not only informative about
how censorship worked (absurdly consistently as well as meticulously)
but also illustrates how many film scholars have felt about the censoring
of their chosen subject.1
1 Since Jan Holmberg’s text is written as an introduction there are no references, but
for those interested in reading more in the Swedish language about the National
Board of Film Censors, there are a number of books, such as Gunnel Arrbäck (2001),
Statens Biografbyrå 1911–2000, Stockholm: Statens Biografbyrå; Gunnel Arrbäck,
ed. (2001), 90 år av filmcensur, Stockholm: Statens Biografbyrå; or the older Arne
Svensson (1976), Den politiska saxen: en studie i Statens Biografbyrås tillämpning av
den utrikespolitiska censurnormen sedan 1914, Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.
chapter 3
Going to the Cinema
Kjell Furberg
The cinema was once popular entertainment in the genuine sense of
the word. For a long time a visit to the cinema was an important social
and cultural event for many people – they went out to the cinema.
Industrialism had caused people to move away from the countryside
and into the towns. These people now had both leisure time and a wage.
Cinemas met the demand for entertainment that arose – it became
an affordable luxury for those who had neither the money nor the
opportunity of going to the theatre, but in contrast to the traditional
theatre it was, despite everything, a democratic part of everyday life.
You go to a cinema to watch a film in an environment most conducive to its enjoyment, but also to be together with other people.
With its special architecture, interior design and artistic decoration,
the cinema theatre has, since its inception, been an important frame
of suggestion surrounding the experience of the imaginative world of
film. At the same time the cinema auditorium is an environment that
is almost absent: we only see it for a very short time before the lights
are dimmed and the film starts. For this reason, cinemas have been
designed so that these few minutes should increase the cinemagoer’s
expectations of the miracle that is about to take place on the white
screen. This illusion is already present out on the street with the lit-up
signs by the entrance, the posters, the baldachin-like canopy. In the
foyer you purchase your ticket and perhaps some sweets. This is also
where you wait for those joining you, and before you can enter the
auditorium; at best this is an environment and an atmosphere which
enhances the sense of occasion. Finally, you show your ticket to the
usher and then enter the holy of holies: the auditorium itself. Once
inside, you are charmed by the coloured pattern projected on the silver
curtain, the gong sounds and the curtain starts to open with a little
jerk – while the lights in the auditorium are gradually dimmed and the
swedish film
film starts. During the first half of the 20th century, until television
made its breakthrough in the 1950s, cinemas were the only place you
could experience a film – nowadays, small children see motion pictures
on television long before they can even talk.
Our leading architects, interior designers and artists have been
involved in the creation of the Swedish cinemas – these entertainment
palaces that were a synthesis of art and the spectacular, or sometimes
of the sumptuously vulgar. Our cinemas effectively demonstrate the
development of Swedish architecture and design. Only a few cinemas
have survived from the golden days of cinema, and very few of these
have been preserved and cared for in a fitting manner, avoiding clumsy,
philistine ‘renovation’. Cinemas have always been designed in a trendy
or spectacular manner. Today, when we examine the scattered remnants
– the few cinema theatres that are more or less intact – we realise that
trendiness has also been part of the strength of the cinema architecturally, as well as in regard to the interior design. Modern designers
have had few qualms when wholeheartedly embracing the very latest
fashions when it comes to creating suitable settings and moods. These
cinemas are quite simply typical of their times. But their very trendiness
has also made them vulnerable. When new decades meant new ideal
styles, a cinema could suddenly become hopelessly old-fashioned and
it was not unusual for the whole design concept to be destroyed while
new interior features were stuck on top of old ones. Marble, mirrors,
stucco work, painted decorations, fine woodwork and imitation leather
were all removed with a wave of a magic wand in an amateurish effort
to ‘improve’ things and due to the short-sighted adherence to trends.
The result was mishmash – neither fish nor fowl.
Film and the cinema came to Sweden exactly six months later than
in Paris, on 28 June 1896, arriving at the Industrial and Handicrafts
Exhibition in Malmö. The venue was a theatre building in Moresque
style, specially designed for the exhibition. It can be noted that the first
cinema premises, not only in Sweden but also in Paris, were designed
in an oriental or exotic style – and this would again be popular among
Swedish cinema designers in the 1920s.
After 1896 the novelty spread throughout Sweden. Film exhibitors
travelled up and down the country with portable projectors. They rented
some suitable hall, such as temperance lodges, Free Church mission
houses, theatre auditoria and soon even premises belonging to the labour
i. institutions
movement. So, in fact, in these first years film was to a great degree a
socially acceptable phenomenon. There were even touring tent cinemas,
but these were not so common. Sometimes films were shown as part of
a variety of circus performances. In Stockholm the breakthrough came
at the General Art and Industry Exhibition on Djurgården, where the
Lumières Kinematograf was run by Numa Peterson. The cinema was
housed in a miniature medieval Stockholm setting.
When the exhibition closed in the autumn, Peterson’s son, Mortimer,
continued to run the Lumières Kinematograf in a room with sixty-three
seats at Kungsträdgårdsgatan 12. This was Stockholm’s – and Sweden’s
– very first permanent cinema, but it closed down after ten months.
The lack of new films meant that the incipient cinema fashion more or
less died out. It was not until 1904 that Stockholm’s next permanent
cinema was established: the Ideal. A few days later the third permanent
cinema in Stockholm opened: the Blanch-Biografen.
The Dane Niels Le Tort played an important role as an entrepreneur in this pioneering cinema epoch: he opened Gothenburg’s first
permanent cinema, situated in the Arkaden, in July 1902. Initially
there was no projection booth – the projectionist and projector were
under a cloth in the auditorium. In Malmö, too, Le Tort opened the
city’s first permanent cinema, in August 1904: Malmös Biografteater.
Places where films were screened did not originally have their own
names. Adverts emphasised the name of the projector, which gave us
the first word for cinema: kinematografteater. The Royal Biograph was
a brand name for a type of projector that Niels Le Tort used at the
screenings in the Blanch-Biografer in Stockholm in 1903. He advertised
biografföreställningar, i.e. biograph performances. The Royal Biograph
was reputed to be a projector of the very highest quality. Other exhibitors started to advertise their biograf performances too, despite their
having less reputable projectors. Within a year or so, the word biograf
became the general term for a film projector, and – in a transferred
sense – for a place where films were shown. The word biograf comes
from the Greek: bios means life, and grafein means to draw or write.
Sweden’s foremost expert on the history of Stockholm cinema
theatres, Olle Waltå, has noted that the word biograf was first used in
a newspaper advertisement in Stockholm as early as 3 January 1899
– this was ironically for a film screening that was part of a circus performance. It was probably the name of the projector that was being
referred to on that occasion. Initially, the rather elegant combination
swedish film
biografteater was the common term for a cinema. But already early
in the century, people started to say simply biograf, which was soon
shortened to ‘bio’. Only Swedish and Danish use bio and biograf as
the words for a cinema; it is also used as a loanword in Icelandic,
Faroese and Greenlandic.
In 1909 an international agreement was signed to regulate the rental
of film copies to exhibitors, which improved ways of establishing
permanent cinemas. But hiring out films had been introduced several
years earlier. When the film exhibitor, during the pioneer period, had
shown the films that he owned in one place, he had to move on to
find a new public; some film exhibitors did, of course, sell films to
each other. Now that they could rent films, it was possible to have a
permanent cinema – the film was changed, not the audience, and the
repertoire could be regularly renewed. The travelling exhibitors still
played a fairly important role, in particular away from the larger urban
areas, and they did not go out of business completely until after the
breakthrough of television in the late 1950s.
Around 1905 the first cinemas were built that were specially designed
for showing films, but they were few in number. There was still an
uncertain supply of films, and there was no domestic Swedish production until 1908. It was not until after 1910 that the building of cinemas
really got under way, and the number of permanent cinemas in Sweden
in 1911 was estimated at about 200. The oldest purpose-built cinema
still intact and well-preserved today is the Scala in Ystad, opened in
1910. The oldest permanent cinema that was built in an existing building and is still showing films today is the Saga in Kalmar, from 1906.
This was established by a firm called Kristianstads Biografteater, which
had been started the previous year and was re-structured as Svenska
Biografteatern (Svenska Bio) in 1907. This company had a building
erected in Kristianstad in 1908 which contained the Kosmorama cinema
(opened in 1909), office premises, laboratory and a film studio up on
the top floor. Charles Magnusson was recruited from Gothenburg as
company director, and the company moved to Stockholm in 1911.
The following year Svenska Bio established a film studio on the island
of Lidingö, outside Stockholm, and this marked the start of stable
Swedish film production – which was an important precondition for
the building of cinemas on a large scale. The company merged with
Filmindustri AB Skandia in 1919, thus forming Svensk Filmindustri
i. institutions
(SF), which as a result of other mergers over the years developed into
the largest cinema chain in Sweden, as well as a production and film
distribution company.
One of the most interesting cinemas from the pioneering period
is the Svea in Sundsvall, designed by the architect of Stockholm’s city
hall, Ragnar Östberg, and opened in 1912. It is still intact today and
in 1988 was the first cinema theatre to be classified as a building of
special historical interest that should be preserved for cultural reasons.
In the second decade of the 20th century, cinema interiors became
all the more sophisticated as attempts were made to emulate the architecture and interior design of the most magnificent drama theatres.
These attempts continued for decades: cinema proprietors were trying
to get a good reputation and a bit of ‘cultural veneer’ for the popular
and at times somewhat dubious cinema entertainment so that a cinema
theatre would come to be regarded as a respectable establishment – film
censorship was introduced in 1911. A milestone in cinema history was
the building of the lavish, artistically decorated Röda Kvarn in Stockholm, opened on 30 December 1915. Here was a surfeit of classical
elements, works of art and luxury, and this cinema theatre came to be
something of a model for the rest of the country.
During this same decade the Jugendstil was replaced by National
Romanticism, but these two styles were often mixed and were even
garnished with classicism elements. The interiors tended to be rather
jumbled, heavy and overloaded, but there was nevertheless an unmistakable ambiance of culture and refinement. During the whole of the
silent film era the film screen was normally painted directly on the
wall. The curtain was copied from the drama theatres, but cinemas
did not really have the same need of a curtain and it was primarily
for decoration and as an attractive framework for the film screening.
At about this time many cinema proprietors felt they were in far too
weak a position vis-à-vis the film distributors, so in order to become
more independent they formed Sveriges Biografägareförbund (Swedish
Association of Cinema Proprietors) in 1915.
The 1920s meant larger, palatial auditoria in Swedish cinemas, the
largest of which seated almost 1500 people. Swedish neoclassicism
made its breakthrough, and the interiors became lighter, more open
and smarter – not nearly as overburdened as in the previous decade. It
was popular to have a feeling of outdoors and various types of stylised
firmaments on the auditorium ceilings. The most original cinema
swedish film
from this period is the Skandia in Stockholm, designed by architect
Erik Gunnar Asplund and opened in 1923. The Skandia has long
been famous throughout the world, and is still reasonably intact. In
the late 1920s elements of art deco were gradually incorporated in the
neoclassicism, and there were sometimes design features from ancient
Pompeii, Greece and Egypt, as well as from China.
It was still, however, the drama theatre that served as a model when
new cinemas were built and decorated. At the end of the 1920s sound
film was introduced in some of the premier cinemas of the larger
towns and cities. In the smaller cinema theatres, especially in country
districts, there was a delay of one or a few years before sound films
could be shown, but 1930 was the major breakthrough year in Sweden.
Towards the end of the 1920s decorative canopies (known in Sweden
as baldachins) started to appear over the entrances to new cinemas.
The year 1930 was also the year of the major breakthrough of Swedish functionalism, funkis, which was presented at the international
Stockholm Exhibition that same year. Funkis and sound film went
hand-in-hand, and cinemas were thoroughly transformed. One is
tempted to say that it was first now that ‘proper’ cinemas came into
being; free from the ambition to emulate the drama theatre, and with
enough self-respect to stand on their own feet. In the early 1930s some
aesthetically pure functionalist cinemas were built. However, not very
many cinemas were actually built at this time: the Kreuger crash marked
the start of an economic depression.
In the mid 1930s cinema construction got under way again, and
now a style was developed which, while based on functionalism, meant
a little more decoration and cosiness. This funkis period was also the
heyday of canopies with neon lights, which were a feature of cinema
entrances until the end of the 1950s. The first neon signs were probably
put up at the Sture in Stockholm in 1925. A warm degree of intimacy
matched with a worldly elegance and comfort were characteristic of
pre-war cinema style – luxury that contrasted strongly with the overcrowded and rather primitive housing conditions of most Swedes at
the time. Perhaps the century’s artistic zenith as regards architecture,
design and decoration was reached in the cinema building-boom, which
lasted from the late 1930s until 1943.
With the advent of sound film a proper film screen became a necessity – the loudspeaker was placed in the middle behind the screen,
which could thus no longer be painted directly onto the wall. The
i. institutions
silent era convention of a centre aisle in the middle of the seating area
was abandoned; after all, the best seats were in the middle, in front of
the screen, as regards both sound and picture. Towards the end of the
decade it became more common to build cinemas without a balcony,
which meant that the stalls seating area could be sloped at a greater
angle to provide a better view of the screen. The Draken cinema in
Stockholm, from 1938, was seminal in that respect.
During the 1930s and the war years cinemas became all the more
popular. In 1941 the cinema branch agreed that no more new cinemas
should be opened – they thought that there were enough of them already
and wanted to restrict competition. Any cinemas that had already
been planned could, however, be built, and some were thus opened in
1942–43. The cinema proprietors had made plenty of money and now
they invested some of this in renovation rather than new buildings, and
this of course meant that many of the silent era cinemas were damaged.
In this funkis era classicism and other older styles were not valued very
highly, and a number of cinemas were radically transformed and given
a dull, stuck-on, funkis appearance in both the auditorium and foyer.
Most of the canopies on the former silent film cinemas were added in
1942–43, regardless of the degree to which this defaced the entrance
and portico.
The restriction on new cinemas was not lifted until 1954, and during the few years before the breakthrough of television about 1958 a
number of new cinemas were built. In stylistic terms these reflected
an independent 1950s modernism, which did however build upon the
functionalism of the 1930s and 1940s. The major H55 design exhibition
in Helsingborg in 1955 introduced a new elegance, and this was often
demonstrated in the new cinemas. The 1930s’ idea of cinemas without
balconies and with a good gradient in the auditorium was developed
further, and the size of the screen grew ever larger.
In 1953 the CinemaScope format was presented; this was a very wide
film format with a 1:2.3 picture ratio. In the USA this was a way of
dealing with the competition from television. In Sweden this novelty
came as something of a bonus, as we still did not have television here.
The new picture format often meant that the film screen had to be
widened, and thus the proscenium too, which commonly led to unfortunate changes in the appearance of the auditorium. Until about 1960
efforts were usually made to find harmonious and stylistically suited
solutions to this problem. At the end of the decade, just when Swedish
swedish film
television was becoming a threat, other picture formats came along:
these included Todd-AO introduced in 1959, which was 70 mm film
(ordinary cinema film is 35 mm wide). With the Todd-format the size
of the image was actually better than for 35 mm film. Another system
was Cinerama, and the related Cinemiracle presented in 1958. Three
projectors were run simultaneously side-by-side so that an enormous
picture could be screened; a combination of the three images together.
These systems required really huge screens. Cinerama was so difficult
to deal with and the freight costs of the film copies were so expensive
that the format was discontinued in 1964. By then the competition
from television had really made itself felt.
Just after the mid 1950s, the same time that television started up,
the audience figures for Swedish cinemas were the highest ever. And
there were more cinema theatres than at any other time: about 2,500
in all. As a ratio of cinemas to population, this was a European record.
This was in part due to the unique structure of cinema ownership in
Sweden, with its many cinemas owned by popular movements. The
temperance societies and the labour movement were quick to equip
their lodges and folkets hus (community halls affiliated to the labour
movement) with film projectors. It was a way of helping to finance
other activities. It also meant a great deal for the spread of film and
cinema culture and making it extensively available, not least in country
districts. This type of cinema was seldom designed and fitted out purely
as a cinema theatre. Instead it was often a question of an unglamorous
hall with several functions: meeting hall, concert hall, theatre stage and
auditorium, dance floor – and cinema.
Swedish television started broadcasting in 1956, and made its definitive breakthrough in 1958 with the World Cup in football. Most cinema
proprietors stuck it out until about 1960. There were even some new
cinemas built between 1959 and 1961. But by 1960 it was clear that
the audience figures had declined drastically. Cinemas started to close
down, and many were demolished. Those remaining were often subject
to irreverent renovation projects in the 1960s and 1970s, which often
displayed even greater insensitivity than in the 1940s.
The Swedish Film Institute’s building Filmhuset (House of Film) with
its three cinemas, the Victor, the Mauritz and the Julius (the references
being to Sjöström, Stiller and Jaenzon), was designed by architect Peter
Celsing and opened in 1971. This building was a purist’s expression of
1960s modernism in an independent, uncompromising manner, and
i. institutions
he succeeded in creating a contemporary, yet unique building of the
very highest artistic and architectonic quality. The Cinemateket film
club screens films in the Bio Victor, but there are no public screenings
in the Filmhuset cinemas. The Bio Victor is still one of Sweden’s best
film auditoria, and when it was built it was ahead of its time, with its
steeply sloping floor and large film screen.
The introduction of television permanently changed people’s life patterns. The consumption of moving pictures, measured in time per day
and per person, has increased in Sweden ever since films started to be
shown in 1896. But a negligible amount of this takes place in cinemas.
We watch television for about two -and-a-half hours each day, while we
spend an average of about half a minute in a cinema. This can also be
expressed by saying that we go to the cinema just under twice during a
typical year – before television we went just over ten times a year. But
even though cinema-going has declined drastically since the advent of
television, watching films at the cinema never exceeded three minutes
per day, even in the 1950s. Today’s two-and-a-half hours of television
per day – to which should now be added an increasing amount of
time in front of PCs – have, however, almost entirely absorbed what
leisure time is left after allowing for daily commuting, shopping, laundry, personal hygiene and household work, i.e. the time that should
otherwise make social intercourse possible. Perhaps this is the greatest
change ever in our life as social beings: the moving pictures on the
television screen automatically attract our attention, and nowadays we
rarely look one another in the eye at home. Today it is even common
that family members spend the evenings isolated in their own rooms,
each one watching a different channel on his or her own television set.
When it first arrived, television was regarded as a technical advance
on showing film – the cinema in effect became old-fashioned overnight!
This was a misunderstanding: the film image on a television is, on the
contrary, primitive because the sharpness is of decidedly inferior quality. Television was in fact purely a convenient and accessible picture
source in people’s homes.
In the old days every village had its own church. Later, the cinema
came to characterise the urban environment as well as entertainment,
and it has had an important symbolic value as a social meeting place,
not least for younger people. But the age of the television has coincided
with the de-population of the Swedish countryside. The local cinema is
swedish film
just about hanging on in many smaller communities, if it has survived
at all. The only way for many cinemas to survive at all outside larger
towns is if both proprietors and staff are committed idealists. In many
respects it is now the local petrol filling station that has become the
new central point where people tend to congregate, now that the local
café, hot-dog stall and cinema have all been closed. The filling station
is nowadays a miniature department store, with fuel, groceries, a video
section, etc. and even a simple café with hot-dogs, coffee and cakes. In
fact it has everything you could need in a modern society. And then
all that remains is to drive home. Curtain!
The first constructive idea for dealing with the competition from
television came from Sandrews (an integrated film and cinema company).
In 1970 the managing director of Sandrews invented the multi-screen
cinema together with architect Fredrik von Platen. An old cinema
was divided into three small auditoria and was reopened in 1970 as
a multiplex cinema. It was hoped that if, in the same building, more
films could be shown in auditoria of adequate size, then the cinema
would become profitable again. This was conditional upon automated
running which did not require more staff than the old single-screen
cinema. At the same time the interior was adapted to suit modern times:
simplification, reduction and standardisation were the order of the day.
Decorative elements and curtains were removed, and all surfaces were
painted in red and black. In some instances there was a return to the
old painted screens of the silent film era, with loudspeakers placed on
the floor in front. Lighting was arranged with the help of light rails
on which dazzling spotlights were affixed, pointing in all directions.
In the 1970s Sandrews continued to ‘butcher’ and remodel old
cinemas throughout the country, and they even started to build new
multi-screen cinemas. These new multiplexes were often sited in basement premises, which meant lower rental costs. Sandrews’ multi-screen
investment was an emergency solution, but it was successful from a
financial point of view and meant that while many older cinemas
were admittedly largely destroyed, despite everything they were not
closed down.
Exactly ten years later, in 1980, Svensk Filmindustri opened their
first major multi-screen project: the Filmstaden in Stockholm. This
had a great deal in common with Sandrews’ multiplex cinemas: the
small, curtainless auditoria, rather small screens and floors that did not
have a sufficient gradient. There were, however, more auditoria than at
i. institutions
Sandrews: at first eleven, which later became fifteen. The decoration
and atmosphere were more varied than in Sandrews; in Filmstaden it
was designed by the idiosyncratic interior designer Lennart Clemens
– although rather sickly-sweet like a children’s nursery with pastel
shades and patterns.
Cinema design took yet another step backwards in qualitative development. In some multiplexes the screens had rounded corners, as in
the early days of the silent era, thereby forcing CinemaScope into an
unintended, rounded frame which cut off all the corners. The ambition
was evidently to emulate the rounded corners of the early television
screen – perhaps so that the audience would feel at home.
Translated by Rod Bradbury
Excerpt from Kjell Furberg (2000), Svenska biografer, Stockholm: Prisma.
chapter 4
Censorship in Sweden
Jan Holmberg
‘And shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which
may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas
for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish
them to have when they are grown up?’ The words are Plato’s, in The
Republic, from 360 bc. In this utopia about how the ideal state should
be organised, he accordingly concluded that ‘the first thing will be to
establish a censorship of the writers of fiction, and let the censors receive
any tale of fiction which is good, and reject the bad … but most of
those which are now in use must be discarded.’ He continues to talk
about a writer who described how one of the gods had committed an
injustice. For if the gods can make mistakes, so can people, and maybe
even follow the gods’ examples. ‘The doings of Cronus, and the sufferings which in turn his son inflicted upon him, even if they were
true, ought certainly not to be lightly told to young and thoughtless
persons; if possible, they had better be buried in silence. But if there
is an absolute necessity for their mention, a chosen few might hear
them in a mystery …’
‘Censorship’, from the Latin censure, to assess. The word has a deafening ring of political dictatorship or religious bigotry, with accompanying
bulls of excommunication and book burnings. For a modern democracy
to retain an agency whose mission is to protect citizens from their culture
may seem grotesque. Yet Plato’s argument sounds familiar, although
over 2,000 years old. Society, and especially its vulnerable groups, must
be protected from inappropriate fiction. However, as already noted by
the philosopher, full protection is impossible: we must therefore look
to limit its spread to a small trusted group.
In Sweden, of course, there is no censorship, there is freedom of
speech. With one exception: the medium of film. It is unclear why,
since, despite persistent attempts, no one has been able to prove precisely
i. institutions
how film might be more detrimental than other art forms. The ‘chosen
few’, using Plato’s words, who have secretly been able to see works that
others have not, is here called Statens Biografbyrå (the National Board
of Film Censors). Since the inauguration of the Board in 1911, films
can be censored heavily or even completely banned. In a society where
media seems harder to control than ever, film censorship, it would seem,
might lead a fading existence. Why preview a film for cinema release
when it is already or will soon be available on DVD? The Board itself
understands the consequences of these technological changes and has
in fact practically abolished adult censorship. Its main task now is to
determine age limits and review voluntarily submitted pornographic
films, whose distributors can thus exclude themselves from the risk
of subsequently being prosecuted for the illegal depiction of violence
(‘olaga våldsskildring’).
Censorship is a multifaceted phenomenon, and any serious discussion should be broadened to consider the economic conditions that
determine which films are distributed, or even why most films are so
similar. Film style and form can be said to be expressions of an effective
self-censorship, dictated by the goal that the products should at least
return the large capital invested. The concept of ‘mainstream’ really
says it all: for a film to be produced, and furthermore have an audience
and hence a profit, it may not differ too much from ingrained norms
or beliefs about what makes a film ‘good’.
This is not the place for such a larger discussion. Instead, I will give
a brief historical exposition to illuminate the development of Swedish
censorship. In 1911, the Swedish Cinema Regulation Act was implemented, which held that films could not be approved ‘whose displaying
would be contrary to common law or morality, or otherwise be able
to operate in a brutalising, exciting way, or to confuse the concepts of
law. Images that depict horror scenes, suicide or serious crimes in such
a manner or in such a context that such effects can be achieved, may
thus not be approved.’ Furthermore, children’s spiritual development
and health was particularly cherished, and a 15-year age limit was established. Although obviously some changes in cinema regulation have been
made over almost a hundred years, we can note that both the 15-year age
limit as a marker between child and adult, as well as some key phrases,
still persist. Brutalising (‘förråande’) is still the key word used to justify
censorship of adult films, and the films given an age limit are those that
are judged as likely to cause psychological harm to children.
swedish film
In the first year of 1911, a large number of films were banned and
many more were cut. Most of these are now lost, but it may still be
of interest to see what the justifications could look like. The film
Skolkamraterna eller Affären V Lorcineq (the original, possibly French
title is unknown, presumed lost), for example, was banned with the
following assessment: ‘Contrary to morality. Extremely distasteful scenes
between a married man, his friends and a collection of easy ladies in
chambres séparées. All are e.g. extremely drunk.’ Another film reviewed
in the same year entitled Lokomotivföraren (origin unknown, presumed
lost) was banned because it could ‘act to confuse ideas of right and
justice’ when a jailer fails his duty because of friendship. Today neither
of these censorship reasons exist anymore: the Swedish obscenity law
which prohibited ‘offence to discipline and morality’ (‘sårande av tukt
och sedlighet’) was removed in 1971; more remarkable is perhaps that
the clause ‘inciting criminal behaviour’ was not abolished until the
early 1990s.
The earliest film in the Cinematheque censorship series is Sergei
Eisenstein’s classic Bronenosets Potemkin/Battleship Potemkin (1925).
By the time of the First World War, a new criterion in the Cinema
Regulation Act was introduced, having to do with the nation’s relationship with foreign powers. The new clause was to be applied frequently
during the two World Wars. But even if this probably played a role in
the prohibition of Potemkin, the film was banned only on the grounds
of being ‘exciting’. The ban came to be sustained for thirty years, but
the film was still being widely distributed outside the regular repertory
cinema, in screenings organised by, for instance, trade union associations and political parties.
Two other true classics, the style-setting gangster film Public Enemy
(William A. Wellman, 1931) and Tod Browning’s circus story Freaks
(1932) were both prohibited as harmfully exciting (‘skadligt upphetsande’). For the latter, the censorship document description is simply
wonderful: ‘Hans the dwarf, belonging to some kind of circus offering
nothing but monstrosities, falls in love with the grossly sensual trapeze
artist Cleopatra.’
Our series includes three films related to the Second World War in
various ways. Leslie Howard’s Pimpernel Smith (1941), in which he
plays a modified Scarlet Pimpernel saving Jews from the Nazis, was
banned under the aforementioned criterion of relationship with a foreign
power. ‘The ending’, the censorship motivation claimed, is ‘impossible
i. institutions
as long as the current German government remains in power’. Alain
Resnais’s Holocaust documentary Nuit et brouillard /Night and Fog
(1955) was cut by several minutes. Despite the film’s apparent purpose
of depicting the Nazi crimes, the most obvious results were not to be
shown to a Swedish audience: ‘omit images of mutilated corpses, several scenes of naked corpses, the pictures of the macabre tractor corpse
transportation, detached skulls and images of the amassing of corpses
in tomb.’ Georges Franju’s horrible slaughterhouse depiction Le Sang
de bêtes/Blood of the Beast (1949) has sometimes been interpreted as an
allegory of the Holocaust, a subtlety that surely escaped the censors,
who banned it instead as ‘harmfully exciting’.
Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep (1946), starring Humphrey Bogart
and Lauren Bacall, is considered by many to be one of the best noir
films ever made. Raymond Chandler, who wrote the original novel,
described the plot as so complicated that he could not even make
sense of it himself. The ban was sustained for many years, and one can
imagine that the erotic allusions in the dialogue between Bogart and
Bacall had a major impact on the decision.
Three of the best films of 1960 were all censored in Sweden: Alfred
Hitchcock’s Psycho, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and Sam Fuller’s
Shock Corridor. In Psycho, with absurd consistency, the film’s far and
away most famous sequence, the shower scene, was cut. The other two
films were totally banned. PeepingTom is perhaps especially interesting
in this context, since its topic is quite literally the effect of film: the
psychotic protagonist’s murder weapon is a film camera, in the tripod
of which he has mounted a knife. With this device he can, as it were,
shoot his victims while stabbing them. 1960, by the way, was also the
year when the 11-year age limit was introduced in Sweden.
Three Swedish 1960s films that ultimately were not censored in this
country, but all of which were the subject of lively debate, are included
in our series: Vilgot Sjöman’s Nyfiken films and Stefan Jarl’s and Jan
Lindkvist’s Dom kallar oss mods/They Call Us Misfits (1968). Regarding Jag är nyfiken – gul /I Am Curious – Yellow (1966–67), the director
of the Board Erik Skoglund entered a reservation to the decision to
release the film uncensored on the grounds that it ‘in its voyeuristic
representation of sexual intimacy far exceeds the liberal tolerance of
erotic cinema which the Board so far has been able to accept.’ By the
time of the second film, Jag är nyfiken – blå /I Am Curious – Blue (1968),
the debate had settled somewhat and it could pass without dissent. The
swedish film
censorship document description indicates the serving censor’s attitude
to the film: ‘Parallel production to Sandrew ‘Jag är nyfiken – gul’ – like
that one concentrated on the young girl Lena, obsessed with sex and
radical politics, and her curiosity about people’s attitudes to and preferences for this and that in the Swedish folkhem of 1967 ad’ In Dom
kallar oss mods, a sex scene was initially cut as ‘manifestly contrary to the
provision of the penal code Chapter 16, §11 on offence to discipline
and morality.’ The Board’s censor Råland Häggbom found himself
compelled, however, to write an appendix to the decision:
On account of the disturbance, which might have resulted from
the intervention in the film Dom kallar oss mods, in the apparently
important genital mechanics in contemporary Swedish cinema, and
considering the harm this may cause Sweden’s well-established international reputation as a vital and potential film nation with an
unbiased film censorship, the undersigned has found the following
clarification necessary.
Häggbom goes on to praise the film as essential and admirable, but feels
compelled to cut the aforementioned scene, lest the instructions to the
Board should be completely void of meaning. ‘This censorship decision
is an expression of this necessity, and a broader, factual assessment of
the measure as an operating hypothetical norm is awaited with great
interest.’ The measure was not normative: the decision was appealed
and the film was released uncut.
L’Uccello dalle piume di cristallo /The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
(1970) is the only film by legendary Italian thriller director Dario
Argento to be screened in the series. Otherwise, he is one of those
most affected by Swedish film censorship as most of his films that
distributors have attempted to release in Sweden have been entirely
banned, and others have been cut beyond recognition. This, his debut,
was censored as follows: ‘The murder of the woman strongly cut; razor
murder in the elevator is deleted (or strongly cut), close-ups of the
dying falling from window deleted. Knife threat to man under fallen
sculpture cut strongly.’
The video cassette recorder (VCR) had its breakthrough in Sweden
in the early 1980s. As so often happens when a new media technology
appears – cf. cinema’s breakthrough in the early twentieth century
– the VCR was the subject of a heated debate that took place at all
i. institutions
levels of society. Calls for a ban were circulated among a worried
public, and some members of the Swedish parliament belonging to
different parties even motioned for a prohibition of VCRs. This ‘video
violence controversy’ was epitomised by the television debate ‘Vem
behöver video?’ /‘Who Needs Video?’ in the Studio S series, aired in
1980. Few television programmes have had a stronger impact; this one
contributing strongly to Sweden’s fastest constitutional amendment
ever, the so-called ‘Video Violence Act’. At the heart of the Studio S
programme and the whole discussion was a single film: Tobe Hooper’s
TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). It was a film seen by few (which
of course the ban had ensured) but discussed by many. Several debaters felt safe to comment on the film’s shortcomings without having
seen more than the few seconds that were shown in the Studio S
programme. This was also highlighted by the distributor Succéfilm,
which in its appeal to the Ministry of Education said: ‘There has
been a lot of talk about this film seen by hardly anyone. One scene
has been removed from the film. Otherwise, the film does not in our
opinion differ from any other horror film, and so we ask that this film
be released for public viewing.’ However, the decision was sustained,
and in response to the distributor’s complaint the Board’s director
Gunnel Arrbäck stated: ‘Whether the film is a so-called cult film or
not is not a matter for the Board. On the contrary, we largely failed
to find any decisive artistic or other qualities in the film that would
have led the film, despite its abundance of violence and brutality, to
be deemed urgent or valuable.’
If The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the most publicly discussed film
of the period, another, lesser known film occupied more of the Board’s
time: William Fruet’s Death Weekend (1976). The process from banning decision, appeals in different instances and final approval after a
one-minute cut took fourteen years! Media debate was intense, with
submissions by, for instance, Olof Ehrenkrona, Olle Grönstedt, Jan
Guillou and Staffan Heimerson, who all stressed the film’s qualities.
Several argued that the censorship decision was ultimately political,
something that the Board obviously denied. The debate took place
during the same time as a Soviet submarine had run aground off the
Swedish coast, and many made comparisons to the government’s
alleged appeasement before the incident. Guillou claimed that the
film’s ‘anti-pacifist’ message – a woman takes violent revenge on her
tormentors – was inconvenient for those in power: ‘What you have
swedish film
not seen is a film that common opinion among the Swedish establishment finds politically inappropriate. You need to be protected from
inappropriate ideas. Now you know it.’ A somewhat surprising defence
of the Board’s and government’s ban came from film critic Jan Aghed,
who said that ‘the word scandal in this connection suggests a nonexistent sense of proportion. The word should be used instead for the
fact that Michelangelo Antonioni’s new film ‘Identificazione di una
donna’ [Identification of a Woman, 1982], greeted as the masterpiece
it is elsewhere in Europe, will not be shown in Sweden because no
distributor would bring it. Such interference in people’s right to good
culture never upsets the stridently anti-censorship Ahlmark mafia. It
fights for the unimpeded distribution of shit and does not hesitate to
call shit tournedos.’
Something not pointed out to any appreciable extent is that Death
Weekend enrols in a tradition of films in which a woman takes revenge.
What is interesting is that almost all of these films were banned in
Sweden: Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Abel Ferrara’s Ms.
45 (1981), and not least the Swedish Thriller – en grym film / Thriller
– A Cruel Picture (Bo A. Vibenius, 1974). If this fact is an expression
of something specific is for others to judge, but that the thematically
similar, equally violent, but ideologically much more suspect film Death
Wish (with a man in the avenging role) went through the censors uncut
at the same time as Death Weekend underwent its long process at the
Board can be thought-provoking. Bo Arne Vibenius’s aforementioned
Thriller became renowned as ‘the first totally banned Swedish film’, and
even if this is not true (it was Victor Sjöström’s Trädgårdsmästaren/The
Gardener, 1912), it is a film eminently worth seeing.
Canadian director David Cronenberg’s techno-philosophical films
have been subject to a number of appreciative analyses by film critics
and scholars. His early work was, however, depleted in Sweden, including the fascinating Scanners (1980) where the following scenes were
‘harmfully exciting and brutalising’ and cut: ‘Head burst shortened
considerably. Gunning down of an artist to be shortened. ‘Scanning
Settlement’ shortened significantly, two cuts. Image of burned corpse
Another filmmaker even more affected by censorship is John Woo.
After his success in Hollywood with films like Face/Off (1997) and
Mission Impossible II (2000), his films have been released here, but it
was different when he was still active in Hong Kong. Most of what
i. institutions
was purchased by Swedish distributors was banned (although Hard
Target from 1993 was released on appeal in the Court of Appeal).
Regarding Hard-Boiled (1992), the Board said in its response to the
distributor’s appeal that the film’s thin story was merely a pretext for
brutal violence. ‘These violent scenes are thoroughly and fairly elegantly
performed, and can, for a truly adult audience, cause admiration for
the cinematic craftsmanship. However, we have in this – as well as
in several previous cases – explicitly adopted a position based on the
age of fifteen years which is our only option for ‘mature audiences’
and thus found that this film, based on a reasonable interpretation
of the concepts of the legal text, may seem very ‘brutalising’ to this
young adult audience.’ That the distributor Filmco Sweden through
its lawyer conveyed to the Court of Appeal that ‘John Woo worldwide is a highly respected director’ had no effect, and so the Board’s
decision was sustained.
The censorship series ends appropriately enough with what the
Board itself termed Sweden’s last censored non-pornographic adult
film: Martin Scorsese’s Casino (1995). Although being one of the most
acclaimed film directors in the US, Scorsese had several times been
the subject of Swedish censorship interference. A scene in Cape Fear
(1991) had previously been cut, and given the storm that this stirred
up among all Swedish Scorsese enthusiasts it may almost be regarded
as courageous to also censor some scenes in Casino: ‘Assault with bats,
14 m deleted. Beatings with bats, 7 m deleted. Torture in vice, 22 m
deleted.’ The decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal, which
sustained the Board’s decision. The distributor appealed to the last
instance, the Supreme Court, and also relied on a letter from Scorsese
himself: an appeal for his film to be shown in unmutilated condition.
The latter court found, however, that despite the fact that ‘the film
can not be regarded as having the character of speculative depiction
of violence’, the current sequences can seem brutalising. Thus the
decision was sustained and the Swedish audience of Casino saw it with
fifty seconds missing. Justice of the Supreme Court Wahlgren spoke of
differences of opinion, and argued that it hardly made sense to ‘spare
the audience from a few relatively short albeit appalling scenes of
violence’, as horrible and shock-inducing images daily reached people
through television or ‘with the expansion of the major international
information networks, such as the Internet.’
Wahlgren’s then ineffectual arguments have finally proven to be
swedish film
reasonable. Today, Casino would not have been cut. But censorship
Translated by Jan Holmberg
The present text was written as an introduction to a series of screenings at
the Swedish Cinematheque in 2003–2004, dedicated to the issue of censorship. Most of the films mentioned in the text were screened in the series. Jan
Holmberg worked at the time as head of programming at the Cinematheque.
Since this text was written, Swedish film censorship has been under scrutiny in a public enquiry, which presented its report in the spring of 2009.
The report proposes that film censorship for adults (over fifteen) should be
abolished, and that the National Board of Film Censors cease its activities.
Instead, a new authority would deal with setting age limits for films intended
for younger audiences than fifteen, as well as promote research on the harmfulness of media for children and young people. The Swedish parliament will
vote on the bill in 2010.
silent cinema
Introducing Cinema to Sweden
chapter 5
Anders Marklund
When moving images were first projected in Sweden, at the industrial
fair in Malmö in the summer of 1896, reviewers were enthusiastic:
‘A sensational novelty has been obtained these days by the exhibition’s
summer theatre – a novelty that certainly will attract many viewers. It
concerns nothing less than – one of the world’s eighth or ninth wonders:
the creation of images of light on a screen. One truly sits completely
surprised watching photographs entirely alive.’1
At that time, of course,
no one knew how this medium would change from being a sensational
novelty into an important form of entertainment and information, an
industry and the subject of many discussions during the years to come.
From now on travelling showmen would tour Sweden, making it
possible for audiences across the country to watch programmes of brief
films from France, other early film production countries, as well as
occasional panoramas, actualities (current events) and other images shot
in Sweden. The screenings could take place in quite different venues,
they would usually be accompanied by live music, and – until films
became longer and their storytelling better developed – they would
usually be just one among several different attractions.
It took several years before a proper production company would be
established in Sweden. In fact, it came at a time when film was already
well on its way to becoming a normal pastime for many Swedes. The
first activities of Svenska Biografteatern (Svenska Bio) were by no
means unique at the time, but the company would rather soon grow
into the most important film company in Sweden, a position it still
has today under the name Svensk Filmindustri (SF). In the small
town of Kristianstad in southern Sweden, N. H. Nylander and Gustaf
ii. silent cinema
Björkman first set up the company Kristianstads Biograf-Teater, with
a primitive cinema, in 1905. Within just a few years their screenings
would grow into a chain of cinemas in southern Sweden. Partly in
order to secure films for their cinemas – but also because it would
generate money on its own – they began distributing films as well. In
order to become a fully vertically integrated company – production,
distribution and exhibition – they would also have to start producing films. The first move would be the hiring of a cinematographer,
Robert Olsson, who would film local sequences of a documentary
kind. Expanding their operations they changed the company name to
Svenska Biografteatern, and in 1908 inaugurated an entire building
in central Kristianstad dedicated to every aspect of film: containing a
290-seat cinema, offices, laboratory, and a film studio under a glass roof
on the top floor (a studio that still exists today and may be visited at
the Kristianstad Film Museum). From now on their newly appointed
managing director and producer, Charles Magnusson, could supervise
film production on a more professional level. In 1909, after beginning
with short sound films – three- to five-minute long filmed performances that were to be screened accompanied by gramophone recordings – the company would make three full-length films (these films
lasted more than twenty minutes, which was actually rather long at
this time), under the supervision of Carl Engdahl, a theatre actor from
Stockholm. All films would be based on well-known Swedish stories; a
unique and much appreciated quality offering something that foreign
films could not provide: Värmlänningarne / ‘The People of Värmland’
(Carl Engdahl, 1910) Bröllopet på Ulfåsa /‘The Wedding at Ulfåsa’ (Carl
Engdahl, 1910) and Fänrik Ståls sägner / ‘Tales of Ensign Stål’ (Carl
Engdahl, 1910), whose author Johan Ludvig Runeberg was Finnish,
but wrote in Swedish. The films’ success would encourage even more
ambitious production during the summer of 1910.
Not only Svenska Bio attempted to produce films in Sweden. For
example, based in Malmö and Copenhagen, Frans Lundberg made more
than twenty melodramas between 1910 and 1912, and in Stockholm
Anna Hofman-Uddgren became both the first female director in Sweden
and the first to adapt August Strindberg’s plays to the screen: Fröken
Julie/‘Miss Julie’ (Anna Hofman-Uddgren, 1912) and Fadren /‘The
Father’ (Anna Hofman-Uddgren, 1912).
The early years of Svenska Bio’s film production came at a time
when multi-reel films were introduced. Films became increasingly
swedish film
longer, allowing them to develop their characters and stories to a
higher degree than earlier. Also, greater attention and more resources
would be given to a number of aspects of a film’s production, from
set designs to narrative clarity. A work that is usually celebrated as a
significant development compared with the films previously made in
Sweden is Sjöström’s eighth film Ingeborg Holm/Margaret Day (Victor
Sjöström, 1913), a film recognised for its fairly natural acting, realistic
lighting, old-fashioned but still dynamic staging, its narrative clarity,
and, perhaps most importantly, its socially significant story about the
conditions of poor people having to live in workhouses.
The two articles in this section offer quite different views of film
in Sweden before the ‘Golden Age’ beginning in 1917. In the first
article, Ã…sa Jernudd presents a detailed study of how film tentatively
became a more institutionalised part of society. Jernudd focuses on
the period between 1897 and 1902, and the moderately large Swedish
town of Örebro. Her text gives a concrete insight into various worries
and practical problems cinema would face on its way to becoming an
accepted medium.
Astrid Söderbergh Widding’s text is about Georg af Klercker, one
of the three directors Svenska Bio’s manager Charles Magnusson hired
in 1911 as the company was about to begin producing their films in
Stockholm. af Klercker left Svenska Bio before his more well-known
colleagues Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller made their most celebrated
films. Instead af Klercker would make sensationals and melodramas for
the competing firm Hasselblads in Gothenburg for a few years between
1915 and 1917. This work has long been considered less valuable and af
Klercker has been much less studied. In her text, Söderbergh Widding
makes an early re-assessment of af Klercker, his films and the material
that is available to research.
1 Review published in Skånska Dagbladet 29 June 1896, quoted from Jan Olsson
(1990), ‘I offentlighetens ljus – några notiser om filmstoff i dagspressen’, in Jan
Olsson ed., I offentlighetens ljus: Stumfilmens affischer, kritiker, stjärnor och musik,
Stockholm & Stehag: Symposion, p. 215.
chapter 6
Film Exhibition
in Örebro 1897–1902
Ã…sa Jernudd
The First Film Screening
On 19 January 1897 the annual regional market known as Hindersmässan opened in Örebro. Due to a late night fight which had involved
broken windows, known felons, dogs and the director of Circus Möller,
the police had closed down one of the largest fairground attractions
of the year before the market period was officially over.1
By February,
the remaining fairground entertainers had packed up and left town:
the tattooed man who had exhibited himself in the east wing of the
theatre house; the ring- and ball games; the puppet theatre and the
shooting gallery that had been set up on the site at Köpmangatan 2;
the menagerie that had stood next to Circus Möller in the square by
the harbour and, finally, on shopkeeper Östlund’s property, the exhibition of tableaux representing Dr Nansen’s scientific expedition to the
North Pole – with the explorer himself present as a wax mannequin.2
There was no need to wait for next year’s market entertainments to
find recreation in the town of Örebro. On Sunday, 14 February, a party
at the temperance lodge on Trädgårdsgatan was announced in the local
paper. At the party, a lecture by schoolteacher C. J. Lahger was given
as well as a declamation; you could listen to two orchestras and enjoy a
coffee among friends. The entrance fee was 35 öre.3
That same evening
there was an event held at Vasakyrkan (the Baptist Vasa Church) to
raise money to ease the suffering in India.4
On Monday evening you
could join in a masquerade at the illuminated skating rink set up in
the castle moat and skate to music performed live by the local military
orchestra. This cost 50 öre, which was twice the price of an ordinary
evening at the rink. The local paper reported that the masquerade
attracted a large crowd of spectators who were lined up along the sur-
swedish film
rounding embankment to watch skaters dressed up as clowns, sailors,
chimney sweeps, and masons.5
The following Tuesday evening, you
could listen to Kristine Dahl argue for the benefits of ‘rational clothing for women’ at the secondary school auditorium. The lecture cost
50 öre (adults) and 25 öre (children).6
At the lodge on Trädgårdsgatan
the nonconformist temperance association Werdandi threw a party;
the teacher Mr Lagher was once again summoned to hold a lecture.7
At Örebro Arbetareförening (the Liberal Workers’ Society),8
a programme demonstrating the kinematograph and the graphophone was
advertised as taking place from Thursday to Sunday. The advertisements
promised a ‘varied programme’.9
On one of the evenings, a lecture on
childcare followed after the demonstration in the hall, and on another
evening an illustrated lecture on Babylonia was advertised, featuring
no less than ninety-nine sciopticon slides.10 That weekend there was
an orange-party at Nygatan 11. The orchestra Svea performed, as did a
male choir and the comedian Little John. Every fifth guest was presented
with a gift, and oranges were handed out to everyone who had paid the
entrance fee of 25 öre.11 Theatre director Emil Ljungqvist’s company
played two comedies at Örebro Teater (Örebro Theatre), Anna Stina i
Stockholm/‘Anna Stina in Stockholm’ and Pelle Grönlunds bryggeri/‘Pelle
Grönlund’s Brewery’, both of which were warmly recommended by
the local paper, Nerikes Allehanda.
This is what was on offer according to the Nerikes Allehanda advertisements in terms of entertainment and recreation during the week when
film was screened for the first time in Örebro. Once film screenings
had become more familiar to the people in town, these were perhaps
perceived as an alternative to ice-skating as an evening’s entertainment.
Upon its introduction, however, the kinematograph was presented as
a technical curiosity, and its public demonstration could be compared
with an interesting lecture about one of many modern phenomena
introduced at the time. It is the technology of the event which is
emphasised in the advertisements, and there were two newly invented
mechanical apparatuses on show. Whether this was the first time a
graphophone was demonstrated to the public of Örebro is difficult
to confirm. Such a machine could have shown up earlier in town as
a fairground attraction that was not properly specified in the police
register of permits for public entertainments.13
The references in the advertisements to the large Stockholm Exhibition of 1897 and to Edison, whose inventions and persona were famous
ii. silent cinema
on a global scale, attempt to place the demonstration in a scientific and
educational discourse.14 The large number of advertised shows reveals
an expectation of attracting a large audience.15
The wonders of the kinematograph can be experienced this evening and
coming evenings at the hall of the Liberal Workers’ Society, where the
graphophone likewise will play and sing. The kinematograph attracted
a lot of attention, when ‘performed’ at Valand in Gothenburg a while
ago. Among the many things that it has to show, the Gothenburg
dailies mentioned a railway train which upon arrival rushed into a station after which the travellers scurried out of the carriages, a vaudeville
dancer with ribbons, ladies with gowns that have been shortened 10
centimetres, people disembarking from a rowing boat, a soldier who
is plucking a hen, etc.16
Such was Nerikes Allehanda’s commentary on the event. It was mentioned
on several occasions in the paper, which was probably in response to
the numerous advertisements ordered by the exhibitor. In the advertisements, the exhibitor took care to single out and appeal to certain
sections of the public. Families and children were addressed by posting
both adult and child prices, suggesting that this was suitable family
entertainment. A low-price screening (10 öre) addressed children only.
Nerikes Allehanda’s journalist reported from the children’s show:
Kiddies and the kinematograph. Last Saturday, the exhibitors had set
up a 10-öre screening for the little Örebro, i.e. for the children in the
town’s schools and kindergartens, who of course en masse took the
opportunity to have some fun. And they were very much amused by
the clowns on the large screen – by the train that so dangerously and
lifelike rushed right at them, by the mischievous prankster who plays
an evil trick on the hardworking gardener but eventually succumbs
to the inevitable penalty of such ill deeds, by the French young girls
who make pools at the seaside and play games of war – just like here
at home. There was indeed a storm of laughter and applause. The atmosphere, from floor to ceiling, was one of true rapture.17
The introductory exhibition of the kinematograph should be understood as an exceptional happening; a unique event. It was received as
a technical curiosity which was considered amusing for children. In
the paper, it was spoken of in different terms than other educational
swedish film
entertainments such as lectures, which were often quoted in full and
reviewed, or as the more rhetorically sophisticated and therefore more
entertaining illustrated lectures such as the one by Dr Sundberg about
Babylonia, which included sciopticon slides, exotic dress, a witty address,
anecdotes and songs.18 Nor was it similar to the following years’ moving picture shows in town. This is not to say that the coming six years
of moving picture shows were all alike; it is more correct to think of
them as rather varied in form – within certain limits.19 During this
period approximately twelve travelling exhibitors stopped in Örebro
and rented one of the local associations’ halls for their shows. Only two
exhibitors sought out a different kind of exhibition venue, the local
theatre house, and tried to attract a more affluent audience, with higher
prices, better press coverage, and a different kind of programme. In
order to explore the similarities and differences between the exhibitions
of moving pictures in different social contexts in Örebro, they have
been categorised in groups depending on the venue of exhibition, the
price of a ticket and the programming.
Local Contexts of Exhibition
British media historian Deac Rossell has produced a model for categorising travelling film exhibitors on the basis of the kinds of venues in
which they performed. The first group travelled the great markets in
Europe, such as Bremen, Leipzig, Munich, Hull, Nottingham, Nijmegen
and Leeuwarden. It was difficult to earn a place at these markets, which
implies that the exhibition of moving pictures was incorporated into
already existing shows and performed by entertainers who were familiar with the circuit.20 The second kind of exhibitor toured towns and
communities and rented communal halls for the shows. Within this
group, Rossell distinguishes between the novices in the business and
the more experienced exhibitors. The latter were typically magic lantern
exhibitors or lecturers with a set circuit for their tours. Moving pictures
were added to the (perhaps illustrated) lecture or magic lantern show
as a special attraction. The third kind of exhibitor performed in theatre
houses and music halls in a combined show with live performers. The
fourth and final category consisted of amateurs, who did not last for
very long in the business.21
From the perspective of Örebro, the first category can be excluded
because there is no mention in the police register of entertainments of
ii. silent cinema
moving picture exhibitions in conjunction with the markets in town.
Hence, three of Rossell’s categories remain. I want to make an adjustment to the fourth category because it is very difficult to distinguish an
amateur from a professional based on the evidence at hand. I shall refer
to the odd anonymous show as simply ‘anonymous’ rather than ‘amateur’.
The first years of moving picture exhibitions in Örebro, from 1897
until 1903,22 were dominated by exhibitors from the second of Rossell’s
categories. The kinematograph was occasionally advertised as part of
an illustrated lecture, but was by far more commonly advertised and
exhibited as an attraction in its own right, as a programme dominated
by the screening of moving pictures. These programmes were performed
in the town’s associational halls by travelling exhibitors. Exhibitions
advertised as one-offs and anonymous events were few in number.
After an inventory of exhibition venues, ticket prices and programming, three different kinds of social contexts can be discerned for moving
picture exhibitions in the town of Örebro. The Free Church, with its
missionary work and lecturing practices, is one context in which film
was exhibited. The Liberal Workers’ Society and the moderately liberal
temperance associations make up the second context of exhibition, and
finally there were moving picture shows with a more genteel and bourgeois appeal. It is the second group – the Liberal Workers’ Society and
the temperance associations – which dominates as a social context of
exhibition during the initial years, in a time when the output of film on
the international market was limited and the exhibitors had not yet had
a chance to benefit from the future effects of industrial production and
rationalised forms of distribution.23 The venues used for the exhibition
of moving pictures were Stora Ã…vik, which was the hall owned and run
by the Liberal Workers’ Society; Vasakyrkan; the theatre house, Örebro
Teater; and the temperance lodge on Fredsgatan.
Illustrated Lectures at Vasakyrkan
As early as 11 March 1897, only a month after the initial demonstration
of the kinematograph and graphophone at the Liberal Workers’ Society,
an exhibition of ‘living photographs’ was advertised in the local paper.
Unbelievable thing! … Edison’s latest innovation of manufacturing
‘living photographs’ You see people etc. in full life size and in natural
movement. Moreover an exquisite collection of true to nature views –
swedish film
magic lantern slides – 16 feet in size and most of which are photographed
by M. Rosendahl, who has travelled extensively on four continents.24
The demarcation of ‘living photographs’ in the advertisement for the
exhibition of magic lantern slides gives the impression that the living
photographs were indeed projected with the aid of a kinematograph, but
this is not necessarily true – and, adding more doubt to this claim, neither
Nerikes Allehanda nor a second local paper which could be assumed to
have been interested, Nerikes-Tidningen, reported on the event. The
exhibition took place at Vasakyrkan, was offered on two consecutive
evenings and the revenue went to the organisation ‘Missions to Seamen’. Thus, it was an integrated part of the Church’s overall mission.
The travelling preacher A. Blom, a son of the region, performed at
Vasakyrkan with an illustrated lecture entitled ‘The Lands of the East
and the West in Words and Images’ towards the end of January 1898.
Slides from North America were shown as the main attraction of the
programme, and the lecture followed a simulated journey that started
in a park in central Örebro. A phonograph was part of the programme,
but its climax was another recent invention, a ‘Motograph’, which was
advertised as an improvement of the kinematograph, ‘with pictures
screened in sheer natural movement’.25 Blom charged the same entrance
fee as was common for a party at the church (first class seats 35 öre and
second class seats 25 öre), and then went on his way to other churches
in the communities and smaller towns in the area. Blom would return
to Vasakyrkan at about the same time the following year, as well as in
1901, 1902, and again in 1905, with new accounts of journeys that
followed the same kind of simulated travel multimedia performance
format. He was awarded an encouraging review in Nerikes Allehanda
after his first performance in town, after which he was only visible in
the papers by way of his advertisements. According to the review, he
drew a full house and the audience was pleased with the show. Even
though the programme did not have an explicit religious mission, Blom
was known as a preacher and included in his programme pictures from
the Holy Land and Jesus’ life. The review revealed that his performance was funny at times, but overall it was an educational programme
without disturbing attractions. Watching images with subject matter
from foreign and exotic countries was common practice within the
Baptist missionary church, and Blom’s illustrated lectures fit smoothly
into this practice.26
ii. silent cinema
The programmes’ nice fit with the practices in the church also characterised the other exhibitors’ programmes in this venue during the years
that followed. On one occasion, in November 1900, the church was
honoured by a visit from Bioscope-exhibitor A. Schelin, who offered
two adult screenings and one for children featuring actualities, moving pictures from the World Exhibition in Paris and the war in South
Africa, but also ‘historical tableaux from different countries, missionary
tableaux, biblical tableaux, etc.’ that were more obviously compatible
with the church setting.27 All of the exhibitors who performed at Vasakyrkan at this time decided on an entrance fee that was in accordance
with the ordinary price of cultural events in the Church, i.e. 30–35
öre for adults and 15–20 öre for children.
The Kinematograph at the Liberal Workers’ Society
The hall of the Liberal Workers’ Society, Stora Åvik, was the venue most
commonly used for the screening of moving picture programmes in
Örebro. In November of the year that the first demonstration of the
kinematograph occurred in this same venue, a new kinematograph
show was announced by Charles H. Jonsson, after which P. Blom followed in August 1899, O. Jonson in March 1900, Bernhard in April
1900, K. Rudbäck and N. Svensson in March 1901, Gustaw Em.
Gooes Jr in March 1901 as well as in September 1902, and finally K.
Rudbäck and N. Svensson returned in November 1902. It is remarkable that all of the mentioned exhibitors emphasise the kinematograph
apparatus in their advertisements for the programmes. These are not
illustrated lectures or magic lantern shows with moving pictures as a
programme highlight; they are kinematograph shows. The advertisements accentuate the actualities and the sensational modern attractions
in the programmes, in contrast to the more educational and religious
advertising discourse from the exhibitions at Vasakyrkan. The ticket
prices were slightly more expensive at the Liberal Workers’ Society in
comparison with equivalent shows at Vasakyrkan: 75 öre, 50 öre and
35 öre for adults, and for children 50–25 öre.
Charles H. Jonsson emphasises the highlights of his programme
in the advertisements. In his American-Cinagraf tour the films are
all on American subjects that are marketed as an action-packed programme of short narratives and views. Jonsson illustrated this by a
list of enticing titles such as: ‘Niagara Waterfall. … The Life-Saving
swedish film
Boat or Storm at Sea. … Mary Stuart’s Execution … Emergency at
the New York Fire Department. The ‘Canonball’ Express Train on
its way between Buffalo and New York at Full Speed. “Annabelle”,
Serpentine dancer (colour), stylish. The Kiss scene, from the American Opera “The Newly Engaged”.’ The advertisement promised that
the last film, Edison’s famous film kiss between May Irwin and John
Rice, was itself worth the ticket price. The programme was scheduled
to begin on the hour throughout the afternoon and evening during
the weekend.28 P. Blom’s exhibitions of the kinematograph in August
1899 were announced only once without specifying the programme
content, and were not further pursued by the local press.29 O. Jonson
stopped in Örebro for only one evening performance of a programme
dominated by ‘scenes from the ongoing Transvaal War’.30 Bernhard’s
advertisement in April 1900 accentuated the ‘kinematograph’, as did
P. Blom’s advertisement. Bernhard only offered one performance, on
a Sunday, in contrast to P. Blom’s tour which stayed for several days.
Furthermore, Bernhard emphasised scenes from the Boer War in the
programme, which otherwise promised ‘kinematograph [views] from
different parts of the world’.31
In sharp contrast to these short advertisements, K. Rudbäck and
N. Svensson invested in a large newspaper advertisement spread over
two columns as an initial announcement of their coming shows. There
was no other entertainment that used such a large advertisement in
Nerikes Allehanda to entice the readers! A series of smaller advertisements followed the initial one as reminders of the event. In the first
programme in March 1900, scenes from the Boer War and series of
pictures depicting the Dreyfus affair are featured, after which followed
a section in the advertisement with short descriptions of approximately
forty films representing different countries, situations and genres.32
Here follows an excerpt from the advertisement covering about a third
of the films listed:
Kaiser Wilhelm II’s parade. Washing in a laundry room in Paris. A bath
in Milano. A scene of metamorphoses (ladies and gentlemen). Three
Chinese comedians perform (Sam, Jem and Bom). A newlywed couple
and their first wedding night. A faithful and loving couple. (These two
numbers alone are worth the ticket price.) The Fire Brigade responds
to the call of a hotel fire in New York. Blind and poor, a scene from a
street in Paris. A steamboat, Victoria, leaves the harbour in Liverpool.
A funny cat (comical). A diver, who descends to explore a wreck. A
ii. silent cinema
washing woman who bathes her fiancé. Hurry up boys! Sailors, who
climb into two boats from the quay. Two coffee-drinking sisters (comical). Carpenters and police in a fight.33
At the end of the advertisement it is mentioned that the programme
also offers Edison’s latest Concert-Phonograph invention without
tubes. Performances on two consecutive days were advertised, Friday
and Saturday at 8.15 pm (which was standard practice), and the ticket
prices were more expensive than was common in this venue (1 crown
or 75 öre for ground floor seats, 50 öre for seats in the gallery; children, 50 öre and 25 öre).34 By the time K. Rudbäck and N. Svensson
returned in November 1902 the programme was already familiar to
the Örebro audience. The ticket prices had dropped to more normal
levels, the advertisements were more modest, and the performances
were mentioned on two occasions in Nerikes Allehanda.
35 On this later
occasion, there was first a smaller notice and then a review:
The kinematograph at the workers’ society’s venue doesn’t function
very well; all of sudden, it breaks and leaves the audience waiting for
a long time, before it once again can let the locomotive rush ahead
across the white screen or the fire brigade answer a call. The audience
grumbles, but once the machine is in operation, the negligence of not
properly inspecting the machinery before the show is almost forgiven.
For, whether it pertains to the earlier mentioned kinematograph bravura
turn or a bicycle race in Paris, or feeding ostriches in South Africa, or
McKinley’s murder or the crowning of King Edward, the numerous
audience is interested and offers lively applause and when the comical
Chinese perform or the children in the bedroom beat each other with
pillows, feathers whirling, you can hear happy, resounding laughter
from the children in the pit.36
The children are mentioned (again) and this is obviously an audience
that does not sit quietly through a performance; it grumbles when the
technology fails and it engages in both applause and laughter. The
children are generally in the advertisements treated as a separate audience by being offered a reduced entrance fee, despite the fact that the
programmes at the Liberal Workers’ Society were generally more cheeky
and amusing, and offered greater variety, than the ones at Vasakyrkan.
Indeed, the kinematograph was perceived as a harmless entertainment,
a space in which children were welcome to enjoy themselves.
swedish film
Expensive Shows at the Local Theatre
The local theatre that went by the name of Örebro Teater was a place
where the bourgeoisie convened, as opposed to the circus, for example, or the venues of the popular movements, including the Liberal
Workers’ Society’s hall Stora Åvik. A couple of travelling exhibitors
of the kinematograph rented the theatre for their shows at the turn
of the 20th century: an anonymous exhibitor in December of 1898
and a couple of years later, also this time around Christmas, A. R.
Berggren, with an exceptionally long programme with The Passion
Play at Oberammergau.
37 The advertisements indicate that these were
special, high-quality shows for a refined audience. Neither in the
advertisements in the local papers nor in the reviews and comments
in conjunction with the kinematograph shows at Vasakyrkan, the
Liberal Workers’ Society and at the temperance lodge on Fredsgatan
was the soundscape during the shows described or discussed, other
than in the obvious cases in which the phonograph was a part of
the programme, or at times when the audience was loud, expressing
displeasure or applauding.38 If there was oral accompaniment to the
moving pictures, creating a narrative as part of the show – as with
A. Blom’s performances in Vasakyrkan – this was not addressed. For
this reason, there is no way of substantiating whether there was sound
(effects, music or commentary) in the shows that addressed the ‘popular’,
i.e. middle- and working-class, audience. In the advertisement for the
first kinematograph show at Örebro Theatre, however, a ‘concert’ is
offered, to go with the moving picture show. Furthermore, this is no
ordinary kinematograph programme that is advertised: in this case it
was a Biograph which would project the moving pictures. Considering
the superior quality of screening that the Biograph offered compared
to other projection technology at the time, this was indeed something
worth featuring in the advertisements.39
The exhibitor invited the press for a special screening by the Biograph and the journalist from Nerikes Allehanda was impressed. He
recommended the show on several occasions in the paper and described
it as amusing, educational, and exciting.40 Best was ‘the galloping
Spanish cavalry and the dance in the Spanish camp, the bullfight
with its invigorating scenes and the lithe picadors, the fire brigade,
the marching Columbia regiment, the railway station in Japan, and
the children playing at the seaside.’41 Despite the unprecedented sup-
ii. silent cinema
port from the press, the Biograph exhibitor did not fill the theatre.
The performances were soon advertised as cheaper ‘Grand popular
performances’ and ‘Grand children’s performance’ put on at matinée
hours, yet the ticket price was still higher than for equivalent shows
at the other venues in town.42 The journalist for Nerikes Allehanda
expressed his disappointment that the event did not attract a larger
crowd: ‘The audience was not numerous at any of the performances
– and it has itself to blame.’43
Film Exhibition in Örebro 1897–1902
The contention by Rune Waldekranz that film exhibitors, like circuses
and theatre troupes, continuously toured rural areas of Sweden and
visited associational venues is confirmed by this Örebro study. During
a period when film exhibitions were scarce attractions in the larger cities,44 travelling film exhibitors visited Örebro on several occasions during
a single season. Waldekranz goes on to describe how, when the initial
audience fascination with the kinematograph as an innovation dwindled,
there was an exhibition crisis due to the lack of interesting (i.e. longer,
narrative) films. Waldekranz’s teleological explanation of the evolution
of media is that during the years 1900 to 1902, the kinematograph was
only a highlight of the touring magic lantern shows and the illustrated
lectures (in rural Sweden), or in live variety or vaudeville shows (in the
cities). This investigation of film exhibitions in Örebro gives a different
perception of the status of the media, where the kinematograph is more
prominent than Waldekranz has assumed. Travelling exhibitors showing
magic lantern slides and film as part of their programmes were not the
kind of exhibitors who dominated among the travelling presenters of
moving pictures that visited Örebro. The kind of lecturer of which A.
Blom is an example only existed within the Free Church circuit. For the
remaining group of exhibitors, moving pictures (projected by a kinematograph) dominated their programmes, or alternatively, the kinematograph
was combined in a show with its relative, the phonograph. Some of the
exhibitors returned on several occasions, for example Gustaf Em. Gooes
Jr and P. Blom. Others only showed up once, such as Bernhard and A.
Schelin. If actualities were part of the exhibitor’s film programme, this
was mentioned in the advertisements. All of the exhibitors emphasised
the positive qualities of their projecting equipment in the advertisements,
and many mentioned Edison’s name.
swedish film
A couple of attempts were made by exhibitors to appeal to a well-todo audience category by renting the theatre and by drawing attention
to the more expensive technology and programmes in the advertisements, but it was the kinematograph shows in the venue belonging
to the Liberal Workers’ Society (and to a lesser degree, in the temperance lodge) that attracted more sizable audiences. The hall run by the
Liberal Workers’ Society was often rented by travelling entertainers
as an alternative to the theatre. It had, like the theatre, differentiated
ticket prices and a gallery, yet had the advantage of being cheaper and
of being in the hands of the organised working-class, representing a
large and expanding audience at the time. In the advertisements for
film shows in these venues both adults and children were addressed,
and every now and then special screenings for children were offered.
The kinematograph shows were favourably received in the local
liberal press (Nerikes Allehanda) as well as in the conservative Örebro
Dagblad; i.e. on the rare occasions when the shows were commented on
in the latter. There is no indication of any provocation by this medium
in the press reception due to early cinema’s ‘external’ quality. There are
no reservations concerning the medium or the subject matter of the
programmes, other than comments on the audience’s reaction when the
exhibition technology failed. The educational potential of the medium
was occasionally mentioned; inter alia with reference to the representation of a bullfight, which is interesting because the subject matter
would soon thereafter be used by Hjalmar Söderberg in a column in
a national daily paper to argue that film rouses the senses and should
therefore be deemed unsuitable for children.45 However, and above all,
it is the children’s appreciation of this new medium that is noted in the
local press during these early years of exhibition.46
Translated by Ã…sa Jernudd
This is an abridged excerpt from Åsa Jernudd (2007), Filmkultur och nöjesliv
i Örebro 1897–1908, Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.
1 Nerikes Allehanda, 25 January 1897.
2 Örebro magistrat, Stadsfiskalen, Tillståndsresolutioner, bevis o anmälningar ang
teater, konserter, baler, föredrag, förevisningar m. m. 1893–1897 (The Regional State
Archive at Uppsala); Nerikes Allehanda, 24 January 1897.
ii. silent cinema
3 Nerikes Allehanda, 12 February 1897.
4 Nerikes Allehanda, 11 February 1897.
5 Nerikes Allehanda, 1, 5, 12 and 17 February 1897.
6 Dahl argued for a dress code which did not require a corset. The hall had been
thronged with people and Miss Dahl had stayed for hours after the lecture to answer
questions from the audience. Nerikes Allehanda, 14 and 19 February 1897.
7 Nerikes Allehanda, 15 February 1897.
8 The workers’ associations are not to be confused with the more radical workers’
unions and the workers’ organisations that developed from these, for example the
Arbetarekommun and the social democratic party. Örebro Arbetareförening, which
I shall refer to as the Liberal Workers’ Society, was part of a larger movement established in Sweden in the mid 1850s by liberal industrial leaders and other members
of the liberal-minded elite with the purpose of educating workers in bourgeois
cultural, social and economic ideals through self-help methods and of implementing economic self-help programmes such as pensions and health insurance. As a
mutual aid society it is not to be confused with the workers’ unions and societies
that promoted workers’ rights, such as the Arbetarekommun, the Social Democratic
Party and Folkets Hus/Folkets Park.
9 Nerikes Allehanda, 16 February 1897.
10 The lecturer Dr Sundberg’s performance was a great success. Nerikes Allehanda, 18
and 21 February 1897.
11 Nerikes Allehanda, 18 February 1897.
12 Nerikes Allehanda, 18 and 23 February 1897. Nerikes Allehanda is the oldest liberal
newspaper in the region. It was founded in 1843 and had regular distribution during
the time period studied. Nerikes Allehanda competed with four other regional newspapers in the early 1900s: the conservative Örebro Dagblad; the liberal-conservative
Nerikes-Tidningen, and from May 1902 the radical Örebro-kuriren. Nerikes Allehanda
was the preferred paper when it came to advertisements for local entertainment
and recreation. In its commentary on local cultural activities it favoured theatrical
performances, preferably plays performed at the theatre by travelling theatre troupes,
and also lectures, illustrated or not.
13 Nerikes Allehanda, 16–20 and 22 February 1897. The police register contains an
application from J. Stenfeldt from Stockholm to show a kinetophone at the spring
market of 1896 in Örebro. The kinetophone is a combined film and sound machine,
designed as a cabinet with a viewfinder and tubes as hearing device. The film forms
a loop and the sound comes from a concealed phonograph in the cabinet. For the
next spring market, in 1897, there was an application for a phonograph, after which
it became a frequent amusement at the market-related fairgrounds in town. There
were also other kinds of mechanical sound machines such as the graphophone at
the fairgrounds, though they were not as common as the phonograph. Örebro magistrat, Stadsfiskalen, Tillståndsresolutioner, bevis o anmälningar ang teater, konserter,
baler, föredrag, förevisningar m. m. 1893–1897 and 1898–1902 (The Regional State
Archive at Uppsala).
14 On the frequent use of Edison’s name in advertising, see Rune Waldekranz (1969),
Levande fotografier. Film och biograf i Sverige 1896–1906, Stockholm: Stockholm
University, pp. 26, 73 and 123; Gregory Waller (1995), Main Street Amusements:
Movies and Commercial Entertainment in a Southern City, 1896–1930, Washington,
London: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 28–29. On large-scale exhibitions,
swedish film
scientific /educational discourse and spectatorship see Anders Ekström (1994), Den
utställda världen. Stockholmsutställningen 1897 och 1800-talets världsutställningar,
Stockholm: Nordiska museet, pp. 296–313; Tom Gunning (1995), ‘The World as
Object Lesson. Cinema Audiences, Visual Culture and the St. Louis World’s Fair,
1904’, Film History, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 422–444.
15 Nerikes Allehanda, 16–20 and 22 February 1897. Waldekranz has identified the
exhibitor as Arthur Rehn, a baker by profession, who was hired by M. F. Haberman (whom Waldekranz refers to as a gardener, yet in the police register in Örebro
he is listed as Colonel) and three other men to exhibit the apparatus at Valand in
Gothenburg, from where he now was on his way to the capital where the Stockholm Exhibition was opening on 15 May 1897. Waldekranz’s source is an interview
with A. Rehn, ‘Göteborgare visade film 1896 på Valand’, Göteborgs-Tidningen, 26
December 1954. Waldekranz (1969), pp. 71–73, 81; Örebro magistrat, Stadsfiskalen, Tillståndsresolutioner, bevis o anmälningar ang teater, konserter, baler, föredrag,
förevisningar m. m. 1893–1897 (The Regional State Archive at Uppsala).
16 Waldekranz has identified the films as part of George Méliès’s production. Waldekranz (1969), pp. 74–76; Nerikes Allehanda, 18 February 1897.
17 Nerikes Allehanda, 22 February 1897.
18 Nerikes Allehanda, 23 February 1897.
19 This was a conclusion also reached by Gregory Waller in a case study of the exhibition of moving pictures in the town of Lexington, Kentucky. Waller (1995), pp.
20 In the US this kind of exhibition was practically nonexistent, according to Rossell,
and he reasons that this could be because the US did not have the same market
traditions and because genteel, educational entertainments had a larger appeal.
In Simon Popple and Vanessa Toulmin, eds. (2000), Visual Delights. Essays on the
Popular and Projected Image in the 19th Century, Trowbridge: Flicks Books, p. 57,
note 13.
21 Deac Rossell (2000), ‘A Slippery Job: Travelling Exhibitors in early Cinema’ in Simon
Popple and Vanessa Toulmin, eds., Visual Delights. Essays on the Popular and Projected
Image in the 19th Century, Trowbridge: Flicks Books, pp. 50–60. The categories are
developed from a model conceived by Alfred Bromhead (1933), in Proceedings of
the British Cinematography Society, no. 21, p. 4; Vanessa Toulmin (2004), ‘We take
them and make them’: Mitchell and Kenyon and the Travelling Exhibition Showmen’, in Vanessa Toulmin, Patrick Russell and Simon Popple, eds., The Lost World
of Mitchell and Kenyon. Edwardian Britain on Film, London: BFI, p. 59.
22 Waldekranz regards the year 1900 as a turning point in the number of travelling
magic lantern lecturers with moving pictures included in their show. He notes a rise
in the number of touring exhibitors/lecturers up until the turn of the year 1900
to 1901, after which there is a decline in number until the turn of the year 1902
to 1903. Waldekranz (1969), p. 120. My results, however, show a continuous rise
in number from 1897 on.
23 The leading film company in the world, which was the French company Pathé
Frères, started to industrialise its production at an early stage and established sales
offices in the world’s leading cities. Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell (2003),
Film History. An Introduction, New York: McGraw Hill, pp. 22–24; Waldekranz
(1969), pp. 191, 196. The increased production of longer narrative films (which
were well suited for standardised production and distribution) after 1903 changed
ii. silent cinema
the conditions for programmes and exhibitions. Charles Musser (1990), The Emergence of Cinema.The American Screen to 1907. History of the American Cinema, New
York: Scribner’s, pp. 297–336.
24 Nerikes Allehanda, 11 March 1897. See also Waldekranz (1955), pp. 29–30.
25 Nerikes Allehanda, 22 January 1898.
26 Nerikes Allehanda, 22 January and 3 February 1898; 28 and 31 January 1899; 16
and 20 February 1901; 14 and 17 February 1902. See Waldekranz (1969), pp.
125–128; Rune Waldekranz (1955), Levande bilder: de första biograferna: utgiven
med anledning av Sveriges biografägareförbunds 40-årsjubileum 1955, Stockholm:
Förb., pp. 28–29. For a first-hand account of Blom’s exhibitions, see Carl-Axel
Carlsson (1956), När seklet var ungt. Örebrominnen i text och bilder Örebro: CarlAxel Carlsson, pp. 35–37. Some details, such as the year of the event and the ticket
price, are incorrect, but there is no reason to doubt the overall impression of the
experience. Carlsson remembers Blom’s appearance, that he spoke Swedish with
an American accent, that besides Blom’s speech and the rattle of the machine it
was very quiet in the church during the performance, and that the moving images
that were the highlight of the programme were out of focus.
27 Nerikes Allehanda, 3–6 November 1900.
28 Nerikes Allehanda, 18 November 1897. Amorous kissing in public was taboo,
which was one obvious reason for the great success of the film. On screen, the
kiss was offered to the viewer in close-up and could override the taboo and be
seen with an untainted, almost scientific gaze thanks to the medium’s quality
of ‘absence of presence’, i.e. the represented event was seen out of its historical
context. For an evaluation of the film’s reception in comparison with reactions to
kissing in different public contexts and the reception of representations of kissing
in other media, see J. A. Sokalski (2004), ‘Performed Affection: the Spectacle of
kissing on Stage and Screen’, in John Fullerton & Jan Olsson, eds., Allegories of
Communication. Intermedial Concerns from Cinema to the Digital, Rome: John
Libbey Publishing.
29 Nerikes Allehanda, 21 August 1899.
30 Nerikes Allehanda, 9–10 March 1900.
31 Nerikes Allehanda, 28 April 1900.
32 It is difficult to discern if the short films are organised into themes with only very
short descriptions of the films at hand. On programming in early cinema, see Nico
de Klerk (2000), ‘“Pictures to be Shewn”: Programming the American Biograph’,
in Popple & Toulmin, eds.; Vanessa Toulmin (2002), ‘The Importance of the
Programme in early Film presentation’, Kintop 11, pp. 19–34.
33 Nerikes Allehanda, 6 March 1901.
34 Nerikes Allehanda, 6 March 1901.
35 Nerikes Allehanda, 18, 19 and 21 November 1902.
36 Nerikes Allehanda, 21 November 1902.
37 Nerikes Allehanda, 3, 6–8 December 1898, 20 and 26 November 1900, and 1, 3–6
and 8 December 1900.
38 Örebro Dagblad, 6, 9, 22 March 1901, 26 and 29 September 1902 and 21 November
39 Nerikes Allehanda, 3 December 1898; de Klerk (2000) in Popple & Toulmin, eds.,
p. 205.
40 Nerikes Allehanda, 3, 5 and 9 December 1898.
swedish film
41 Nerikes Allehanda, 9 December 1898.
42 The regular price for the Biograph shows at the theatre was 1.50 crowns, 1 crown,
50 öre and 35 öre. At the matinee, with a 1.50 crown ticket you could bring a
child in for free. ‘Popular’ priced shows were, for ground floor seats, 1 crown; 1st
row seats, 75 öre; 2nd row seats, 50 öre; and standing, 25 öre. Nerikes Allehanda,
3, 5 and 8 December 1898.
43 Nerikes Allehanda, 5 December 1898.
44 Waldekranz (1969), p. 277.
45 Svenska Dagbladet, 27 April 1904, in Jan Olsson ed. (1990) I offentlighetens ljus.
Stumfilmens affischer, kritiker, stjärnor och musik, Stockholm: Symposion, pp.
46 The term ‘externality’ refers to a sense of non-involvement in relation to the representations on the screen typical of the pre-narrative mode of representation. See
Noel Burch (1990), translated and edited by Ben Brewster, Life to Those Shadows,
Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 206–207.
chapter 7
Georg af Klercker, the Silent
Era and Film Research
Astrid Söderbergh Widding
In January 1995 Ingmar Bergman’s play Sista skriket /The Last Gasp
was aired on Swedish television. Thus, a larger audience was given the
opportunity to familiarise themselves with a practically forgotten person
from the Swedish silent film era. Less than ten years earlier (1986),
Scandinavian cinema was in focus at Le giornate del cinema muto – the
silent film festival in Pordenone, Italy, which annually gathers a large
number of film scholars for one week of screenings of material otherwise
hard to come by. Here one could find works of some of the world’s
most renowned filmmakers of the silent era: Carl Theodor Dreyer,
Victor Sjöström, and Mauritz Stiller. One of the great discoveries this
year, nevertheless, was Georg af Klercker, who was acknowledged by
a retrospective. No less striking is the fact that the original copies of
his films are preserved.
The television version of the play about af Klercker includes an
introduction by Bergman, in which he provides the background to
his own interpretation of the director. However, the introduction is
somewhat misleading. Eloquently, Bergman describes ‘the three giants’
– Sjöström, Stiller, and the producer Charles Magnusson – and he
portrays af Klercker as an upstart in Gothenburg who was beginning
to threaten his competitors at Svenska Biografteatern (Svenska Bio) in
Stockholm. Bergman is in no way the only one who does this; there is
a tendency to depict the golden years of Swedish silent film as a matter
of the genius of a few particular people.
Actually, af Klercker was hired by Magnusson at Svenska Bio in the
early years (1911–1913) on Lidingö, outside Stockholm, as head of
stage and director of a few films. He was observing the methods of
Pathé Frères in Paris, one of the leading film companies of the time,
swedish film
and also worked for some time in Denmark. He subsequently applied
his knowledge and experience of the vital film culture of the foremost
European film nations at the time to the Swedish filmic environment.
When Hasselblad commenced its productions in Gothenburg, af
Klercker began his work there, and he directed, with one exception, all
films that this company would produce – in total some twenty films
during the course of three years. af Klercker would develop his mastery
within the melodrama and the sensational: two of Danish film’s golden
genres in the 1910s. His attempts within farce and the genre of lustspel,
on the other hand, were nothing more than brief exceptions.
af Klercker’s time is in many ways a period of transition, which as
far as the film industry is concerned is characterised by abrupt changes
between different forms of ventures by the film companies. In the
shadow of the Great War, in which giant film nations such as France
collapsed, Swedish cinema finds a new space and new opportunities
to assert itself on the world market. In 1915–1916 there is a conscious
effort to make a large number of films in an international style. In
1917–1918 a new direction is taken, whereby producers concentrate
on fewer films with a higher artistic and literary prestige value, and
through which Swedishness enters into the equation. The sensational
was historically bypassed in a context where the medium of film with
full force attempted to assert its own status as an art form, on equal
terms with established forms such as literature, art, and music. It is at
this point that af Klercker’s career as a filmmaker ended.
What first strikes a contemporary viewer of af Klercker’s films is
their stylistic stability and visual extravagance. Here, one encounters
a driven visual narrator who demands a high degree of focus. Many
different narrative devices and stylistic features are noteworthy: his
utilisation of a qualified depth-of-focus cinematography as well as the
often advanced lighting. In addition to this, the special effects and the
high cinematographic quality in general are conspicuous – no doubt
the producer, Hasselblad, with the company’s unique technical capacity
and staff resources, was of crucial importance here.
Leif Furhammar (1987) has argued that af Klercker deserves to be called
an auteur – the honorary title from the French 1960s for those directors
who could make a personal imprint on their films and who controlled
ii. silent cinema
the whole production process. af Klercker did not, as a rule, write the
screenplays, but certainly placed a personal signature on his films. For
future research, a starting point is to place af Klercker in a position as
one of the auteurs of the Swedish silent era, next to Sjöström and Stiller,
who have already been given this justified position by historiography.
That the silent era in Sweden in general not only constituted a high
point within Swedish film production, but could defend its position
in an international context as well, is a commonly accepted fact, and
information on this can be found in any film historical overview. All
the more remarkable, then, is that the period in question to such a
low extent has been researched and analysed – thus, it is not only the
research on af Klercker which has been neglected.
Some exceptions in this respect are works by Jan Olsson: for instance
his Från filmljud till ljudfilm (1986) or the book on the film producer
Frans Lundbergin Malmö (1988). Furthermore, John Fullerton’s monumental thesis from 1994, The Development of a System of Representation in Swedish Film 1912–1920, is worth mentioning. In this context,
Fullerton also deals with some aspects of af Klercker’s narration, for
instance his use of off-screen space.
Otherwise, it is first and foremost the two central figures of the
Golden Age of 1917–1923, Sjöström and Stiller, who have been the
objects of scholarly works. Additionally, there are a number of comparatively sweeping overviews in which the authors have been content
with describing a few general characteristic features of the Swedish
silent cinema’s style and narrative, like, for instance, Gösta Werner in
Den svenska filmens historia (1978), or Peter Cowie in his books on
Scandinavian cinema (such as Swedish Cinema from Ingeborg Holm to
Fanny and Alexander, 1985). Apart from the few exceptions mentioned
above, we lack fundamental scholarly research on how Swedish film
developed its style and its narrative specificity in comparison with other
important film nations such as the US as well as dominant European
film nations like Denmark and France during the 1910s.
One of the most blatant deficits, however, is the lack of research on af
Klercker himself. Internationally, the discovery of the director has had
an impact in different ways in the past years. That Fullerton discusses
him has already been mentioned. In particular, Kärleken segrar/The
Victory of Love (Georg af Klercker, 1916) and Mysteriet natten till den
25:e/‘The Mistery of the Night before the 25th’ (Georg af Klercker,
1917) are analysed by him. In these films, the hidden space of the film
swedish film
is brought to the fore through intricate mirror effects in a strikingly
advanced manner compared with other contemporaneous films – with
the aid of mirrors, af Klercker manages to connect separate spaces as
well as to widen the cinematic space as a whole. Furthermore, David
Bordwell and Kristin Thompson in Film History: An Introduction (1994)
credit af Klercker with significance in film history.
A few years earlier Furhammar wrote in his Filmen i Sverige (1991)
relatively extensively about af Klercker’s production and its importance
within Swedish silent cinema. Besides this, the director has attracted little
attention from Swedish film scholars. Werner devotes a single page to
him in Den svenska filmens historia, and concludes that he never reached
the same level as Sjöström or Stiller. In Rune Waldekranz’s Filmens
historia del I (1985), he is dealt with in half a page. That half page also
gives the misleading impression that he only worked at Hassleblad’s,
whereas the fact that he was a head at Svenska Bio as early as 1912 is
pushed into the background. A minor publication about af Klercker and
Hasselblad’s, Filmstaden Göteborg, written in 1971 by Bengt IdestamAlmquist, is mostly influenced by the celebration of the city’s 350th
anniversary, which was also the reason why this work was published.
Moreover, there are a couple of articles about af Klercker in the film
journal Chaplin – one article by Åke Werring, based on a BA thesis, in
1983, and another by Furhammar in 1987. Furhammar’s essay is the
most thorough and by far the most knowledgeable introduction to af
Klercker. Its main intent was for a wider audience to introduce and
stimulate an interest in an unfairly forgotten director. Additionally, an
interview with Bergman about af Klercker was published in Chaplin in
1992, on the occasion of Bergman posthumously awarding af Klercker
his own film prize. The money went to the restoration of one of af
Klercker’s last films: Nattliga toner/‘Night music’ (Georg af Klercker,
1918). In connection with this event, the Cinematheque screened a
series of af Klercker’s films. Finally, in 1994, the Gothenburg Film
Festival awarded a posthumous prize to four cinematographers from
Hasselblad who had worked with af Klercker, and in connection with
this the journal Filmkonst published a photo book about the director
with certain biographical information and brief comments, written by
the photographer Per Ewald.
ii. silent cinema
Influences from Outside
If the amount of Swedish scholarly work on the silent era up to now
[1995] is disappointing, the opposite is true from an international perspective. During the past years a new interest in film historical research
– in particular concerning the early development and establishing of
the medium – has resulted in some interesting studies. Among them is
Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson’s significant The Classical Hollywood
Cinema (1985), the strength of which not least lies in their investigation
of how the narrative mode of American cinema has evolved and been
codified. Other works include Tom Gunning’s thesis D. W. Griffith
and the Origins of American Narrative film (1991), Miriam Hansen’s
Babel & Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (1991), Richard Abel’s studies of the French silent cinema, The Ciné Goes to Town:
French Cinema 1896–1914 (1994), and French Cinema –The FirstWave
1915–1929 (1984) – to name only a few examples. All of these works fit
within a wider context of historical reception studies: they analyse the
cinematic narration in relation to a larger societal framework, especially
the interaction that exists between the audience and film production.
Moreover, the studies are building blocks in a more far-reaching project
which can be said to summarise the direction of current film research:
to highlight how the American narrative system gradually came to
penetrate and permeate a string of other national cinemas, as well as to
demonstrate how national film cultures in different ways have related
to these hegemonic tendencies.
af Klercker’s films deserve to be watched anew for their own sake.
The most interesting perspective, however, from my point of view, is
not the elevation of a forgotten directorial genius. More rewarding is to
regard af Klercker’s films as examples which can provide a wider outlook
on a number of aspects of early cinema in Sweden during those years
of transition when his main activities took place.
His films can be said to function as a point of convergence for impulses
from abroad, from the vital Danish film industry as well as from France.
Moreover, af Klercker brings not only impulses in a vague sense from
these environments – he borrows entire scenes and visual solutions from,
for instance, the great serial filmmaker of France, Louis Feuillade. One
example which deserves mention is a scene from Mysteriet natten till
den 25:e, in which a snake enters via the window into the room where
the master detective Coney Hoops is. This scene corresponds directly
with the one in Feuillade’s Juve contre Fantômas/Juve Against Fantomas
swedish film
(Louis Feuillade, 1913), in which the snake enters through an air duct
to attack Juve. The scenes are similar not only in their motifs, but also
visually. Considerable research remains involving a minute study of the
circulation of narrative patterns and stylistic devices in the European
cinema of the 1910s, with a starting-point in the example of af Klercker.
One fundamental hypothesis within contemporary scholarly work
regarding the American influence on Swedish silent cinema is that this
happened by way of Denmark; that the Danish silent film functioned
as an intermediary between the US and Sweden.
By considering af Klercker’s films, light is shed not only on them,
but also on the entire production context in which he worked, nationally as well as internationally. This would be a significant contribution
to the understanding of the Swedish national cinema’s exchange with,
inspiration by, and differences to the film production of other nations.
One of the domestic aspects which deserve further highlighting
during this period is the issue of similarities and differences between
different Swedish production companies during the mid 1910s – in
particular Hasselblad, where af Klercker made his most important
films, and Svenska Bio, which represented the new direction with
literary adaptations signed by Sjöström and Stiller. The new orientation of Svenska Bio during the latter half of the 1910s was to great
degree connected to a distinct national profiling. The film adaptations
of prestigious Swedish – or at least mainly Nordic – literary material
bestowed a cultural hallmark and ensured a free pass through Statens
Biografbyrå (the National Board of Film Censors). Simultaneously, the
national ambition guaranteed quality. The films from the Hasselblad
years are for their part interesting not least in their ambivalence in
relation to Swedishness.
On the one hand, the films have an obvious international ambition,
and relate for instance to the Danish melodrama of the mid 1910s. The
thrilling plots recurrently take place in urban environments, such as
decadent cafés or bars, or the characters are given foreign names, like
the master detective Coney Hoops and the crook Craig in Mysteriet
natten till den 25:e. On the other hand, the cinematically rewarding west
coast landscape is exploited, something which is frequently remarked
upon in reviews, and titles such as Rosen påTistelön/The Rose onThistle
Island (Georg af Klercker, 1915), af Klercker’s first film at Hasselblad
and a free adaptation of Emilie Flygare-Carlén’s novel of the same title,
or Fången på Karlstens fästning/‘The Prisoner of Karlsten’s Fortress’
ii. silent cinema
(Georg af Klercker, 1916) could hardly chime more Swedish-like. In
this way, the problematic issue of national cinema – one of the more
lively discussions within today’s film studies – comes into focus and is
highlighted from a fresh perspective. The distinction is not absolute
between the internationally inclined productions and the Swedenpromotion of the new orientation.
However, not only af Klercker’s relation to contemporaneous Swedish
cinema and to other national cinemas, but also the relation between his
films and extra-filmic sources, provide an interesting perspective. One
example worth mentioning is the comparison at the time between af
Klercker’s production and the literature by Nick Carter – referring to
this connection, the National Board of Film Censors banned Mysteriet
natten till den 25:e due to its brutalising character. References such as
this one to Nick Carter were actually quite common in censorship
contexts at this point in time. In general, the criticism of af Klercker
is an important aspect for the understanding of contemporaneous
film culture.
From this perspective, the early af Klecker film Två bröder/‘Two
Brothers’ (Georg af Klercker, 1912) is interesting, too. It was produced
by the Swedish branch of Pathé Frère, and was also banned by the
National Board of Film Censors as brutalising. The decision of the
Board was appealed, thereby making this film the reason for the first
great censorship battle in Sweden – the National Board of Film Censors had only been operating since the year before. Algot Söderström,
the writer of the film, made the appeal. The debate about Två bröder
focused on the question of the status of film as an art form – it was
pointed out in the motivation of the Board’s decision that the film
had little artistic value and that the Board could thus see no mitigating
circumstances. However, Söderström, who planned to publish a book
about the relationship between film and art, contended that his ambition had been to create a literary film. The entire debate places the af
Klercker films right at the intersection of mass-market entertainment
and film as a dawning art form.
Finally, a purely film-theoretical aspect that becomes evident when
looking at af Klercker’s production deserves to be highlighted. It has to
do with the relationship between the visual and the narrative elements:
phenomena which in the film-theoretical historiography are not infrequently regarded as counterpoints. I believe that this dichotomisation
is both unfortunate and premature. af Klercker’s films are in their nar-
swedish film
ratives quite conventional and typical of their time. They often provide
thrilling stories – while at the same time expressing a supreme control
over film as a visual medium. This is the case with the most beautiful
of af Klercker’s films, like Kärleken segrar/‘Love Conquers’ (Georg af
Klercker, 1916) or the film Bergman restored, Nattliga toner. Nevertheless, it is also true for a film like Förstadsprästen/‘The Suburban Vicar’
(Georg af Klercker, 1917), one of his most criticized works. Fullerton
points to the interesting utilisation of enlargement in this film as well
as reverse field. af Klercker’s productions thereby function as rewarding
contributions to the bridging of such an all too one-sided dichotomy.
They bring to mind the unique capacity of film to combine suspensefilled plots with visual abundance.
Translated by Mariah Larsson
This article was originally published as Astrid Söderbergh Widding (1995),
‘Georg af Klercker, stumfilmstiden och forskningen’ in Filmhäftet, no. 1–2.
It has been slightly abriged.
Abel, Richard (1984), French cinema: the first wave, 1915–1929, Princeton: Princeton
University Press.
Abel, Richard (1994), The ciné goes to town: French cinema 1896–1914, Berkeley, Los
Angeles & London: University of California Press.
Bordwell, David, Janet Staiger & Kristin Thompson (1985), The classical Hollywood
cinema: Film style and mode of production to 1960, London, Melbourne & Henley:
Routledge & Keagan Paul.
Bordwell, David & Kristin Thompson (1994), Film history – an introduction, New
York: McGraw-Hill.
Cowie, Peter (1985), Swedish cinema from Ingeborg Holm to Fanny and Alexander,
Stockholm: Svenska Institutet.
Ewald, Per (1994), Georg af Klercker – åren i Göteborg, Gothenburg: Filmkonst/Gothenburg Film Festival.
Fullerton, John (1994), The development of a system of representation in Swedish film,
1912–1920, (diss.), University of East Anglia.
Furhammar, Leif (1987), ‘Filmpionjären i skuggan av Sjöström och Stiller’, Chaplin
208, no 1.
Furhammar, Leif (1991), Filmen i Sverige. En historia i tio kapitel, Höganäs: Wiken.
Gunning, Tom (1991), D. W. Griffith and the origins of American narrative film. The
early years at Biograph, Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Hansen, Miriam (1991), Babel & Babylon: Spectatorship in American silent film, Cambridge, Mass. & London: Harvard University Press.
ii. silent cinema
Idestam-Almqvist, Bengt (1971), Filmstaden Göteborg: Hasselblads, Georg af Klercker,
en bortglömd epok, Gothenburg: Elanders Boktryckeri.
Olsson, Jan (1986), Från filmljud till ljudfilm: Samtida experiment med Odödliga teatern,
Sjungande bilder och Edison Kinetophon 1903–1914, Stockholm: Proprius förlag.
Olsson, Jan (1988), Sensationer från en bakgård: Frans Lundberg som biografägare och
filmproducent i Malmö och Köpenhamn, Stockholm & Lund: Symposion bokförlag.
Waldekranz, Rune (1985), Filmens historia. De första hundra åren från zoopraxiscope till
video. Del I: Pionjäråren, Stockholm: P. A. Norstedts & Söners förlag.
Werner, Gösta (1978), Den svenska filmens historia, Stockholm: P. A. Norstedts &
Söners förlag.
Wärring, Åke (1983), ‘Georg af Klercker, en stor stumfilmsregissör’, Chaplin 186, no 3.
The Golden Age
and Late Silent Cinema
chapter 8
Anders Marklund
When Ingmar Bergman commented on a personal selection of films
to be screened as retrospective of Swedish cinema, he mentioned that
‘Körkarlen remains one of my great film experiences. I watch it each
summer in my own cinema. I have had that cinema for more than
twenty years now. I have always opened my season with Sjöström’s
Tösen från Stormyrtorpet, which by the way is another wonderfully
narrated film from that age, and every year I close with Körkarlen.’1
The two films treasured by Bergman – Körkarlen/Thy Soul Shall Bear
Witness, aka The Phantom Chariot or The Phantom Carriage (Victor
Sjöström, 1921) and Tösen från Stormyrtorpet/The Girl from the Marsh
Croft (Victor Sjöström, 1917) – both belong to the period between
1917 and 1924 often called the Golden Age of Swedish Cinema. The
denomination distinguishes it from the relatively unsophisticated films
made earlier, and the often depreciated genre filmmaking of the late
1920s and 1930s. Many of the films produced during these years, and
in particular those made by Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, have
been canonised as masterpieces and classics. However, this is not only
a construction made afterwards. Many of the films were well received
and respected when they were first released, and many of them also
found audiences and admiration beyond Swedish borders.
The period was preceded by a change in film production at the
leading company Svenska Biografteatern (Svenska Bio). More money
and care were invested in each new film: ‘The directorate has decided
to rearrange the approach to filming, in such a fashion that a smaller
ii. silent cinema
number of films than earlier will be produced this season. Instead,
much more qualified artistic efforts will be spent on these films.’2
first film to receive this special attention was Terje Vigen/A Man There
Was (Victor Sjöström, 1917), the film that marks the beginning of the
Golden Age.
TerjeVigen was an adaptation of a long poem written by the Norwegian
playwright Henrik Ibsen. Several others of these films were also based
on literary works, many written by Scandinavian authors honoured with
a Nobel Prize in literature. The most important author in this respect
was undoubtedly Selma Lagerlöf (Nobel Prize 1909), with nine films
being adapted from her work between 1917 and 1924 (five directed
by Sjöström, three by Stiller and one by actor-turned-director Ivan
Hedqvist). Filmindustri AB Skandia’s directors Johan Brunius and Rune
Carlsten made one film each based on Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson’s work
(Nobel Prize 1903), and Brunius would also make three films based
respectively on works by Henrik Pontoppidan (Nobel Prize 1917), Karl
Gjellerup (Nobel Prize 1917) and Knut Hamsun (Nobel Prize 1920).
Part of the reason for this wave of adaptations of respected literary
works was the wish to make film a more respectable art form. To some
extent it really did serve this purpose, but still, when entertainment
taxes were first introduced in Sweden in 1919 a higher tax was imposed
on cinema than on many other art forms (5–20 per cent, depending
on the ticket price). In the proposition to parliament it was suggested
that films might be more refined and tasteful than earlier, but that ‘it
is in the nature of things that cinema in general cannot reach the same
aesthetic level as the theatre.’3
Several of the films by Sjöström and Stiller stand as clear exceptions to this ‘nature of things’. Together with Georg af Klercker, these
filmmakers were recruited by Charles Magnusson and would begin
directing films at Svenska Bio’s newly constructed studio outside Stockholm in 1912. Both had a background in theatre and learnt their trade
quickly – especially considering that they entered filmmaking during
a period of developing norms for editing, framing, narrative clarity,
etc. – a development more or less completed only at the beginning of
the Golden Age. A prime example of what could be achieved within
this new medium is Sjöström’s and Stiller’s restrained use of double
exposures, a special effect brilliantly created by their cinematographer
Julius Jaenzon. Another filmmaker exploring the possibilities of the
medium was Victor Bergdahl, who made a number of humorous and
swedish film
imaginative animated short films featuring an old sailor, Kapten Grogg
(Captain Grog). In När Kapten Groggskulle porträtteras/‘When Captain
Grogg Was to Have His Portrait Done’ (Victor Bergdahl, 1917), for
example, Bergdahl himself interacts with his animated hero.
A number of factors contributed to the end of this Golden Age. As the
First World War ended, Swedish films had to face harsher competition
from countries previously hindered by the war in their production or
export of films. There was also a general economic depression during
the years following the war, leading to significantly lower entertainment
spending. And, not least, the end of this period coincides with both
Sjöström and Stiller accepting invitations to make films in Hollywood:
Sjöström left Sweden in 1923, Stiller in 1924, and neither of them
would make another film in Sweden during the silent era. Following
them to Hollywood were actors and actresses like Lars Hanson and
Greta Garbo as well as talents in other areas of filmmaking. After the
Golden Age years, Swedish cinema in the 1920s has been looked upon
rather negatively as an industry in crisis, suffering from low audience
numbers, Americanisation, and uninspiring attempts to imitate the
latest successful films at the box office. This view is partly being revised
by new research more open-minded about popular culture.
The selected text by Bo Florin provides a good understanding of the
first part of Victor Sjöström’s work as a filmmaker. Along with analyses
of some of his major films, Florin also traces the development of Svenska Bio during a fascinating period in both Swedish and international
film history. It should be mentioned here that Sjöström’s subsequent
career in Hollywood was also successful, including, for example, classic
films with Lillian Gish, one of the greatest stars of the silent era. After
the introduction of sound film, Sjöström returned to Sweden where
he later would work as artistic manager for Svensk Filmindustri, be
a mentor to Ingmar Bergman, and act in a number of films by other
directors, giving his finest performance in Bergman’s Smultronstället/Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957).
Leif Furhammar’s contribution focuses on Selma Lagerlöf and her
shifting experiences of film. Using archival documents such as Lagerlöf’s own letters, Furhammar is able to give a both detailed and vivid
description of the side of film business that at least partly is about
immaterial rights; rights that concern respect for an author’s work as
well as the financial incentives to use it.
Tommy Gustafsson writes about the representation of tattare (‘trav-
ii. silent cinema
ellers’) in Swedish films made in the 1920s. Tattare were outsiders to
society, and consequently often ascribed negative qualities. Including
a wide range of films and documents in his discussion, Gustafsson’s
text is also able to demonstrate how popular cinema can be used as
a valuable source in studies aiming to gain a better understanding of
discourses circulating in past societies.
1 Gunnar Bergdahl, ed. (2000), Bergmans 1900-tal: en hyllning till svensk film, från
Victor Sjöström till Lukas Moodysson. Gothenburg: Gothenburg Film Festival.
2 Bengt Forslund (1980), Victor Sjöström: hans liv och verk. Diss.: Stockholm, Stockholm: Bonniers, p. 96. Originally published in Svenska Dagbladet, 30 January 1917.
(Forslund’s dissertation is also published in English: Victor Sjöström: His Life and
3 Roger Blomgren (1998), Staten och filmen: svensk filmpolitik 1909–1993. Diss.
Gothenburg Univ., Stockholm: Gidlund, p. 39; original proposition: 1919:166,
p. 12.
chapter 9
Victor Sjöström
and the Golden Age
Bo Florin
The Early Films: Censors and Glimpses of the Classics
It all started one day in 1912 when Victor Sjöström (1879–1960)
received a phone call from an old classmate who had become a journalist
and got to know people in the film industry. Sjöström later recalled:
He asked me straight out, ‘How would you like to be a film director?’ Yeah – sure,’ I stammered, secretly ecstatic but trying to control
myself and pretending not to be particularly enticed by that kind
of hocus-pocus. But apparently his idea was well received, because
Charles Magnusson, president of A.B. Svenska Biografteatern told me
to meet him at a hotel early the next morning. And before long the
whole thing was in the bag.1
Svenska Biografteatern (Svenska Bio) had just moved from the town
of Kristianstad to a brand new studio in Lidingö. Cameraman Julius
Jaenzon, whose name would one day be closely associated with Sjöström,
had been working for Svenska Bio ever since 1910. His brother Henrik, who would also shoot for Sjöström, was there as well. Georg af
Klercker and Mauritz Stiller joined Sjöström as new directors. All three
men had been actors. Sjöström’s family had emigrated to New York
when he was only a year old. After returning to Sweden by himself,
he began attending an Uppsala secondary school in 1893. Five years
later, he started touring with various theatrical companies in Finland
and Sweden. By 1911, he was managing the Einar Fröberg repertory
company. But filmmaking turned out to be too much of a temptation.
Sjöström directed no fewer than thirty films – of which only four
have been preserved – before Terje Vigen /A Man There Was (Victor
ii. silent cinema
Sjöström, 1917) the work that is often considered his breakthrough.2
From 1917–23, he made twelve, all but one of which have been preserved. Of his ten Hollywood films in 1923–30, eight remain (two of
which are only fragmentary). After returning to Europe for the last
time, he made just one in Sweden (1931) and one in Britain (1937),
both of which have been preserved.
Considering that Sjöström was to gain a solid international reputation as one of the great silent film directors, the story of his 1912
directing debut may sound a bit inauspicious. Trädgårdsmästaren/The
Gardener (Victor Sjöström, 1912) was banned by the Swedish censors. The manuscript of his reminiscences of Swedish film assumes his
characteristically casual tone:
To the best of my recollection, the wretched fate of my ‘maiden work’
was due to the final scene. The president of the studio was horrified
by the grubby, brutal gardener (played by yours truly) – according to
him, the public didn’t want to see me tromping around with a big
moustache. But I insisted that it was indispensable from an artistic
standpoint, and I finally got my way. This particular grubby, brutal
gardener lusted after a young lady in his employ, and he seduced – well,
he virtually raped – the innocent thing in a lovely greenhouse among
beautiful roses and every other flower imaginable. In the final scene,
the girl is found dead the next morning on the floor of the greenhouse,
with red roses and exquisite blossoms delicately strewn all around her.
The marriage of death and beauty, in other words. But the thick-headed
censors didn’t understand a thing – they had no feeling for that kind
of beauty – and the film was banned.
And I guess I was a little more careful from then on – nor did I wear
a moustache, at least not for a long time.3
The official comments of the censors offer a rather comical contrast
to Sjöström’s sarcasm. They were definitely cognizant of the beauty
but gave a thumbs down to the film from a moral point of view: ‘A
breach of respectability. The association of death and beauty poses a
threat to public order.’4
Ingeborg Holm/Margaret Day (Victor Sjöström, 1913) is the second
Sjöström work that has been preserved. Based on a play by Nils Krok,
member of the poor relief board in the city of Helsingborg, the film
centres around one of his cases. A widow is sent to the poorhouse and
her children are boarded out. When the youngest child fails to rec-
swedish film
ognise her, she breaks down and is committed to the insane asylum.
Eventually her oldest son gets through to her with a photo of her as a
young woman, and she regains her wits. Krok’s play had been turned
down earlier – social drama about paupers was hardly at the top of the
agenda during the era of sensational film. But Sjöström found himself
in a quandary – he was hard pressed to come up with a suitable role
for Hilda Borgström (of the Royal Dramatic Theatre), whose contract
with Svenska Bio was about to expire. After finding Krok’s script in a
drawer, he got the go-ahead from Magnusson. The film was an unexpected success.
The opening of Ingeborg Holm in Stockholm on 3 November 1913
(it had first been shown in Gothenburg a week earlier) provoked a
furious debate in the press. The headline in Stockholm daily Dagens
Nyheter read ‘Poor Relief under Attack at the Movies, Social Criticism
at the Regina Theater: is the Poor Relief Board or the Director on the
Meanwhile, a poor relief inspector penned an angry article
in Stockholms Dagblad entitled ‘Unwholesome Cinematography’.6
A somewhat defensive rebuttal in Dagens Nyheter signed ‘Svenska
biografteatern’ stressed the intention of Ingeborg Holm to depict conditions in rural areas, as opposed to Stockholm, while maintaining
that the film industry had a responsibility to promote social progress.
Both Krok and Sjöström got in on the debate. In addition to invoking
Krok’s expertise, Sjöström emphasised the film’s human interest value
and hoped that it ‘might accomplish something good somewhere by
arousing sympathy for the less fortunate members of society.’7
sure enough, the debate spawned 1918 amendments to Sweden’s poor
relief laws – an early illustration of the impact that film can have on
the world around it. Whether as a result of the debate or its inherent
quality (Borgström’s performance garnered high praise from the critics), Ingeborg Holm was one of Svenska Bio’s big hits, both in Sweden
and abroad. The reviewers lauded not only the realism of the narrative,
but such technical qualities as the dramatic depth evoked by Henrik
Jaenzon’s camerawork.
In 1916, Gustaf Berg, head of the National Board of Film Censors,
discussed the work in a Dagens Nyheter article entitled ‘A Repertoire
of Classic Films’. According to Berg, Ingeborg Holm might just be a
harbinger of such a repertoire. The film, which the studio had recently
started to show again, was still playing to full houses. In Berg’s view,
it had stood the test of time: ‘The plot unfolds in a setting where old-
ii. silent cinema
fashioned apparel is no drawback.’ Nor did the technical features of
Ingeborg Holm constitute an obstacle: ‘It goes without saying that both
costuming and camerawork are vital to a film.’ But more importantly,
‘the public has become jaded by all the elaborate costume dramas and
would prefer something with real substance.’8
Berg’s remarks heralded
not only the new repertoire that he foresaw, but the approach with which
producers would soon be revolutionising the Swedish film industry.
From Terje Vigen to Körkarlen – the Golden Age
It was January 1917 and Europe was embroiled in war. The French film
industry, which blossomed up to that point, had collapsed like a house of
cards. Denmark, also a cinematographic leader at the start of the decade,
had lost ground as well. American films had triumphantly crossed the
Atlantic and invaded Europe. Meanwhile, the enthusiasm and expansiveness of Svenska Bio’s first days at the Lidingö studio had ebbed. Calls for
public supervision of the industry had long since won a hearing. The
censorship board, which had been institutionalised way back in 1911,
continued to irritate producers by cutting out sequences or, worse still,
banning entire films. The time had come to try new approaches.
Sjöström’s Terje Vigen, based on an Ibsen poem by the same name,
opened simultaneously at the Röda Kvarn Theatre in Stockholm and
Paladsteatret in Copenhagen. Dagens Nyheter’s cultural section carried
something quite unusual the following day – a review of Svenska Bio’s
new film signed B B–n, otherwise known as Bo Bergman, a well-known
poet and a theatre critic for the newspaper. The article starts off by
paying tribute to the contribution that Terje Vigen had made to the
prestige of filmmaking, ‘the artistic significance of which has always been
the subject of controversy.’9
For an industry that was striving mightily
to shed the label of vulgarity, those were eagerly awaited words. The
investment had apparently paid off. At a cost of 60,000 crowns, Terje
Vigen was the most expensive Swedish film up to that point. Moreover,
it represented a big step forward in Svenska Bio’s steadfast new focus
on fewer and higher quality productions.
While Bergman’s status as a critic in a more established field than
film and the fact that the review appeared in the cultural section of
a major newspaper have led historians to exaggerate the influence
he wielded, his assessment of Terje Vigen, consummately directed by
Sjöström, is indisputably a welcome departure from traditional films.
swedish film
According to Aftonbladet, ‘Yesterday’s opening of Ibsen’s Terje Vigen at
the Röda Kvarn Theatre scored a notable triumph for the art of Swedish
moviemaking.’ Stockholms Dagblad agreed, ‘It is no exaggeration to call
Svenska biografteatern’s production of TerjeVigen the best Swedish film
ever made.’ Svenska Dagbladet ratcheted the whole thing up another
notch, ‘Terje Vigen is not only a major artistic triumph for Svenska
biografteatern and everyone who contributed to its making, it is likely
to lend Swedish industry an illustrious international reputation.’10
In retrospect, the most striking thing about Terje Vigen is the extent
to which Sjöström adapted it to Ibsen’s poem. The film meticulously
recounts the story of an ageing sailor who looks back on the injustices
he has suffered at the hands of the British but who refrains from exacting revenge by virtue of the wisdom that life has taught him. While
Sjöström abridges, compresses and rearranges individual scenes, the
intertitles are largely true to the wording of the original. What he does
is animate the poem. Thus, many of the changes he makes to the text
result from certain sections having become superfluous once you can
physically see what is going on.
Ibsen employs a grandiose style, poignantly describing Terje’s feelings
and gestures. If that kind of pathos is understandable in the historical context that spawned the poem, it appealed even more to the era
in which the work enjoyed its greatest popularity. First published in
1857, the poem was widely read during the period leading up to the
1905 dissolution of the Swedish–Norwegian Union – the same year
that a new edition was released. Similarly, nationalistic sentiment at
the time of the First World War no doubt contributed to the film’s
success. According to a rather revealing notation in the script (signed
by famed screenwriter and director Gustaf Molander), it was not the
original intention to directly convey the tenor of Ibsen’s poem on the
screen. The script opens with a scene that appears neither in the poem
nor in the final version of the film: ‘Scene I: Ibsen’s study. Ibsen sits
at his desk, looks straight ahead, writes – the screen darkens: intertitle
“Once there lived a strange …’’.’11 The idea was that Ibsen’s study would
reappear in Scene IV, before the real plot began. In other words, Terje
Vigen was to have a kind of meta-framework. If the film had started
with such a prologue, its lofty emotions would more have resembled
Ibsen’s creation. As it is, Sjöström tends to appropriate the feelings
as his own. Christian Krohg’s illustrations for the 1905 edition of the
poem clearly inspired Sjöström’s picture composition. The solitary,
ii. silent cinema
greying Terje raging at the sea is the consummate cinematic image of
Ibsen’s literary pathos.
Owing to the widespread enthusiasm – particularly Bergman’s review
– that Terje Vigen aroused, it has come to be regarded as the starting
point for a new epoch in the history of Swedish film. While Gösta
Berlings Saga /The Atonement of Gosta Berling (Mauritz Stiller, 1924)
normally marks the end of the era, Körkarlen /Thy Soul Shall Bear
Witness, aka The Phantom Chariot, or The Phantom Carriage (Victor
Sjöström, 1921) indisputably represents its climax. Dominated by the
works of Sjöström and Stiller and serving as the crucible for the distillation of a national style, this period is often referred to as the Golden
Age of Swedish Film. Although the concept of a golden age may be
questionable, it is an apt expression – particularly of the aspirations
that the industry harboured at the time.12
Newspaper and magazine articles of the period often celebrated
the success of Swedish film, as well as its distinctive character. At the
request of Filmjournalen, Nils Bouveng, a big shot at the newly formed
Svensk Filmindustri (a merger of Svenska Bio and several other studios),
wrote a highly polemical article in 1919 provocatively entitled ‘Swedish
Film as National Advertising: How the Industry Plans to Conquer the
World.’ Bouveng may have been a businessman more than anything
else, but his tone is typical of the age and by no means at odds with
that adopted by many contemporary critics:
Why has our country’s film industry been able to carve out a leading position in the international market? Quite simply because it’s a
Swedish product in the best sense of the word – a mark of quality…
Our cinematography is firmly rooted in time-honoured culture and
unfailing taste. We can make films from literary masterpieces – we
have already begun to specialise in quality when it comes to that very
field. We don’t make hits in the ordinary, banal sense of the word.
They aren’t showpieces for multimillion-dollar stars or the extravagant
waste of economic and technical resources. Their creativity emerges
from the homogeneity engendered by a unified worldview – works of
precision backed up by Swedish competence and the Swedish spirit
of moderation. Our movies are already circling the world alongside
their American counterparts. They don’t grab the public with the
power and suggestiveness of smash hits, but they are what they are –
little gems of art.13
swedish film
As opposed to Bouveng’s grandiosity, Sjöström is refreshingly unpretentious in describing the contributions that he and Stiller made as
directors. Nevertheless, he puts his finger on the sticking point – their
success was contingent upon each man’s being able to cultivate his own
individual approach. Only a film industry as small as Sweden’s could
offer such an opportunity:
Both Stiller and I had the great good fortune to stumble upon directing careers at a time that was so suitable for us. Suitable to break away
from the muck, to question the assumptions behind what I was so
often to hear in Hollywood later on – ‘give the public what it wants.’
We also had the good fortune to work for a studio whose president,
Charles Magnusson, was an intelligent man. So intelligent, in fact, that
he eventually discovered that the best way to deal with us was to leave
us alone, trust us and let us do what we wanted, what we thought was
right. In other words, every film we made was a one-man job. That
was undoubtedly a boon both for us personally and for our work. And
I have to say that public taste was different back then.14
In 1917, Sjöström made his first film based on a literary work of Selma
Lagerlöf – a short story entitled Tösen från Stormyrtorpet. By Sjöström’s
own admission, the whole idea was the result of a coincidence – a letter
from an unknown girl. The author looked kindly on Sjöström’s adaptation of the story and agreed to take 2,000 kronor for the film rights.
Sjöström’s reminiscences relate that he received a letter from Lagerlöf
shortly after Tösen från Stormyrtorpet/The Girl from the Marsh Croft
(Victor Sjöström, 1917) opened informing him that Skandia, a competing studio, was offering to do a different work of hers for five years at
10,000 a piece. Being the smart businessman that he was, Magnusson
took the risk and saw to it that Svenska Bio obtained the film rights,
suddenly very expensive.15 And so it was full steam ahead with Lagerlöf.
Shot in May 1920 at the Filmstaden studio in Råsunda, Körkarlen was
based on a 1912 Lagerlöf novel by the same name. The cameraman
was Julius Jaenzon. The intricate, extensive post-production work postponed the opening of the film until New Year’s Day 1921 at the Röda
Kvarn Theatre. Not only did it turn out to be the Golden Age’s most
sophisticated production, but it boasted of a plot that flung wide the
doors to timelessness and legend. Edit, a soldier in the Salvation Army,
lies on her deathbed on New Year’s Eve and requests a final favour – to
ii. silent cinema
speak with David Holm (played by Sjöström). David is sitting in the
cemetery drinking with his pals. Awaiting the stroke of midnight, he
tells the story of Death’s horseman, who takes over his master’s job in
the wee hours of New Year’s Day. David refuses to go see Edit and is
beaten to death just before the clock strikes midnight. The Chariot of
Death, driven by David’s friend Georges, arrives in order for David to
take the reins. Meanwhile, Georges confesses that he was responsible
for David’s death. Following a couple of flashbacks, David visits Edit,
who feels comforted. His spirit is then conducted to his wife, who
is about to kill herself and their children. Horror-stricken, he prays,
obtains permission to re-enter his body at the cemetery, and makes it
home in time to save his family.
Both historians and critics are fairly unanimous that Körkarlen
represents the apex of the Golden Age of Swedish Film. Its narrative
richness has often been stressed, including the camerawork, the use of
flashbacks and the ability to reproduce the mood of Lagerlöf’s tale. The
double exposures, often identified as the stylistic device most conducive
to the magic of the film, are still stunning by virtue of their effectiveness
and brilliant execution. The technical perfection of Körkarlen elicits a
feeling of dizziness, forging a connection between the world of here and
now and an unknown, mysterious realm. Sjöström’s technical mastery
transcends the realism that has so often been regarded as intrinsic to the
medium of film. Robin Hood’s book Den Svenska filmens drama offers
some reflections on the approach and of the challenges that Sjöström
encountered in making Körkarlen:
The backdrop, the setting, had to remain dark for the spirits to stand
out. As a result, they couldn’t shoot in daylight. They did the exteriors
at night-time with artificial light. And much of it, even the street sections, was constructed in the studio. First they shot the background.
Then they would run the same film strip through the camera a second
time in order to catch the spirits against a dark, neutral backdrop. The
purpose was to make sure that the spirit’s gaze actually met that of
his human interlocutor, who was filmed in the true setting – precision work, in other words. Jaenzon had to keep detailed notes about
film lengths and crank speed. The humans had to stand in front of
the camera at a specific chalk mark on the floor so that David’s spirit
would be in the exact same position as the murdered David on the
gravestone from which the spirit would ascend. Laboratory assistant
Eugén Hellmann’s mathematical skills were badly needed to perform
swedish film
the necessary calculations. An occasional film strip had to be used
four times to properly complete a scene. Of course, the spirits were
transparent, so the furniture behind them had to shine through. At the
same time, the furniture in front of them needed to obscure them.16
The narrative’s refined succession of Chinese boxes represents the transfigurations through which David passes. At the beginning, he appears
to be evil. In the following sequences, we see him as dead and then as
a spirit, revealing that he had once been a good person. Resurrected,
he recovers his original virtue. A chronological recapitulation of those
events at the level of plot would go as follows: exemplary husband and
father, boozer, corpse/spirit, resurrected and again righteous. Such
an interpretation of the film recalls previous thematic analyses, such
as Rune Waldekranz’s discussion of David’s metamorphosis. Rather
than saying anything totally new about Sjöström’s set of motifs, the
interpretation draws its sustenance from the style and purely narrative
transmutations of Körkarlen.
Translated by Ken Schubert
Excerpt from Bo Florin (2003) Regi:Victor Sjöström = Directed byVictor Seastrom,
Stockholm: Cinemateket, Svenska Filminstitutet. Reprinted with permission.
1 Manuscript of informal reminiscences. 3. Swedish and American Film. C. Swedish
Film. Victor Sjöström’s archives, vol. 7, Swedish Film Institute.
2 Most of Svenska Bio’s early films were destroyed in a 1941 fire at the temporary
archives in Vinterviken.
3 Manuscript of informal reminiscences. 3, op. cit.
4 Official comments of the censorship board 5.797.
5 Dagens Nyheter 3 November 1913, Stockholms Dagblad 6 November 1913.
6 Dagens Nyheter 5 November 1913.
7 Stockholms Dagblad 10 November 1913, 11 November 1913.
8 Dagens Nyheter 7 March 1916.
9 Dagens Nyheter 30 January 1917.
10 Stockholms Tidningen, Stockholms Dagblad, Aftonbladet, 30 January 1917.
11 Terje Vigen, Script II, Swedish Film Institute.
12 The concept of the Golden Age is treated at length in Bo Florin (1997), Den
nationella stilen: Studier i den svenska filmens guldålder, Stockholm: Aura förlag.
13 Filmjournalen 2, 1919, p. 30.
14 Manuscript of informal reminiscences. 3. op. cit.
15 Ibid.
ii. silent cinema
16 Robin Hood (Bengt Idestam-Almquist) (1939) Den svenska filmens drama: Sjöström
och Stiller, Stockholm: Åhlen & Söner, p. 196.
17 Rune Waldekranz (1985), Filmens historia: de första hundra åren, del 1, Pionjäråren.
Stockholm: Norstedt, p. 505.
chapter 10
Selma Lagerlöf
and Literary Adaptations
Leif Furhammar
No author, with the possible exception of Astrid Lindgren, has been
as important to Swedish cinema as Selma Lagerlöf. Even before there
was any feature film production in Sweden she became involved in the
cinematographic field.
In the spring of 1909, she and the recently appointed head of AB
Svenska Biografteatern (Svenska Bio) in Kristianstad, Charles Magnusson, were encouraged to make a film of Nils Holgersson. They were
not uninterested, but the author doubted the project’s feasibility and
submitted the matter to her advisor, the senior master Alfred Dalin
in Huskvarna, who belonged to the promoters of the book and felt
an almost paternal responsibility for Nils Holgersson. Dalin firmly dismissed it, with the words: ‘The mechanical images of various kinds do
not foster a sound growth of children’s imagination, but will hinder it
and dull it.’ Thus there would not be a Lagerlöf adaptation this time.
Instead two other well-known narratives, Fänrik Ståls sägner/‘Tales of
Ensign Stål’ (Carl Engdahl, 1910) and Värmlänningarne/‘The People
of Värmland’ (Carl Engdahl, 1910) were to be the first productions of
Svenska Bio during that summer.
The following year Lagerlöf, together with queen dowager Sofia
and an impressive number of other leading cultural figures, became a
shareholder in the recently started and promising limited film company
Victoria (named after the new queen). The contribution brought certain
benefits, for example that the company’s photographer in 1910 made a
reportage from her recently re-acquired estate MÃ¥rbacka, to be screened
in cinemas around the country.
There were several reasons for Lagerlöf to take an interest in film.
All technological novelties aroused her curiosity, and she realised that
ii. silent cinema
cinematography would gain in importance both in artistic and economic terms – but also that the combination of the two implied a
possible conflict; one that she would soon stand face to face with.
Her artistic integrity was strong, but not entirely incorruptible, and
she always needed money for MÃ¥rbacka. She also clearly understood
that the social merits of cinematography would not be found on an
aesthetic level only. ‘In itself I find that film is something valuable. I
have lived for a long time in small towns and in the countryside, and
I know that people there need this form of recreation, it hinders both
card games and drinking.’1
The Victoria company did not last long, but Magnusson and Svenska
Bio were successful and moved to modern studios in Stockholm where
two talented directors were trained: Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller.
In the middle of the 1910s the company steadily focused on artistic
quality in order to access the European market at a time when the
First World War had paralysed Continental film production. Nothing
proved more tempting than to include the world-famous author in that
strategy: artistic quality was seen as synonymous with literary quality.
Sjöström was the first to have gathered enough merits to facilitate
an approach to a Nobel Prize winner. In 1917 he had made his first
adaptation of highly regarded literature, Henrik Ibsen’s poem ‘Terje
Vigen’. There were rumours that Lagerlöf had seen the film and been
genuinely impressed. Sjöström took courage and made plans for an
adaptation of Tösen från Stormyrtorpet/The Girl from the Marsh Croft
(Victor Sjöström, 1917).
Why this work? one might ask. Perhaps because the narrative so well
balances the crowd-pleasing with the artistic; a simple melodramatic
story with fine psychological and moral turns and with room for quality
acting. This is also the work of Lagerlöf that most often has tempted
filmmakers abroad to make an adaptation.
With both reverence and anguish Sjöström travelled to Falun in
order to read his manuscript to the author. He was surprised, almost
a bit offended, when he found that Lagerlöf paid most attention to
the spectacular action scenes in Terje Vigen/A Man There Was (Victor
Sjöström, 1917). But his reading went well; she was very pleased and
invited him to supper. Later, when she saw the finished film together with
Sjöström she was so touched that tears sparkled in her eyes. She would
later write that ‘It was indeed truly beautiful and very finely filmed’. She
thought that Lars Hanson and Karin Molander were best in their roles
swedish film
(not Greta Almroth in the title role, who was otherwise praised to the
skies, and identified with her role to such an extent that she never was
able to leave it). Tösen från Stormyrtorpet was a great success in Sweden
and became the film that launched Swedish film to an international
audience. Lagerlöf would have complete confidence in Sjöström.
Consequently, he could engage in a project of gigantic proportions:
adapting Jerusalem. A unique creative relationship developed. As a
director, Sjöström did not want to reduce the epic in order to focus
on the drama, as many others would have done. Instead, he wanted
to expand and visualise even such things that Lagerlöf had only hinted
at in words. She was of course flattered by his respect for the different
layers of her text, but almost became worried when Sjöström used two
films for just the prologue of the novel. Ingmarssönerna /Dawn of Love
(Victor Sjöström, 1919) is among the key works within the period,
usually called the Golden Age of Swedish silent cinema, and it contains
sequences of exceptional cinematographic originality.
The third film, Karin Ingmarsdotter/God’s Way (Victor Sjöström,
1920), did not do equally well. Now the author’s misgivings would
turn out to be justified. ‘I know, however, that I wondered if this would
catch on with the general audience. There was too much that was not
entertaining. I also found Karin herself to be very boring. There should
have been a great actress for that role.’ The actress that she so drastically
dismisses is Tora Terje. Critics were also reserved in their reception, and
Sjöström deferred the Jerusalem project for the time being.
At the outset Lagerlöf received a fee of 2,000 crowns for each film,
plus two öre per metre of each sold copy. Being a businesswoman, she
was content with this. But when a German company made a generous
offer, she wrote to Magnusson saying that she would very much like
to continue collaborating with Svenska Bio (as a matter of precaution
she also asked for advice regarding what fee she should demand from
the Germans). Magnusson was more than willing to sign a long-term
contract, with one Lagerlöf adaptation each year for five years. The fee
was quickly raised to 10,000 crowns for each film.
Sjöström continued with Körkarlen /Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness,
aka The Phantom Chariot or The Phantom Carriage (Victor Sjöström,
1921). As always, he travelled to her and read her the screenplay. ‘On
Friday Sjöström came here and read the film libretto for Körkarlen. It
was quite well made, and he himself was so touched, that his voice
trembled and he had tears in his eyes, as I had in mine.’ Sjöström, on
ii. silent cinema
the other hand, recalled a worrying silence after the reading, before
she asked the relieving question: ‘Perhaps the director would care for
schnapps?’ (The short silence inspired P. O. Enquist to write the drama
Bildmakarna, later adapted for television by Ingmar Bergman.) She
was actually very touched by the reading and played an active role in
the further development of the screenplay. The finished film was to be
sufficiently dazzling to add lustre even to a Nobel Prize winner.
Stiller also made a good impression initially (‘fine and pleasant like
all young actors’). After the ceremonial reading of the screenplay she
agreed to let him direct Herr Arnes pengar/The Treasure of Arne (Mauritz Stiller, 1919). It turned out to be an absolutely brilliant film. She
was happy about the result (even though she would have preferred to
see Harriet Bosse rather than Mary Johnson in the role of Elsalill) and
particularly pleased that each intertitle was taken from her novel word
for word. However, a minor self-indulgent decision by Stiller should
have made her suspicious. He changed the title of the book from ‘penningar’ to ‘pengar’.
After this, Stiller wanted to film her novel En herrgårdssägen. But
this time the screenplay was so different from her story and intentions
that she resolutely said no. Stiller was alternately stubborn and humble.
Eventually he resorted to blackmail. In May 1922 Lagerlöf writes to
Valborg Olander:
Stiller came here last Sunday and I fell short as I always do. Not to
the extent, however, that I in any respect changed my opinion. But
for entirely economical reasons I could not have my will. These new
directors, Sjöström and Stiller have a difficult financial situation … and
therefore they set their hope on this rubbish. If I were to say no, they
both declare that they would have to cancel their attempts. All their
employees at RÃ¥sunda (100 persons) would starve, and they themselves
would become bankrupt and seek employment abroad … Were they
to have a success with a single film, which would become popular out
there, they would forever be saved, and they would continue creating
good works of art again! Well, since I did not have the courage to be
responsible for people’s ruin, I gave in. But the film is not to be called
En herrgårdssägen and they will have to announce that only the idea
comes from my novel.
The film was entitled Gunnar Hedes saga /‘The Story of Gunnar Hede’
(Mauritz Stiller, 1923). Sjöström and Stiller were really in trouble. After
swedish film
the war the good state of the market ended, and both actually chose to
move abroad when the resources ran short at home.
Lagerlöf was to regret her reasonableness. Stiller’s boldness turned
out to be ideological rather than based on temporary difficulties. He
maintained that filmic art had the right to develop its own functions
and means of expression, rather than just fawn on literature. With these
noble intentions he set about working with Gösta Berlings saga /The
Atonement of Gosta Berling (Mauritz Stiller, 1924), and when he realised his own filmic dramatisations against her will, she felt completely
deceived. The provocation caused a rupture: ‘But now, when I realise
that you consider that the novel should merely be a source of inspiration, and that the material should be recast as something entirely new
and exclusively intended for the film, then I sincerely and firmly must
state that I can no longer take part in this.’
When Sjöström and Stiller had emigrated, others would have to
take care of the remaining parts of the Jerusalem project. New film
producers and directors that she had little respect for were to make
Ingmarsarvet/‘Ingmar’s Inheritance’ (Gustaf Molander, 1925) and
Till Österland /‘To the Orient’ (Gustaf Molander, 1926). ‘They are
calm and decent men, these directors, they do not possess the genius
of Sjöström or Stiller’s urge for marketing, and their works are also
safe and average.’ But she is still receiving a decent fee. ‘Imagine that
Hemberg had brought money and paid 20,000 crowns in cash in onethousand-crown notes.’
Once more she had to turn out and lend the troubled film company a helping hand. In Ingmarssönerna /‘The Sons of Ingmar’ (Victor
Sjöström, 1919) there is a highly dramatic shipwreck that the censors
at Statens Biografbyrå, the National Board of Film Censors, wanted to
cut. In a letter to its board, producer Oscar Hemberg maintained that
Dr Lagerlöf opposed cuts and considered the sequence psychologically
and dramatically necessary for the drama. The censors obliged, but only
very reluctantly: ‘Since she appears to shoulder the moral responsibility,
we have for this reason found that we can shoulder the formal one.’
Not even the censorship board would engage in a fight with Lagerlöf.
Gustaf Molander was the one who primarily would be asked to
continue Sjöström’s and Stiller’s work. He was also the film company’s
chief negotiator with Lagerlöf, and someone she did not like. ‘Molander has just left. He is a remarkably dead and uninteresting character,
although he is such a fine person. The matter concerned that which
ii. silent cinema
you had just told me about, to ask whether I had any good ideas in
stock, which I could pass on to them … He was not very informed
about my novels, I must say … Still, I suppose that they will plump
for Charlotte. He was served lunch and given a ride to Sunne, never
said a word either about the place or the food. Miss Lundgren thought
that he was a dry stick.’2
Charlotte Löwensköld /Charlotte Lowenskoeld (Gustaf Molander,
1930) was to be the next Lagerlöf project and one of the company’s
first attempts at making a sound film. It was a complete disaster. After
this the company would not dare adapting anything by Lagerlöf until
after her death.
Translated by Anders Marklund
This article was originally published as Leif Furhammar, ‘Filmen är en god
sak’, Dagens Nyheter, 16 March, 2008.
1 Letter to Kaja Hansen, 28 May 1924.
2 Letter to Valborg Olander 10 March 1928.
The quoted letters are mainly from the following editions selected by by Ying ToijerNilsson:
Brev i urval. 2 1903–1940. Lund, 1969
Du lär Dig att bli fri. Selma Lagerlöf skriver till Sophie Elkan. Stockholm, 1992.
En riktig författarhustru. Selma Lagerlöf skriver till Valborg Olander. Stockholm, 2006.
chapter 11
Travellers as a Threat
in Swedish Film in the 1920s
Tommy Gustafsson
When Swedish film historian Leif Furhammar asks why the fear of
the tattare (travellers) is represented in numerous films in 1924, he is
unable deliver an adequate answer.1
However, the answer can be found
in the period’s historical context, and once again it has little to do with
an innocent evocation of the rashness of the times:
These tattare often have a piquant appearance, at least in youth, and are
furthermore shrewd and scheming. Regardless of their dubious reputation and way of living, they are, because of their appearance, noticed
and sometimes sought-after by this country’s domestic youth. Selfishly,
the former exploit this fact and some legitimate and illegitimate liaisons
are the result, and thus gypsy and tattare blood trickle into one Swedish
family after another. Such descendents are generally unbalanced when
it comes to temperament, and they bring about dissension and damage
in all places, not only within the family but also in society as a whole.2
These words could have been lifted from a Swedish manual for screenwriting, concerning how to use travellers as a dramatic element in the
1920s. Of the eleven films produced that included travellers in the plot,
seven dramatised the threat of miscegenation. However, the extract does
not belong in a manual, but originates from a scientific collection of
texts entitled Rasfrågor i modern belysning/‘A Modern Take on Questions
of Race’. With the films as a cultural key, one can figure out that the
neutral ‘youth’ in the quote actually signified young Swedish men and
that tattare signified young women who attracted these young Swedes
with their stunning looks.
American scholar Rochelle Wright states that the tattare were portrayed as dark-haired, dirty, immoral and unkempt in Swedish film in
ii. silent cinema
the 1940s and 1950s. They represented a disturbing element which
threatened the social order and, consequently, their defeat or exclusion became a necessary feature. What is more, tattare only appeared
in rural melodramas where loyalty towards the earth (soil), the farm,
and traditions laid the foundation for a strong conservative conception
of the world with little understanding for social change; something
which underpinned racism and xenophobia. The stories in these films
of the forties and fifties were mostly set in a distant past, and Wright
claims that the historical perspective therefore worked to dissociate
the narratives. In addition, Wright draws the conclusion that the more
enlightened Swede had the ability to distance him- or herself from these
stereotypical portrayals of the tattare since they belonged to the sphere
of popular culture, while the uneducated seemingly accepted the same
portrayals. However, according to contemporary reviews the acceptance
of the tattare stereotype was more or less unanimous.3
A comparison of tattare films made in the 1940s and 1950s with
those of the 1920s reveals that the stereotypical image of travellers had
more or less stayed the same, and that tattare only appeared in rural
milieus, in what were then called bondefilmer (peasant films). The big
difference, though, is that in the films of the 1920s, with a few rare
exceptions, the narrative took place in Swedish society of the same
decade – a relationship that underlines the association between the fear
of tattare and the contemporaneous fear of miscegenation.
In the 1920s, tattare and gypsies were used synonymously in Sweden.
These ethnic groups were mentioned in a Swedish manuscript for the
first time in 1512, and in spite of the fact that there are family ties
between Swedish travellers and Finnish Romani, they do not constitute
a homogeneous group. Certain cultural, social, and language similarities
exist between the two groups, and apparently the travelling per se comprises the common link since travellers and Romani were outcasts who,
with great certainty, established contacts on the road and at markets all
around Sweden. While travellers/Romani were perceived as a separate
race in the 1920s, in the 1950s they were viewed as a socio-economic
category with backgrounds as stigmatised executioners and soldiers;
something which in the 1970s turned into the notion that the tattare
had never even existed as an ethnic group. The word tattare was now
perceived as an umbrella term for Swedes who had been situated at the
bottom of society. Today travellers/Romani are recognised as belonging
to an ethnic national minority group, as Romani speakers, in Sweden.4
swedish film
The presence of ideas of eugenics in Swedish films in the 1920s was
preceded by a long prehistory of persecution, but was also followed
by an equally dark history of forced custody of children, sterilizations,
and compulsory internment with cultural reprogramming of travellers;
a practice that mainly occurred in Sweden between 1935 and 1975.5
Besides the existence of the Race Biological Institute in Uppsala, and
its dubious activities, there is also another very distinct reason why so
many films at the beginning of the 1920s harboured the tattare stereotype. In 1922, the parish registrar’s offices in Sweden commenced an
inventory which claimed that more than 2,500 tattare and gypsies lived
in the country. In the same year the police authority conducted its own
inventory and now the figure was 1,800 people. These two inventories
received great attention in the press, causing debate, which explains
why the contemporaneous film industry exploited the subject at this
precise moment in time. The fact that the parish registrar’s offices and
the police authority arrived at two completely different estimates is
interesting in itself and can be explained by the arbitrariness of these
two institutions’ criteria when it came to how to define tattare, since
no decisive factors existed.6
Despite the fact that the two inventories demonstrated that the actual
number of tattare was minuscule – or on a level that could not reasonably affect the ‘Swedish race’ – this became an issue. Consequently,
this non-issue was blown up out of all proportion, thereby creating
awareness of an outcast group which resulted in the transformation
of travellers from being perceived as minority outcasts in an old rural
society to being portrayed a major threat by the modern mass media.
This involved numerous unfavourable depictions in newspapers, scientific publications, books and films.
Tattare in Films: Hot-Blooded Femme Fatales…
In the 1920s, tattare and gypsy were used synonymously. I will therefore
keep the original terms since all the films but two are set in Swedish
environments and deal with Swedish travellers. The exceptions are the
exotic use of a gypsy orchestra in Gyurkovicsarna /‘The Gyurkovics Family’ (John W. Brunius, 1920), and of a gypsy prostitute in Karl XII /Karl
XII (John W. Brunius, 1925), in both cases to give the impression that
the films are set abroad.
Kvarnen /‘The Windmill’ (John W. Brunius, 1921) was the first
ii. silent cinema
film to deal with the threat of miscegenation in the 1920s. The film
uses an explicit division between good and evil, where the evil force
is represented by the demonic tattare woman Lise (Klara Kjellblad).
Kvarnen tells the story of Jacob (Anders de Wahl), a miller who early in
the film promises his dying wife not to remarry against the will of their
son, Hans. Jacob is nevertheless noticeably drawn to Lise, the farm’s
maid, as is the farm-hand. The son, in turn, hates Lise and is more
affectionate towards the forester’s pure-hearted and sweet sister, Anna.
Kvarnen’s rendering of good versus evil takes place on two levels.
First, with an overt symbolism the filmmakers let a black cat named
Pilatus (Pilate) follow Lise wherever she goes, while Anna, on the other
hand, is followed by a tame roe deer as a symbol for the good. Second,
the dark-haired Lise is portrayed as a sexually alluring woman with
earrings and unbuttoned blouses where we are able to get a glimpse
of seductively bare shoulders and even cleavage. The blonde Anna, on
the other hand, is portrayed as a fairy-tale-like and innocent character
throughout the film.
Lise is introduced as she kicks the son’s dog. When he objects, Lise
just laughs in his face. Kvarnen then goes on and crosscuts between the
dying wife’s sickbed and the farm-hand’s quarters, where he is fondling
Lise, who turns him away with a favourable giggle. The farm-hand
points out that she should not be so cheeky given that she will soon be
the mistress of the farm. He asks her if there possibly could be a future
for them if he is able to save enough money to buy a small windmill.
Lise firmly rejects the offer, as she will not be satisfied with anything
less than a ‘Dutch’ windmill.
Already at an early stage Lisa is characterised by traits such as meanness, promiscuity, and greed. The main male characters, Jacob and
the farm-hand, are totally unable to resist her attractive force, soaked
in sex. The masculine ideal of continence just seems to wither away
when it comes in contact with the beautiful female tattare. Despite his
promise, Jacob is resentful toward Lise’s and the farm-hand’s fling and
he jealously observes their activities. When the wife finally dies, the
filmmakers let us see the triumphant Lise laughing outside the window.
Thereafter the months pass by and eventually Jacob takes notice of
Anna, aided by the son’s approval of her. Lise has an aversion to this
development. Had it not been for ‘that stupid kid’s sake’, she would
already be married to Jacob, an inter-title lets us know.
One day Lise’s brother, Peer (Nils Lundell), visits, and via his intro-
swedish film
duction evil is once again literally juxtaposed against good. The scene
starts with a medium shot of Peer seated at a table, smoking. He is dirty,
unshaven, and wears greyish, worn clothes. The camera then tracks back,
revealing the rest of the farm’s inhabitants – all dressed in white, thus
achieving the desired contrast. Peer, we get to know, is a basket-maker
who doubles as a poacher. Lise gives him the devilish assignment of
shooting Anna’s tame roe deer, which he also does – the sole dramatic
purpose being to underline the tattare’s inherent malevolence.
Later, Lise visits her family, who live in a ramshackle house. Peer
is there, but also a whole crowd of longhaired and scruffy sisters who
eagerly welcome Lise. Inside the house, Lise’s mother lies in bed ill,
and when Lise starts to unpack all the presents that she has brought
with her, the mother tells her: ‘And all of that you have been able to
pick up at the windmill. Yes, you are truly a talented daughter, little
Lise!’ This scene thus has a twofold function. First, it illustrates the
common notion that ‘lower races’ were more fertile than ‘Swedes’; a
manifestation of a threatening horde metaphor often used to create a
dichotomy between ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ cultures.7
Second, Lise is
commended by the mother for stealing, thus underpinning the notion
that the tattare were thieves by nature.
One night Lise uses her scheming skills to engineer being alone with
Jacob in the house. Lise lies in her sofa-bed while a sexually aroused
Jacob wanders about in the next room. Lise hears him and comes out
only half-dressed. Jacob gives in and tries to embrace her, but Lise breaks
free and runs back to her room, pretending to be scared. Behind the
closed door she laughs triumphantly at the same time that Jacob pleads
with her to come out. All of a sudden Lise opens the door and comes
out fully dressed. Sobbing, she threatens to leave the farm at once.
Upon hearing this, Jacob instantly promises to marry her. With this
Lise has defeated the continent man, which also means that the threat
of miscegenation is about to be realised. However, in accordance with
convention the film cannot allow this relationship to be fulfilled. The
dilemma is also swiftly resolved in the next scene where Jacob leaves
for an errand in town. Lise and the farm-hand take the opportunity to
have a final trist in the windmill. When Jacob unexpectedly returns he
becomes enraged with jealousy and manipulates the windmill’s millstone
so that it falls down and crushes the lovemaking couple.
As can be seen here, the narrative of Kvarnen is fairly consistent
with the extract taken from the collection of texts in Rasfrågor i modern
ii. silent cinema
belysning. The question, then, is whether this sharply stereotypical portrait of Lise won any sympathy from the Swedish reviewers. Did their
notion of the female tattare correspond with the image presented in
the film? Was it perceived as credible? Klara Kjellblad who played Lise
was, without a doubt, the one who was most praised in the reviews:
‘Her type is splendidly equipped for the role, and she has a great deal
of the appetite for life and saucy spitefulness’;8
and ‘Her dazzlingly,
primitive, and dark type really made the female tattare Lise come alive
in a superb way. She is surrounded by a hot sphere of lust as she roams
around with a smile for every man whom she happens to come across.’9
Nils Lundell’s minor role as the male tattare Peer was applauded as well
for its ‘fearless realism’.10
Only the female reviewer Tora Garm had reservations when it came
to Kjellblad’s interpretation of Lise. This was not, however, a stance
taken against the stereotyping per se, but rather the opposite: ‘She has
all the external requirements, strikingly dark and with a healthy, ample
bodily constitution. Nevertheless, she is as much a tattare maid at work
at a miller’s as she resembles a female tattare in the Oscar Theater’s ballet. She completely shines with cleanliness … despite the fact that she
does descend from a filthy ramshackle where she feels at home.11 The
keyword here is cleanness. The common belief12 that travellers were
dirty is explicitly used in Kvarnen, for example in the scenes where Lise
visits her home and when Peer is introduced. While the other, mostly
male, reviewers call attention to Lise’s hot-blooded sexuality, female
reviewer Tora Garm’s negative remarks concerned the fact that Lise was
too clean to stand out as a real tattare.
There is another deeply negative portrait of a female traveller in Swedish film in the 1920s. However, prior to that I want to mention three
films that depicted a variation on the theme with the female traveller
as a threat. In the films Grevarna på Svansta /‘The Counts at Svansta’
(Sigurd Wallén, 1924), Folket i Simlångsdalen/‘The People of the Simlång Valley’ (Theodor Berthels, 1924), and Där fyren blinkar/‘Where
the Lighthouse Flashes’ (Ivar Kåge, 1924) the female tattare leads have
been brought up by tattare. When the obligatory Swedish young male
then comes along and falls in love with the tattare girl, the problem
with miscegenation is highlighted in all of these films; a dilemma that
is subsequently solved with the same twist in the ending as the true
Swedish identity of these girls is revealed.13 Folket i Simlångsdalen and
Där fyren blinkar now only exist in fragments, while Grevarna på Svan-
swedish film
sta is still fully preserved. Since these three films were produced in the
same year it is not an unreasonable assertion that Grevarna på Svansta
represent all the films in answering the question of how this dilemma
was enacted. The first thing to point out is that the tattare girl in Grevarna på Svansta, Elina (Magda Holm), is not portrayed according to
the same stereotypical model as Lise in Kvarnen. Elina does not display
any sexual charisma, she is not greedy or thievish, and she does not
resemble anything like the common 1920s image of the female tattare,
i.e. with dark long hair, earrings, dirty, and inherent evilness. Elina is
instead portrayed as clean and kind-hearted. These visual traits, or lack
thereof, actually reveal her ‘true’ identity long before the film’s narrative does. In reviews, Magda Holm/Elina is also exclusively described
as ‘sweet and full of go’.14 Hence, the presence of the false tattare girl
in these films created a dramatic thrill nourished by Swedish society’s
hostile attitude towards miscegenation. At the same time these films
in turn nourished the same notions.
…and Blade-Wielding Male Rapists
Grevarna på Svansta was the fourth and last of the tattare films released
in 1924. This fact also reverberates in the reviews: ‘This year it appears
to be simply impossible to avoid tattare in Swedish film. Wherever you
turn you seem to stumble on them.’15 However, the dramatic function
of the false tattare girl did have a grimmer side to it. These sweet-hearted
and often blonde tattare girls had to be contrasted against ‘real’, mostly
male, tattare in order to stand out as Swedish. In Där fyren blinkar a
gang of tattare has the roles of pirates in the archipelago, and in Folket i
Simlångsdalen the tattare are accused of horse theft with the consequence
that the local Swedes go on the rampage against them. The tattare take
vengeance against their oppressors by kidnapping and trying to rape a
Swedish girl – and order is not restored until the rapist is killed.16 Here
the horde metaphor is put to use, and this effect was something that
the filmmakers spared no expense to achieve. The producers of Folket
i Simlångsdalen, for example, engaged ‘a company of fifty gypsies’ to
play the roles of tattare.
In Grevarna på Svansta, as well, a gypsy camp is shown where tattare
dance, play exotic music, and the tattare chief fights with a knife in the
shadowy light from the camp fire. In his memoirs, the film’s director,
Sigurd Wallén, provides an insight into how this scene was created:
ii. silent cinema
Despite ardent inquiries it was impossible to lay our hands on any
wash-proof [sic!] gypsies. However, at Maria Prästgård Street and on
Glasbruk Street there were other swarthy people living who could
pass as members of ‘the travelling people’. The wild chief himself was
played with unrestrained realism by actor Harry Roeck Hansen, a
characteristic that no one previously really had credited him with.18
Wallén’s belief that gypsies should be ‘swarthy’ is an excellent example
of how a filmmaker works so that the film matches the audience’s
horizon of expectations. This example also highlights the existence of
a conspicuous paradox, i.e. the filmmaker’s failure to find any ‘real’
gypsies who can be used in order to produce the illusion of a threatening horde. In relation to this, a third fact should be observed, namely
that practically all tattare in Swedish film in the 1920s were played by
ethnic Swedes. What we have here, then, is a variation of the American
use of the blackface, where white Americans imitated African-American
culture in a degrading manner. Hence, Swedish filmmakers imitated
an imagined traveller culture in an equivalent manner, and this even
worked to enhance the ‘truth’ about travellers since the stereotypical
image created in these films did not deviate from the common notion.
One of the reasons that ethnic Swedes could portray travellers with
such verisimilitude was of course the fact that the so-called race differences did not exist in reality, and that the tattare’s distinguishing
traits, such as evilness, promiscuity, and criminality, were nothing but
social constructions. A telling example of the closeness between what
was considered Swedish and non-Swedish is an anecdote, told by film
photographer Gustaf Bengsson, from when he was shooting a film in
the 1910s:
Berglund was a powerful gypsy chief, and the Karlsson sisters played
sweet gypsy girls in colourful dresses. We had put up our tent among
the ruins, but we had forgotten to apply for permission for filming. So,
one fine day the mayor himself turned up in all his might, accompanied
by a couple of police officers, and declared with a masterful voice that
we should clear off instantly. You see, we played the part of gypsies so
naturally that nobody could detect the difference.19
The first tattare film to be released in 1924, Trollebokungen/‘The King
of Trollebo’ (Gustaf Edgren), deals precisely with the danger that this
uncertain closeness could bring about. The film opens with the robbery
swedish film
and murder of an intoxicated horse dealer, committed by Tattar-Ante
(Ivar Kalling), who is eagerly encouraged to carry out this act by his
evil woman, Stava (Signe Rydberg-Eklöf). After this grim start TattarAnte changes his name to the Swedish-sounding Måns Gummesson,
and establishes himself as a farmer in the vast northern part of Sweden,
where he uses the money to create large holdings and immense power.
Visually, this identity swap is done by simply shaving off Tattar-Ante’s
characteristic, swarthy tattare facial hair, and replacing his dirty clothes
with new and clean ones – and all of a sudden he appears as a Swede
who no one suspects to be a tattare. Måns then marries another wellto-do farmer’s daughter, Inga-Britt, while ensuring Stava that this is just
an additional way to gain more money and land. MÃ¥ns and Inga-Britt
have a son, Sven, whom Stava jealously tries to kill. MÃ¥ns, however,
manages to prevent this and punishes Stava by expelling her from the
farm. Since she knows too much, she is nevertheless compensated
by MÃ¥ns by being appointed head of the local poorhouse, where she
wanders around looking wicked and treating the inmates badly.
Some years pass by and one day Sven returns home as a graduate of
law. In the meantime, MÃ¥ns has managed to obtain all land with the
exception of a small windmill owned by a poor miller. Now a complication emerges since Sven and Ingrid, the miller’s daughter, become
fond of each other. MÃ¥ns visits Stava and pays her money to commit
arson against the windmill. In this significant scene, the filmmakers let
the camera linger on both of their faces with the intention to showcase
just how the inner evil is mirrored in the external. When MÃ¥ns picks
up his wallet and hands over a pile of banknotes, Stava greedily accepts
them, presses them to her chest, and then counts them hastily with a
demonic smirk. Later the same evening Stava arranges things so that
both Sven and Ingrid are at the windmill when she torches it. Once
again the camera lingers on her grinning face, now more monstrous than
ever. Stava, however, gets her punishment as she slips in the windmill
and dies a horrific death.
In the meantime MÃ¥ns has been told that his son is trapped in the
burning windmill. He dashes there and rescues the two youngsters,
suffering fatal injuries in the process. Before he eventually dies he asks
for forgiveness, and gives his blessing on the young couple’s marriage.
Once more it is a female traveller who is the orchestrator of evil,
leading to misery. It is Stava, for example, who encourages Tattar-Ante
to commit murder in the opening of the film. A noticeable parallel
ii. silent cinema
is that male travellers are put into a similar weak position in relation
to women as ‘lazy’ black male characters were in Swedish film in the
1920s. Thus, this portrayal has the function of reducing their masculinity. Tattar-Ante is, furthermore, not able to conceal his ‘real’ inner self
since the Trollebokungen portrays him as a greedy tattare who constantly
relapses into his ‘natural’ behaviour. In the end, both he and Stava are
consequently excluded from the story.
But one predicament still remains as the film ends with the marriage
between Sven – who has tattare blood in him – and Ingrid, who is an
ethnic Swede. Sven, however, does not appear to have been affected by
his extraction, as he behaves as a reliable Swede should throughout the
film. What is more, the character of Sven is not given much space and
the filmmakers can by this decision have made the choice to downplay
the question of race. Nonetheless, an alternative explanation could be
Sven’s change of environment when attending law school, i.e. the belief
that Sven has been ‘civilized’, that is made Swedish, by his lengthy
absence. This in fact constitutes a bleak analogy with the actual cultural
reprogramming of travellers commenced in Sweden. Sven is ultimately
not pointed out as a tattare in any of the reviews.
Signe Rydberg-Eklöf’s creation of Stava was, however, bought lock,
stock and barrel by the collective body of reviewers as ‘suggestively
realistic’.20 ‘Signe Rydberg-Eklöf is pre-eminent as Stava, Tattare-Ante’s
woman who after his elevation to farmer king, becomes the ghost
from past days – when the knife rested loose in the sheath – and she
urges him to commit new crimes’.21 Also Ivan Kalling’s portrayal of
Tattar-Ante/Måns was received as ‘true and real’.22 ‘With great conscientiousness he has tried to create the tattare type, who, even after he has
reached a sound position, every so often unveils what kind of a man
he truly is’.23 Not one of the reviewers opposed the fact that these were
stereotypical, scurrilous portraits of travellers. On the contrary, some of
the reviewers actually complained about the fact that Ivan Kalling, like
Lise in Kvarnen, was not enough like a tattare should be – i.e. that the
inherent ‘race trait’ did not stand out sufficiently to make it credible.24
A mutual feature of nearly all these tattare films is that they can be
characterized as dramas. A drama signals a greater degree of seriousness
in comparison with, for example, comedies and as a consequence the
narrative content is accepted as more realistic. To a large extent Swedish
tattare films dealt with what was perceived as, through a contemporane-
swedish film
ous viewpoint, the problem of miscegenation, and these stereotypical
portraits were, in accordance with this, received as truthful. The very
few objections found in the reviews were not, moreover, aimed at the
stereotyping per se, but can instead be interpreted as criticism of the
failure of ethnic Swedish actors and actresses to recreate the inner and
outer image of the tattare according to the strong common notion in
Sweden in the 1920s; that is, as ‘inherently’ evil, dirty, promiscuous,
and criminal.
The scientific description of travellers in Rasfrågor i modern belysning warned explicitly that sexual relations between Swedes and tattare
would result in a deterioration of the ‘Swedish race’. Exactly the same
sexual connection was also used to represent the travellers’ gender in
films in the 1920s. The female tattare was beautiful and ‘surrounded
by a hot sphere of lust’, while the male tattare, mostly not portrayed
as attractive as the tattare women, threatened (white) Swedish women
as rapists. Both male and female tattare were exposed as carriers of
an inherent evil gene, which resulted in greed and criminality. The
potential threat that this represented was that this ‘race gene’ would
invade and take over the healthy ‘Swedish race’, a notion that was
exploited and, furthermore, performed as nothing other than a dramatic MacGuffin.
American historian George Mosse’s theory about the necessity of
countertypes in order to emphasise the qualities of modern masculinity25
also corresponds in a more accurate way with travellers than with the
stereotyping of black people in Swedish film in the 1920s. Travellers as
a group are linked to a chain of depraved qualities that implicitly work
to enhance an ideal Swedish masculinity. One problem with Mosse’s
theory, though, is that it seems to have forgotten a factor vital for the
creation of modern masculinity, namely women. In these films, Swedish
males appear as enormously weak in comparison to the sexually radiant
female tattare. The contemporaneous masculine ideal of continence
simply withers away, turning the ideal Swedish male into a spineless
and lascivious buffoon. The solution that these films presented was
to exclude the tattare women altogether, killing them off; a solution
which had its equivalent in the forced mass-sterilizations of travellers
that began in Sweden in the 1930s.
If the horde metaphor was only used as an exception when portraying
black people in Swedish film in this period, it was used more often in
relation to travellers, thus creating a paradox since the two contem-
ii. silent cinema
poraneous inventories clearly demonstrated that travellers/Romani
constituted a vanishingly small minority in Swedish society. This can,
however, be elucidated by the immense mass media snowballing effect
that, in particular, the Race Biological Institute in Uppsala initiated
with its blunt propaganda campaigns on the issue of race. The parallels
between the representations of black people and travellers should be
noted as well; for instance, that both male travellers and male black
characters were depicted as subordinated to women, but also the fact
that Swedish filmmakers used ethnically Swedish actors and actresses
to imitate an imagined traveller culture according to the same principle that the blackface was used to create stereotypes of black people
in American films.
Translated by Tommy Gustafsson
Excerpt from Tommy Gustafsson (2007), En fiende till civilisationen: manlighet,
genusrelationer, sexualitet och rasstereotyper i svensk filmkultur under 1920-talet,
Lund: Sekel.
1 Lars Åhlander, ed. (1982), Svensk filmografi. 2, 1920–1929, Stockholm: Svenska
filminstitutet, p. 12.
2 Arthur Thesleff (1919), ‘Zigenare och tattare’, in Herman Lundborg, ed., Rasfrågor
i modern belysning, Stockholm, p. 82.
3 Rochelle Wright (1998), TheVisibleWall. Jews and Other Ethnic Outsiders in Swedish
Film, Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Univ. Press, pp. 96–99, 124.
4 Bo Hazell (2002), Resandefolket. Från tattare till traveller, Stockholm: Ordfront,
pp. 7–10, 45–64.
5 For further reading on this subject, see Gunnar Broberg & Mattias Tydén (1991),
Oönskade i folkhemmet – rashygien och sterilisering i Sverige, Stockholm: Gidlund.
6 Hazell (2002), pp. 75–79.
7 To present the Other as a horde has been a recurrent metaphor; see Marilyn Lake
(2004), ‘Translating Needs Into Rights: The Discursive Imperative of the Australian
White Male’, in Stefan Dudnik, Karen Hagemann & John Tosh, eds., Masculinities
in Politics andWar: Gendering Modern History, Manchester & New York: Manchester
University Press, p. 200.
8 Quelqu’une [Märta Lindqvist], Svenska Dagbladet, 18 January 1921. See also Jens
Flik [Carl Björnberg], Nya Dagligt Allehanda, 18 January 1921.
9 M. N., Aftonbladet, 18 January 1921. See also Göteborgs-Posten, 15 January 1921.
10 For example, Masque [Tora Garm], Stockholms Dagblad, 18 January 1921 and
Quelqu’une [Märta Lindqvist], Svenska Dagbladet, 18 January 1921.
11 Masque [Tora Garm], Stockholms Dagblad, 18 January 1921.
swedish film
12 See, for example, the article, ‘Zigenare’ in Nya Dagligt Allehanda, 23 September
1928, where the author uses different synonyms and allusions of dirtiness, such as
‘which gypsy likes water?’, ‘shabby’, and ‘We were invited to sit on the red floralpatterned – and actually clean – feather beds.’
13 Svensk filmografi 2 (1982), pp. 224–227. There is also a short portrayal of a ‘false’
tattare girl in PÃ¥ kryss med Blixten/Cruising with the Lightning (Edvard Persson,
1927). Folket i Simlångsdalen was remade in 1948. See Wright (1998), pp. 102–108.
14 Marfa [Elsa Danielsson], Dagens Nyheter, 25 November 1924. See also Gvs [Herbert
Grevenius], Stockholms Dagblad, 25 November 1924.
15 Marfa [Elsa Danielsson], Dagens Nyheter, 25 November 1924.
16 Svensk filmografi 2 (1982), pp. 224–227.
17 ‘Zigenerskans sjuka barn’, Svensk filmtidning No. 10, 1924.
18 Sigurd Wallén, Revydags. Tystnad – tagning – kamera går (Stockholm 1944), pp.
19 ‘Zigenare och zebror. Film-Bengt berättar’, Biografägaren No. 15, 1928.
20 Max, Folkets Dagblad Politiken, 14 October 1924. See also Gvs [Herbert Grevenius],
Stockholms Dagblad, 14 October 1924, and Robin Hood [Bengt Idestam-Almqvist],
Stockholms-Tidningen, 14 October 1924.
21 Partner [Nils Horney], Social-Demokraten, 14 October 1924.
22 Marfa [Elsa Danielsson], Dagens Nyheter, 14 October 1924. See also Partner [Nils
Horney], Social-Demokraten, 14 October 1924.
23 Refil [Ragnar Lindqvist], Aftonbladet, 14 October 1924.
24 Gvs [Herbert Grevenius], Stockholms-Dagblad, 14 October 1924; Robin Hood
[Bengt Idestam-Almqvist], Stockholms-Tidningen, 14 October 1924; Henri [Valentin
Guido], Svenska Dagbladet, 14 October 1924.
25 George L. Mosse (1998), The Image of Man. The Creation of Modern Masculinity,
New York: Oxford Univ. Press, pp. 56–76.
genre cinema
Popular Cinema in the 1930s
chapter 12
Anders Marklund
In a short spoken prologue to the otherwise mainly silent film Konstgjorda
Svensson/‘Artificial Svensson’ (Gustaf Edgren, 1929), Fridolf Rhudin,
protagonist of the film and one of the greatest stars in Sweden at the
time, makes fun of this new invention – sound film – suggesting it is
only a craze that will not last: ‘It is well known that the art of cinema
stands at a crossroads. Will films be talking or silent? Should we stutter or remain silent? That is the question. … No, let us not talk about
this mess any longer. Let us move on to, or return to, the great, true,
silent art: Konstgjorda Svensson!’ Rhudin would, of course, soon be
proven wrong. After the great success of the first Swedish films using
sound in 1929, it was no longer a feasible alternative to make silent
films. After an initial transitional period, the new technology led to a
decade of large cinema audiences watching Swedish sound films and
to the establishment of a number of new producers responding to this
new demand. Three such companies that would remain important
in Swedish cinema during the following decades were Europa Film
(beginning production in 1931), Svensk Talfilm (1932) and Sandrews
(1939) – the first two would specialise in light, popular films, whereas
Sandrews would have a more varied and prestigious production.
Swedish films of the 1930s quickly earned a reputation as being of
particularly low quality and simple taste. At a debate in 1937 at the Stockholm Concert Hall, intellectuals such as the author Vilhelm Moberg were
highly critical of almost everything, but especially of the films deprecatingly known as Pilsnerfilmer (‘Pilsner films’) – slapstick farces with a lot
of beer-drinking. Pensionat paradiset/‘A Boarding House Named Paradise’
(Weyler Hildebrand, 1937), a fairly ordinary film, had the bad fortune of
iii. genre cinema
being a prime target in the discussion. Carl Anders Dymling, managing
director at Svensk Filmindustri, would later respond by stressing financial
concerns and the absurdity of slogans like ‘Don’t underestimate audience
taste! Don’t care about what the audience wants! Audiences should not
lead, they should be led! Film must educate taste!’ by arguing that ‘Film
production can not afford to overestimate audience taste or be guided by
worthy pedagogical principles. Film production must take the audience
into consideration, because it has to take financial realities into consideration. If it would not do this, the result would be that we rather soon
would not have any Swedish films to criticise!’1
Critical voices would be
somewhat calmed when a number of well-received films premiered in
the early 1940s, for example Rid i natt!/RideTonight! (Gustaf Molander,
1942) – an adaptation of Moberg’s novel – and Hets/Frenzy (Alf Sjöberg,
1944) – based on a script by Ingmar Bergman – and with a series of
social problem films beginning already in the mid 1930s, with films like
Valborgsmässoafton/Walpurgis Night (Gustaf Edgren, 1935), a melodramatic response to the alarmingly low fertility rates in Sweden at the time.
The 1930s saw a highly developed star system and well established
stereotypes. Some actors and actresses were able to move between genres
and roles, but most were typecast according to the needs of popular
genres, such as the use of Dagmar Ebbesen as a housekeeper or housewife, Edvard Persson as a good-humoured, often fatherly figure, Tutta
Rolf as a liberal-minded modern girl, and Rhudin as a slow-minded
but good-natured young man. Most of these stars were firmly tied to
a Swedish audience and difficult to imagine outside the provincial
film culture of the 1930s. Still, a few of them would leave Sweden for
careers abroad. In Hollywood, Ingrid Bergman would make a number
of classic films with directors like Alfred Hitchcock (and later with
Roberto Rossellini in Italy). In Germany, Zarah Leander and Kristina
Söderbaum were major stars before and during the Second World War.
Sweden sought to remain neutral during the war, and was fortunate
to avoid direct conflict. Still, the war could be sensed in many films.
Beredskapspojkar/‘Mobilization Boys’ (Sigurd Wallén, 1941) and other
military farces would stress good comradeship and the ability to confront
enemies’ (of unclear origin) threats and sabotage plans. Dramas like Lågor
i dunklet/‘Flames in the Gloom’ (Hasse Ekman, 1942) could include
a sabotage plot. Other films would prefer to look away from modern
society and instead place value on traditions and idyllic landscapes. Kalle
på Spången/‘Kalle’s Inn’ (Emil Lingheim, 1939) with Edvard Persson
swedish film
served this purpose, not only in Sweden but also in occupied Denmark,
where it played continuously at Nørreport cinema in Copenhagen for
well over a year. During the war the number of foreign films reaching
Sweden would be somewhat reduced, and among those that did arrive
some would face a politically sensitive and inconsistent censorship.
Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940), for example, would
not be screened until late in 1945, whereas German UFA propaganda
newsreels were screened almost until the end of the war.
Bengt Forslund’s text is part of a book about the members of the
Molander family, influential in Swedish cinema and theatre for several
decades. Here, Forslund writes about Gustaf Molander, who made a
great number of films in different genres between early 1920s and late
1950s, focusing on the melodramas he made in the 1930s. Several of
these films would be highly successful both with audiences and critics,
not least the films he made with Ingrid Bergman before she left for
Hollywood. Others of his melodramas would be costly failures, forcing
him to return to make a few comedies before he would get another
shot at making something more prestigious again.
As Per Olov Qvist’s article shows, a great variety of comedy forms
co-existed during the 1930s and together they would dominate the
box office. However, genre systems are always evolving. During the
decade both the popularity and the number of films within different
sub-genres would vary, and there would also be internal changes within
each genre. Qvist’s study makes clear that there are a number of causes
for changes within genres and genre systems – from technology to
demography – with one of the more interesting being genres’ need to
respond to changes in the surrounding society and world.
Against the background of Swedish mass emigration to America,
mainly between 1868 and 1914, Ann-Kristin Wallengren traces how
Swedish emigrants, and, more in general, America, have been represented
in Swedish films from early silent films until the 1950s. Drawing on a
wide range of examples, Wallengren is able to discern how markedly
the attitudes would change towards those who left Sweden in the hope
of a better life.
1 Carl Anders Dymling, Ragnar Allberg, Vilhelm Bryde & Birger Juberg, eds. (1944).
Svensk Filmindustri tjugufem år:en bok om filmproduktion och biografrörelse. Stockholm.
chapter 13
The Melodramas
of Gustaf Molander
Bengt Forslund
A melodrama is usually defined as a simple play with a sentimental
and/or thrilling plot. The melodramatic theatre had its breakthrough
in major cities in the 19th century, where its emotional and exciting
story – and its tendency to avoid complicated questions – made it the
most popular entertainment of its time. In the early 20th century it
was replaced by film, which could be mass produced and therefore less
expensive to screen and distribute. With the following technological
developments, special effects became better and more spectacular – a
development that is continuing in our century with the most extraordinary digital effects. Film melodrama has proven to be one of the
most viable film genres.
But during the first decades of filmmaking, the romantic melodrama
was predominant, even if Mauritz Stiller – with Molander as screenwriter – did his best to dramatize the story with, for example, burning
houses, treacherously breaking ice, and perilous rafting.
In Svensk filmografi the film producer and film historian Rune
Waldekranz has written insightful articles on three of Molander’s melodramas: Intermezzo /Intermezzo (Gustaf Molander, 1936), En kvinnas
ansikte/A Woman’s Face (Gustaf Molander, 1938) and En enda natt/
Only One Night (Gustaf Molander, 1939) – all with Ingrid Bergman
in the leading role. Here I quote the first paragraph, because what it
says is also true for the comedies:
Earlier Swedish cinema, that is cinema before the Second World War,
has extremely rarely been related to movements in international popular
cinema and because of this it has not been clearly recognised as being
part of a larger context, an established ideological pattern. Swedish
swedish film
film production of bygone days is usually described as having existed
in a glass globe, isolated from the outer world.
No, even if Molander rarely went to the cinema – according to his
son Jan – he did not live in isolation from the world. Early in his life
he was fascinated by film and saw many films then and in the early
1910s, during the golden age of primitive melodrama in both Danish
and Swedish cinema. He was also a child of the theatre and knew very
well that Thalia had many masks. Not even state-supported theatre
can survive without audience-pleasing comedies.
Thanks to his successful comedies he had a strong position at Svensk
Filmindustri (SF) in the middle of the 1930s and could now – slightly
tired of the monotonous genre – come up with own initiatives, and
Intermezzo would become the first of these films. He wrote it together
with Gösta Stevens, but to a great degree it was initiated by Molander,
who according to his own words had for a long time been thinking
about making a film about a violinist. When he was young he had
also played this instrument and dreamt about becoming a virtuoso,
and now, with the fine match of Gösta Ekman/Ingrid Bergman in
Swedenhielms/Swedenhielms (Gustaf Molander, 1935), he found the
right inspiration for the story, actually a rather unoriginal drama about
a man who falls in love with a young woman and for some time leaves
his wife and children.
That the man would find his way back to his family was obvious
in 1936. A traditional melodrama might very well contain tensions,
but never an unhappy ending. But then again, one can always discuss
what happiness is and for whom?
Anyway, the story is obviously a construction. Nevertheless it is
unusually well constructed with finely conceived characters, a skilfully
varied plot and with fine and detailed craftsmanship in both scenes
and scenery. Also contributing to the film’s quality is the lyrical cinematography of Åke Dahlqvist and the music – a more suitable choice
is inconceivable. Frühlingsrauschen is playing when the loving couple
meets, and Provost’s mildly sentimental Intermezzo is a well-chosen
leitmotif. It meant much for the success of the film – in a similar way
that Mozart’s 21st piano concerto would do for Bo Widerberg’s Elvira
Madigan/Elvira Madigan (Bo Widerberg, 1967).
I suspect that the main reason why Molander chose to make a
melodrama was that such a film – if handled correctly – would offer a
iii. genre cinema
better opportunity for nuanced characterization than a comedy, with its
established stock characters. In the adaptations of Hjalmar Bergman’s
comedies Swedenhielms and Dollar/Dollar (Gustaf Molander, 1938) it
had been possible to do this in some of the roles, but in this story all
the characters are very much alive, even if the story itself must be considered banal. But, after all, is not much in our lives also rather banal?
Gösta Ekman, who tended to exaggerate when he acted in films, is,
for example, unusually well-balanced as the touring violinist – besides,
a certain degree of mannerism was required for this role! – and the
love between him and his new accompanist, Ingrid Bergman, seems
believable, even considering the large age difference. There are also welldepicted supporting characters, such as the old friend Hugo Björne,
played by ‘Bullen’ Berglund, as his impresario, and the teenage son,
played with zest by a young Hasse Ekman.
It has been said that no director can fail if he has a good story and
good actors. Since Molander usually did well even with a mediocre
story and average actors it is not surprising that Intermezzo became his
second greatest success during the 1930s after Vi som går köksvägen/‘We
Who use the Servant’s Entrance’ (Gustaf Molander, 1932) – also noting
that the leitmotif would be the most played during the following year.
The film was soon exported, which few Swedish films were at this
time, and the foreign reviews were at least as positive towards the film
as the Swedish. In New York the film premiered at the prestigious
Fifth Avenue Playhouse in June 1937 and according to the New York
Herald Tribune:
Intermezzo is one of the best foreign films to have been screened. Each
succession of images is filled with a beautiful poetic intensity. … To
watch this film is like reading a novel, that you can not possibly let go
of before you have finished reading it. The cast is so perfect that one
feels that one knows the characters in real life.
And the leading trade magazine Variety wrote:
Intermezzo positions itself among the finest of the foreign films on the
repertoire this year. It is clear-sighted, full of emotions, and above all it
gives us Ingrid Bergman, a beautiful, talented actress. Miss Bergman’s
star is destined for Hollywood!
swedish film
Similar responses were heard when the film opened in Los Angeles. The
Daily News concluded that ‘The producers of Hollywood should join
forces in order to get Bergman to our country, if for no other reason
than to keep her away from Swedish films, which are becoming far
too good.’
The Hollywood moguls were indeed moving quickly, and the first was
David O. Selznick with The Prisoner of Zelda (John Cromwell, 1937)
and A Star is Born (William Wellman, 1937) to his credit, and Gone
with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939) in production. The latter, and
the facts that Bergman had had her first child and was under contract
for several roles in Sweden, delayed her journey to America. She did
not arrive until May 1939. By then it was already clear that her first
film would be an American remake of the film, and the filming, with
Leslie Howard in Gösta Ekman’s role, began immediately. The premiere
was as early as October. Swedish film had lost Bergman.
Molander might also have been lost. In some interviews – on the
occasion of his 50th birthday in November 1938 – it is evident that
Selznick originally had Molander in mind as the director of the American
version. ‘Selznick has already bought the screenplay, but they want to
produce it as soon as possible and I cannot imagine leaving Sweden
until sometime in the spring. After all, one does not leave Sweden just
like that – we’re not talking about tourism here – and I have many
things to prepare.’
They wanted to contract Molander for four films, should everything
go well, and if bad – or good – fortune would make the first film a
success it would mean that Gustaf Molander would be away from his
country for a long time. Leaving his roots behind, is how he sees it,
and this does not suit him now that he has established himself working at SF for 15 years, has children going to school and by all means
sticks to Sweden. Four films, America says, two films, no more, Mr
Molander replies just as stubbornly.
Molander would never make a film there, although he had ‘a very
good offer … But if I had been younger, I would probably have seized
this chance immediately, not least as a way to learn. But now I was 50
and I said no, something I initially regretted a bit, but that I am now
happy about.’
He also underlines, in these interviews, that he is tired of making
comedies, but that there is a shortage of screenplays and established
iii. genre cinema
authors willing to write directly for film, ‘really groundbreaking film
dramas. No one asks of a theatre director that he should stage a play
that does not exist. Who says that a film director should have to be a
poet and at the same time begin constructing a film without having a
finished screenplay?’
In another interview he admits: ‘To tell the truth, I am slightly fed
up with the so-called elegant comedies’, adding that ‘What I most of
all would like to do is to make a serious film in a middle-class setting,
my own environment, not an exclusive upper-class setting, and not
working-class or farming, which I do not master. One step in that direction was Swedenhielms and Intermezzo. If I only could get a screenplay,
written directly for film!’
When he gave this interview Molander had just finished filming
two productions in a row, En enda natt, filmed in autumn 1937, and
En kvinnas ansikte, shot in spring 1938. They had their premieres in
reverse order, the latter in October 1938, the former in March 1939.
This was perhaps because of Bergman, who thought that the screenplay
to En enda natt was ‘a piece of rubbish’ – an opinion one can easily
agree with – and that her role did not give her any chance to develop as
an actress. All she had to do was to be sweet, wise and attractive. Bergman wanted to show that she had a greater range, and instead wanted
the role as a blackmailer with a deformed face in a thriller based on
a French play. Gösta Stevens wrote both screenplays, with some help
from Stina Bergman on the French adaptation.
Ingrid Bergman had, after the offer from Hollywood, understood
how valuable she was and that she could make demands. She agreed
to make En enda natt only if she could also play Anna Holm in En
kvinnas ansikte, a role Svensk Filmindustri initially had planned to give
a less beautiful actress, because the audience certainly would not care
to see a deformed Ingrid Bergman? Yes, said Bergman, that is exactly
what they want, to see my face transformed.
Bergman would be proved right. Her role and interpretation in En
kvinnas ansikte were obviously better than in En enda natt and the film
was also a much greater success. But then again, it was a better film. It
was so good that Hollywood acquired the rights and let George Cukor
make an American version starring Joan Crawford, A Woman’s Face
(George Cukor, 1941).
What the two stories had in common was that they were very artificial, fairly unconvincing and – although this was done on purpose
swedish film
– distinctly melodramatic, this time in a negative sense. It is easy to
understand that Molander later complained about the lack of good
Swedish writers, writing directly for film.
En enda natt was based on a moralising Danish romantic novel about
a charming carousel attendant, who turns out to be the son of a count,
and his love for a cold young aristocratic lady, who agrees to be a wife
but not a mistress – a ‘minor distinction’, according to the woman,
that the virile man does not understand. He returns to his amusement
park, now as one of the owners, and the much warmer manageress.
The moral: birds of a feather flock together.
En kvinnas ansikte was based on a French play about a woman, in
the film called Anna Holm, whose face was deformed in an accident
and who wants to get revenge on everyone who has been more fortunate than she has by becoming the leader of a band that blackmails
unfaithful wives and husbands. By coincidence, a cuckolded husband
who happens to be a plastic surgeon discovers what she is doing. He
offers to help restore her face. The operation is successful and Anna
changes her ways and becomes a governess for a young boy at a farm in
Norrland, northern Sweden, but there she meets a man from her past,
who at first does not recognise her but later tries to make her push the
boy into the rapids so that he can get an inheritance and pay his debts.
Anna refuses and the man decides to do it himself during a sleigh ride.
Now Anna has to reveal the plan to the managing director of the mill,
who has fallen in love with her, and who, at the last moment, manages to get the boy out of the sleigh with the bolting horse. The villain
is killed and the managing director suffers a severe head injury, but
Anna’s surgeon saves his life. Anna now wants to make a clean break
with her earlier life and decides to leave with the divorced doctor, who
also wants to leave and travel to China as a doctor for the Red Cross.
Clearly melodramatic, but still a better and more rewarding story
than En enda natt, which today seems more like a doggerel than melodrama, not least because of its moralising tone.
Waldekranz believes that Molander was the one who initiated these
projects, but even though I have recounted the films’ stories in a slightly
ironic way, I believe it is more likely that the idea came from Karin
Swanström. She was the one who kept an eye on literature suitable
for adaptation and now, after the success with Intermezzo, she decided
to alternate between the two genres of comedy and melodrama. The
important thing was that it pleased the audience.
iii. genre cinema
And Molander, Stevens and Bergman were under contract. They
had to accept whatever the Madame wanted, and as I pointed out
regarding the comedies, if Molander was inspired, the result would be
good; if he was not and merely did what he had to do, it would still
turn out quite all right.
En enda natt is clearly made without inspiration – especially the
scenes in the mansions which Molander, and clearly also Bergman,
were passionately fed up with at this point – and the film is largely
unwatchable today. Exceptions are some of the scenes at the fairground,
which are lively and funny, not least the amusing fight between Aino
Taube and Marianne Löfgren.
En kvinnas ansikte is also dated. It appears too constructed, but
one can still notice that Molander was inspired by Bergman, who this
time appreciated her role, and that he was also pleased by the twisted
plot and its visually efficient scenes: the burglary, the disclosure, the
operation, and the racing sleighs.
As Waldekranz notes in his articles on these melodramas: ‘Sjöström’s
and Stiller’s adaptations of well-known novels by Lagerlöf had, in their
mixture of stern morality and spectacular drama, a certain similarity
with melodrama’, which tended to ‘neglect the literary content and
emphasise dramatic and visual effects’.
Above all Stiller had learnt to master similar effects – something that
annoyed Lagerlöf – and Molander, who had been working with Stiller,
had learnt from him. In this action melodrama those lessons came in
handy. The literary value was not such that it would be compromised
– and the exciting scenes helped in making the thriller more coherent.
Molander would have to be content with this and a few actors, above
all Bergman and Anders Henrikson.
Indeed, he had to be content with very little. After these melodramas
he could not make the middle-class everyday tragedy he wished to
make. Instead his next film would be another comedy with Tutta Rolf
and a number of songs, Ombyte förnöjer/‘Variation is the Spice of Life’
(Gustaf Molander, 1939). Molander must have found the title ironic.
Still, this time he could avoid upperclass romance. Rather, the film was
a tribute to petit bourgeois manners. Rolf plays an ordinary housewife,
who turns into a seductive vamp when the husband/composer loses
interest in her, and thus makes him fall in love with her again – and
makes their life happy. Critics found the film ‘elegant and sweet’, which
really says it all. As usual, it was based on a comedy, a German play
swedish film
called Ehe in Dosen, which was being filmed in Germany as well – the
very same year! Again, it may be suspected that Swanström had made
the decision, and that Svensk Filmindustri wanted to use Rolf one last
time before she joined her husband in Hollywood.
But after this film Molander could actually make a film of his own
choice – perhaps as a reward for the great profits his melodramas had
made. The project Molander initiated was an old dream of his, a film
he had wished to make for a long time, namely a biographic film about
the celebrated actress Emilie Högqvist, who around 1830 became the
crown prince’s mistress and had two children with him; a relationship
that had to end a few years later when the old Karl XIV died and the
crown prince became Oscar I. The problem was that the crown prince,
who had been married since the beginning of their relationship, could
by no means have a mistress when he became king, although the wife
had had to put up with the adultery and everyone was aware of the
relationship. Even a lack of morality must know its limits.
At this time Högqvist is at the peak of her career, her last role was
admired by everyone: Maria Stuart, the queen who had to leave her
country because she had chosen the ‘wrong’ lover. Högqvist also has
to go abroad with her two children. When she arrives in Italy she is ill
and dies soon afterwards, on 18 December 1846.
A melodrama should ideally have a happy ending. This story, for
the first time during the 1930s for Molander, had an unhappy ending – at least for the heroine – but otherwise the film did not lack
melodramatic and emotional situations, even though they were real
enough and reflected what had actually taken place. For Molander this
was a melodrama of the same kind as Intermezzo. And perhaps also as
the classic Swedish silent cinema with its fondness for costume films.
It is no wonder that he hired the most noted cinematographer of the
silent era, Julius Jaenzon, to shoot this film.
Unfortunately, even a desired project like this one does not always
become what you had hoped for. Emelie Högqvist/‘Emelie Högqvist’
(Gustaf Molander, 1939) is not a good film, even though each detail
is well made. The film became the greatest financial failure for Svensk
Filmindustri during the 1930s, and Molander had to accept directing
standard pictures for a few years until he returned as a poetic filmmaker
with Striden går vidare/‘The Fight Continues’ (Gustaf Molander,1941).
But first things first. After all, Emelie Högqvist is not so bad that
nothing should be said about it. As already noted, it is an immensely
iii. genre cinema
well-made costume drama and Signe Hasso – who actually had her
breakthrough as Maria Stuart at Kungliga Teatern, the Royal Dramatic
Theatre, (director: Olof Molander) and got the role instead of Bergman,
whom Molander had had in mind – is just as loving and adorable in
the role as anyone could have hoped for, but she never expresses any
passion, and neither does Georg Rydberg as the crown prince, which is
peculiar. He is, after all, usually seen as one of our more passionate lovers.
This lack of passion is the film’s greatest problem. One senses that
Molander treated this royal and reality-based story with too much
respect. Only Sture Lagerwall as Emilie’s drunken brother dares act
differently. And only on a few occasions is there something sparkling
in Molander’s images: when the wife and the mistress meet, and in
the scene where Emilie, hearing tolling bells, understands that the old
king has died and that all is lost. Here the acting reveals real emotions.
Speaking about melodramas, one should recall Tytti Soila’s interesting
dissertation on stereotypes and female identity in Swedish melodramas
during the 1930s. Soila studies twelve female stereotypes: the Impish
Tomboy, the Virgin, the Girlfriend/the Sister, the Paramour/Bargirl, the
Brazen Hussy, the Love-Crazy Woman, the Serving Girl, the Kitchen
Boss, the Housekeeper, the Nag, the Upper-Class Lady, and the Haughty
Dragon. Each can be found in the films Molander made during the
1930s, but Soila concludes that he is almost alone in attempting to
change this pattern and that he is the most radical in doing so.
Above all Soila points out that Intermezzo and Kvinna utan ansikte
are films that ‘allow the articulation of female desire’ and where the
women ‘throughout the films retain their modest independence’ since
they ‘remain unmarried at the end of the film and appear to have work
of their own’, something that leads to ‘cracks in the patriarchal order’.
Soila also finds that Rolf, in Molander’s comedies, undermines convention; she is bolder and more independent, and Emelie Högqvist – a
film not studied by Soila – is also a portrait of a remarkably independent woman, who has a successful career, defies social conventions, and
goes her own way. It is thus fair to maintain that Molander is the most
important depicter of women in Swedish cinema during the 1930s –
and actually the only one before Ingmar Bergman.
There is no reason to take a closer look at all of Molander’s films.
All artists with a large output create works that are indifferent or less
well made. They are rightly forgotten – and the same can be seen in
literature, art, and music.
swedish film
The three following films by Molander can be put aside: the screwball comedy En, men ett lejon /‘One, but a Lion’ (Gustaf Molander,
1940), the polished school film Den ljusnande framtid /‘The Bright
Future’ (Gustaf Molander, 1941) – Alf Kjellin’s breakthrough (which
perhaps secured him the very similar role in Hets/Frenzy (Alf Sjöberg,
1944) – and the farce I natt eller aldrig/‘Tonight or never’ (Gustaf
Molander, 1941), with the popular comic duo Åke Söderblom and
Thor Modéen. They were all shot between March 1940 and February
1941. Three light-hearted films in eleven months in the shadow of the
Second World War. Talk about escapism!
But why not let a contemporaneous reviewer be heard; Ellen Liliedahl,
with the pseudonym Lill, the wise female critic of Svenska Dagbladet.
This is what she wrote about Den ljusnande framtid, with formulations
surprisingly relevant for many of Molander’s other films, among them
Emelie Högqvist:
It is warm, but lacks temper, surprises, bold ideas, and acute dramatic
situations. Therefore its charms remain moderate. But still it does have
some charms, in the loving atmosphere surrounding the film’s persons,
in its spirit of wisdom and nobility. These are still seldom seen qualities
in Swedish productions and even if they today may not lead to great
successes, they are still met with full and grateful appreciation by a
very large part of the audience.
The loyal Molander never said anything about this, but he understood
the criticism and must have felt that this would have to end. During the
following six years he makes five of his best films, all with temper and
dramatic scenes. By then Svensk Filmindustri had a new management.
The board had replaced Olof Andersson with the head of the Swedish
Radio and Shakespeare expert Carl Anders Dymling, Victor Sjöström
had entered as artistic leader and Molander’s son, Harald Molander,
had succeeded Stellan Claesson as production manager.
Translated by Anders Marklund
Abridged excerpt from Bengt Forslund (2003), Molander, Molander, Molander:
en släktkrönika med tonvikt på Gustaf och Olof Molander, film- och teaterlegender
under ett halvt sekel, Stockholm: Carlssons.
chapter 14
The 1930s’ Folklustspel
and Film Farce
Per Olov Qvist
The Comic Genres
The comic genres undoubtedly made an imprint on the 1930s. At least,
this is true in sheer numbers and is perhaps something that has made
an imprint on the image of the 1930s nowadays. However, regarding
the audience’s predilections, the importance of the comedies should
not be overestimated. Rather, one can ask oneself whether it is not the
decades of the 1970s and 1980s that display a stronger hegemony for
the film comedy.1
Roughly seventy per cent of the 1930s’ films belong to either one
of the comic genres. Far from all of these were any larger audience
sensations. This applies, for instance, to the farce, which dominated
numerically during the latter part of the decade. Considering the film
season of 1936 /37, when the farce is plentiful on the repertoire, one
finds that the number of cinema-goers is highly variable. In Leif Furhammar’s investigation of the cinematic preferences of the Stockholm
public, the farces can be found along the entire scale, from top to
bottom. At the top there are audience attractions such as the military
farce 65, 66 och jag/‘65, 66 and I’ (Anders Henrikson, 1936), and Adolf
Jahr films such as Stackars miljonärer/‘Poor Millionaires’ (Tancred
Ibsen & Ragnar Arvedson, 1936), Adolf Armstarke/‘Adolf Strongarm’
(Sigurd Wallén, 1937) and Spöket på Bragehus/‘The Ghost of Bragehus’ (Tancred Ibsen & Ragnar Arvedson, 1936). A couple of Anders
Henrikson’s farces are there too, like Annonsera!/‘Advertise!’ (Anders
Henrikson, 1936) and Släkten är värst/‘Unfriendly Relations’ (Anders
Henrikson, 1936). Nonetheless, there are also a number of films which
backfired completely. In that category we can find Familjen som var en
karusell/‘The Family that was a Carousel’ (Schamyl Bauman, 1936),
swedish film
Han, hon och pengarna /‘He, She and the Money’ (Anders Henrikson,
1936), Skeppsbrutne Max /‘Shipwrecked Max’ (Fritz Schulz, 1936),
Min svärmor – dansösen /‘My Mother-in-law – the Dancer’ (Thor
Brooks, 1936) and Bleka greven/‘The Pale Count’ (Gösta Rodin, 1937).
Even Pensionat Paradiset/‘A Boarding House Named Paradise’ (Weyler
Hildebrand, 1937), which has been depicted as a success by advertisements and by mythology, belongs in the bottom half of the scale and
it actually entailed an economic loss for the producer.2
The picture of the genre is not unambiguous. The comedy has to
be broken down into different subgenres, which provide quite distinct
phases in the development of the 1930s’ film. Thus, the traditional picture of the 1930s’ cinema as static and homogeneous has to be revised.
The breakdown into subgenres is in no way unproblematic and the
categories below have to be regarded as suggestions.3
Nevertheless, it
is a necessary operation in order for us to gain a better understanding
of the film of the 1930s as a depicter of its time, in that it – contrary
to common opinion – in a clear and distinct manner adapts to the
changes in society. The distinction between the various subgenres is
perhaps not only found on the level of film form, but also in the presumptive target audiences. For instance, it may be that the more coarse
popular comedy had a different audience than Svensk Filmindustri’s
sophisticated comedy.4
The first important subgenre is the folklustspel.
As a rule, the folklustspel is based on domestic material, in many cases picked up from
the repertoire of outdoor theatre (that, in turn, may be based on
international originals which have been nationalised to a great extent
in the adaptation). In many cases it is more accurate to speak about
folkskådespel (‘folk drama’), considering how many of their narratives
have been borrowed from melodrama. There is no winning definition
of the folklustspel, but there is a class dimension that to a large degree
separates it from other genres. Generally, it deals with life on the level
of the little people (workers, craftsmen, and peasants). In its classic
form, the folklustspel had its heyday in the beginning of the decade.
After that, its popularity decreased markedly but returned in a somewhat changed form and took a large share of the market in the last
two years of the 1930s.
The second more distinct group is what one might call the bourgeois
comedy. It differs from the former group first and foremost through
the choice of environment, class, and the degree of sophistication.
iii. genre cinema
These films deal with the upper middle-class, the bourgeoisie, or
pure upper-class. Judging from the number made, these films form a
relatively stable group during the whole of the 1930s, and their core
mostly consists of the salongskomedier (‘parlour comedies’) from Svensk
Filmindustri (in most cases directed by Gustaf Molander). During
the course of the 1930s, some products resembling folklustspel appear.
These might be called folkkomedier (‘folk comedies’). The appearance
of these borderline cases clearly indicates the development in general.
One could perhaps talk about a flow from below, mostly through
Schamyl Bauman’s intimate folkhemskomedier (‘Swedish welfare state
The third group is the farce. With these films, the direct dependence on international originals is the most apparent (when the comedy
borrows material from abroad, it is usually markedly nationalised and
adapted to Swedish circumstances). In the farce there is a dimension
that brings it closer to the folklustspel, contributing to the tendency
to place these two genres together. The farce contains a high degree
of crude humour or lack of sophistication. On the other hand, during the 1930s the farce tends to move into higher social spheres. An
important and completely overlooked differing element in comparison
with the folklustspel, which will be elaborated on more in the coming
paragraphs, is the farce as a carrier of ‘modernity’. It expresses the life
and pulse of modern society and is constructed around complications of a more breakneck kind than the folklustspel usually manages.
Furthermore, in the farce there is a high degree of ‘mechanisation’: a
use of stylised, mechanised features of licentiousness and parody, as
well as more extensive distancing than in other comic genres (even if
certain lustspel – like, for instance, Lördagskvällar/‘Saturday Evenings’
(Schamyl Bauman, 1933) – can contain some self-parodying features). The foreign influence is not restricted to original material, but
also includes style, borrowed from, for instance, American screwball
comedy. In the beginning of the 1930s – although the farce at this
time had quite a weak position – the German influence is striking,
especially through the imported scriptwriter Paul Merzbach. Farce is
at its strongest right after the mid-thirties, during the years 1936 and
1937, when its statistics virtually explode; something which shows in
the discussion of film at the time.
The importance of the comic genres in the 1930s has a lot to do with
the state of society and its change. Both the folklustspel and later the
swedish film
farce can be said to guard the heritage of an old culture of laughter.6
transformation of society during the decade, with states of transition
and crisis, made the need for comic rituals, what one might call ‘popular
festivities’ in filmic form, indispensable. To a large extent this has to do
with the ability to handle uncertainty and insecurity, conditioned by
the crises in the early part of the decade, as well as the sense of existing
in a stage of transition within society. By the utilization of techniques
such as exaggeration, incongruence, parody, crudeness (such as the
frequent use of invectives in the folklustspel), the feelings of darkness
and uncertainty were exposed to a liberating laughter. This often challenges the so-called established tastes and provokes controversy about
the comic genres. Moreover, the somewhat negative reactions reflect the
hierarchy of genres that has ruled during the past few hundred years.
However, although the established tastes usually attempt to suppress
tradition, this popular subculture survives these attacks, too. The change
within the tradition during the course of the decade is based on entirely
different premises.
The Recession and the Folklustspel
One might ask why there is such an increase in the number of filmic
lustspel in the early 1930s. One reason could be that the existing production companies changed their policies. From the production of
middlebrow prestige films (like in the case of Svensk Filmindustri), there
is a targeting of a working-class audience which results in films such as
Skepparkärlek /‘Skipper’s Love’ (Ivar Johansson, 1931) and Pojkarna på
Storholmen/‘The Boys of Storholmen’ (Sigurd Wallén, 1932).
More important, however, is the birth of a number of new production companies, facilitated by the development of cheaper sound-film
production. During the autumn of 1931 three new companies appeared,
besides the, until then, supreme Svensk Filmindustri and Svenska Paramount (the latter’s production was, by its choice of subject, exclusively
aimed at an upper- and middle-class audience).
The successes of Europa Film’s folklustspel Kärlek och landstorm/‘Love
and the Home Guard’ (John Lindlöf, 1931) and the comedy En kärleksnatt vid Öresund /‘A Night of Love by the Öresund’ (Sölve Cederstrand
& Ragnar Widestedt, 1931) from Svensk Ljudfilm (later Svea Film)
showed the way. Thereby the tone was also set for a wave of lustspel,
culminating during 1932. At that time more companies specialised in
iii. genre cinema
this type of film, like Publikfilm with the explicit intention of manufacturing ‘Swedish speaking and sound films in the lighter entertainment style and of so-called folksy character’.7
Publikfilm became a
very short-lived phenomenon, but in practice it was succeeded more
effectively by Gösta Sandin and his various versions of Svensk Talfilm;
a company that during the course of several decades would become the
folklighetsfabrik (‘folksy factory’) of Swedish film.
Of course, the grim times of the early 1930s were directly conducive
to this early wave of lustspel. This was observed and commented upon
by contemporaneous reviewers:
Swedish film has a slight problem gathering around the dramatic subjects at present. Instead, everything has to be so folksy, good-humoured
and merry on the screens. The value of the crown is dwindling; therefore apparently there is a need to uphold the good spirits for the film
producers as well as the audience.8
Robin Hood (Bengt Idestam-Almquist) made the more general comment that this type of film responded to an irrefutable need for such
entertainment in times like these and thus defended the justifiability
of these films.9
This opinion was shared by Cyrano (Torsten Flodén):
In these merciful or rather merciless times people do not go to the films
to cry, but to laugh. There are enough worries and grievances anyway,
without having to pay to see other people’s misery, the spectators seem
to argue. Maybe not so unfairly, by the way.10
The very same Cyrano brought up this issue in a slightly larger context. In a chronicle in the Sunday supplement of Dagens Nyheter, he
attempted to make a comparison of how different national cinemas
reflected the recession. With an exaggerated generalisation, he stated that
while Germany produced operettas and the US melodramas and horror
films, Sweden focused on the lustspel. It had been demonstrated that
the Swedish audience preferred Swedish films and that this had made
the wheels of production turn faster. But for that reason, public tastes
should not be underestimated: ‘The audience wants to laugh just now,
that is true – who does not want to have fun in these miserable times,
by the way? – but it will not laugh at anything for much longer.’11 It was
a fear that would be realised eventually. After the autumn of 1932 and
swedish film
the winter of 1933 the number of lustspel premieres decreased drastically and this may have had to do with a sense of over-consumption,
not only in regard to reviewers but also the audience.
The Style and Narrative of the Lustspel
Something which separates the lustspel from the other comic genres is
that it is strikingly stage-bound. Generally, it is based on often-performed
and proven plays, frequently brought from the outdoor theatres where
many of the actors and actresses also were recruited. Additionally, there
is an older heritage to fall back on, with Värmlänningarna or Albert
Engström’s folksy tales. Some of these plays already belonged in the
standard repertoire and which now were incorporated in the early
filmic wave of lustspel, for instance, Bröderna Östermans huskors/‘The
Österman Brothers’ Virago’, written by Oskar Wennersten in 1913,
filmed in 1925 (William Larsson) and now again in 1932 (Thure
Alfe); Ernst Fastbom’s Halta Lena och Vindögde Per/‘Lame Lena and
Walleyed Per’ from 1910, filmed in 1924 (Sigurd Wallén) and again
in 1933 (Erik Petschler), as well as Jag gifta mig – aldrig/‘I get Married? Never!’ from 1902 by the same author and filmed in 1932 (Erik
Berglund & Per Hugo). Furthermore, the two first-mentioned lustspel
would return during the 1940s in yet another adaptation for the screen,
which demonstrates their perennial character.
Perhaps more important as a deliverer of lustspel was someone from
a younger generation like Gideon Wahlberg, who not only wrote plays
(and many original screenplays) but also contributed as a popular actor
in several films. This multitasking proved attractive to the audience in
Kärlek och landstorm as well as in Söderkåkar/‘The Southsiders’ (Weyler
Hildebrand, 1932), based on a comparatively recently written lustspel
(premiered on the stage in 1930). Further on, Wahlberg’s role as an
actor would become the most important one, especially as Edvard
Persson’s sidekick in the so-called Larsson films. Other important
persons performing several tasks are, for instance, Sigurd Wallén and
Weyler Hildebrand.
It is not surprising, from a commercial viewpoint, that theatre plays
which had proved to have audience appeal were adapted for the screen.
In many cases, more or less the entire stage performance was used in the
screen adaptation with mostly the same cast. This happened with, for
instance, Augustas lilla felsteg/‘Augusta’s little Misstep’ (Thor Modéen,
iii. genre cinema
1933), with Rut Holm and Siegfried Fischer who had played in the stage
version which premiered in July 1931, or Bröderna Östermans huskors,
for which the director Alfe brought in Carl Duerell, Frida Sporrong
and Hugo Jacobsson from the stage version which had played seven
years earlier. Speaking of Sporrong in an interview, Alfe claimed that
experience and routine were important in a folklustspel and that she was
already properly trained in her role.12 A known example of how the stage
performance more directly preceded the film is Sympatiska Simon, in
which Fridolf Rhudin played for many hundreds of performances before
it was adapted for the screen with the title Simon i Backabo /‘Simon of
Backabo’ (Gustaf Edgren, 1934). As another example: Sigurd Wallén
played the main character in Kloka gubben /‘The Wise Old Man’ in
three different media: the theatre (1936), film (Sigurd Wallén, 1938),
and radio (1938).
Obviously, this was an advantage in itself, and the actors’ experience
of acting in direct contact with their audience proved to be a huge asset
for the ability of the films to reach a large audience (far from all of them
did, however). But like the case of other early sound films, one often
confined oneself to filming the stage performance more or less directly.
Consequently, the films are characterised by static solutions, where the
song numbers only work as some kind of entr’actes. The adaptations
relied on a hope that the charisma of the actors, which had worked
in the outdoor theatre, would work on film as well. A negative side
effect of this procedure was that the medium of film frequently had a
tendency to further exaggerate the crude devices in the acting which
most probably were necessary to reach the audience during outdoor
performances. Sometimes a clear distancing is noticeable in the acting
which can counter this side effect – for instance, Sigurd Wallén’s and
Dagmar Ebbesen’s loving squabble in Skepparkärlek, which works as
a kind of comment on the rest of the narrative in accordance with an
acting tradition with old and deep roots.
The stories usually deal with the life of the simple people, as a rule
within a more sketchily painted petit bourgeois environment, and in
the early films with an emphasised distance to people higher up in the
social hierarchy. However, this is not an absolute – there are occasions
when high and low can meet, as when Bengt Djurberg in Skepparkärlek
sings ‘Svarte Rudolf’ at the first-class restaurant Cosmopolite to an
enthusiastic party-dressed audience. This distance may also concern
examples of class pride within the own group. In Söderkåkar, for instance,
swedish film
such behaviour is punished accordingly. The petit bourgeois character
is reinforced by the use of mise-en-scène. An illustrative example of this
use can be observed in Fridolf i lejonkulan/‘Fridolf in the Lion’s Den’
(Weyler Hildebrand, 1933) where the securely petit bourgeois world
contrasts sharply with the dangerous circus environment. It is hardly
an exaggeration to suggest a certain degree of ‘idealization’ in the
depictions of outdoor environments and interiors in the folklustspel.
Consequently, this idealization was the starting point for an indignant
article in Ny Dag about söderkåkar (housing in south Stockholm) where
conditions were completely different to those in the film Söderkåkar,
which at that time was victorious in the cinemas.13
Together with this idealization go the symbols of a plentiful social
life, where partying and happiness form the base. Of course, these
elements played a large role for the audience, but they also became
the subject of unfavourable attention when the genre had begun to be
perceived as too predominant and the market saturated. One reviewer
characterised the average film in the following hostile way:
Some famous actors from farce and ‘lustspel’, a few cottages and alleys on the picturesque ‘southside’, one or maybe two so-called hit
songs, at least one hard liquor-smelling party outdoors and apart
from that a story as simple-minded as any as long as it ends with a
double engagement – see, there you have all ingredients – simple
and above all – cheap!14
There is another and overlooked dimension of this. An ethnocentrically tainted infatuation with nature and poetry belongs with this
constructed world of honesty, Swedishness, and a predilection for the
idyllic. They are sometimes bound together with the aid of musical
interludes, which often have little to do with the rest of the narrative.
For instance, Hildebrand by the lakeshore in Muntra musikanter/‘Jolly
Musicians’ (Weyler Hildebrand, 1932) or a song number such as ‘I
älskande hjärtan är det vår’ in Söderkåkar. Some films are entirely set
in idyllic landscapes, like for instance Lördagskvällar (Schamyl Bauman, 1933). Sometimes reviewers commented on this. In an otherwise
negative review, one critic wrote of Jag gifta mig – aldrig that: ‘A series
of beautiful images from the archipelago delights the tired eye’.15 Or:
‘there was plenty in the exteriors that provoked sweetly melancholic
thoughts about the summer which was raining away outside in the
iii. genre cinema
streets.’16 Typically, the romantic depiction of the archipelago was
perceived as the most sympathetic part of the otherwise panned Halta
Lena och Vindögde Per.
The folklustspel did not remain unchanged during the course of the
1930s. As early as during its first heyday, the director Ivar Johansson
predicted in an interview that there was already a tendency to move away
from the folklustspel towards films set in a more bourgeois working-class
environment where even comedy could have elbow room.17 Thus, the
decline which occurs does not necessarily have to do with the debate
about and criticism of the folklustspel which takes place at the end of
1932 and early 1933 – the so-called ‘Pilsner film’ debate. As can be
seen further on, the reviewers’ reactions to the genre were noticeably
ambivalent. In all likelihood the decline was due to the saturation of
the market, a not uncommon phenomenon in the context of genres.
The touches of self-parody in a late example such as Lördagskvällar,
premiering in August 1933, can be regarded as a sign of this saturation.
Since the traditional elements of the genre are so exaggeratedly carved
and so unambiguously designed, the film makes fun of the genre.
Accordingly, in Dagens Nyheter, the reviewer Jerome (Göran Traung)
recognised the film as more of a satire.18
Johansson’s prediction about a more bourgeois folklustspel is fulfilled
by those Edvard Persson films which are usually called the ‘Larsson’ films
from the mid-thirties: Flickorna från Gamla Stan/‘The Girls from the
Old Town’ (Schamyl Bauman, 1934), Kvinnorna kring Larsson/‘The
Women around Larsson’ (Schamyl Bauman, 1934), Tjocka släkten/Close
Relations (Sölve Cederstrand, 1935), and Larsson i andra giftet/‘SecondMarriage Larsson’ (Schamyl Bauman, 1935). This change is noticeable
in a somewhat symbolic manner in Kvinnorna kring Larsson, where the
beer bottle of the earlier films has been replaced by a bottle of wine.
Here, it is a question of moving one step upward on the social ladder.
Likewise, there is an aspiration to intimacy and to social broadening.
The class transgression and conciliatory features which have been quite
absent in earlier lustspel are now supporting elements. Meanwhile, the
touches of melodramatic narration are strengthened; something very
apparent in Kvinnorna kring Larsson, with its tragic motif of the exequestrian artist (Nils Wahlbom) who sees his daughter (Birgit Rosengren) but does not want to reveal his true identity and instead chooses
to disappear as unnoticed as he came. The Edvard Persson film which
was released after the ‘Larsson’ series, Våran pojke/‘Our Boy’ (Arne
swedish film
Bornebusch, 1936), steps right into the world of bourgeois melodrama
(in the film, Persson’s character takes care of an unwed mother and
her child). However, this was the least successful of Persson’s films of
the 1930s and something of a blind alley.19 Instead, his career took a
somewhat different and a lot more successful route, although this route
also united features of lustspel with pure melodrama.
In a lustspel like Grabbarna i 57:an /‘The Boys of No. 57’ (Ivar
Johansson, 1935), based on an almost newly written lustspel by Gideon
Wahlberg, the melodramatic is adapted in a manner reflecting its time.
For very good reasons one can claim that this is the first actual depiction of juvenile delinquency, which attracts more and more attention
during the course of the 1930s.
A certain kind of folklustspel is to be found continually during the
1930s, as well as during subsequent decades all the way to our times.
However, it is to a great degree a different folklustspel in the late 1930s
compared to the ones from early in the decade. In the late 1930s there
is a stronger tendency to depict a community which is broader than the
socially and geographically limited idylls which permeate the so-called
pilsnerfilm. Additionally, one can observe how the term pilsnerfilm
eventually disappears from reviews and cultural discussion. Instead, the
term becomes something used in order to describe the past. There are
actually writers who want to declare the term dead by the mid 1930s
and who instead maintain that there is a cultivated tone in modern
Swedish cinema.20
This change is noticeable, too, in the new production profile which
Europa Film assumes during the course of the 1930s. The simple
lustspel develops into something more in line with folkskådespel, with
quite a populist and ethnocentric image. Explaining the new company
policy, the director Bornebusch said in an interview that they did not
intend to abandon the policy of happiness, but that in the future, the
company would make ‘folklustspel in an advanced style’; that is, there
would be no lack of seriousness in the films.21 A film like Söder om
landsvägen/‘South of the Highway’ (Gideon Wahlberg, 1936) is a sign
of this development.
The ethnocentrism or neo-nationalism in the late 1930s is clearly
noticeable in Europa Film productions like Du gamla du fria /Thou
Old, Thou Free (Gunnar Olsson, 1938) or Vi på Solgläntan /‘We of
Sunny Glade’ (Gunnar Olsson, 1939). The latter film is already an
indication of the pure beredskapsfilm (the ‘readiness films’ made during
iii. genre cinema
the Second World War illustrating a notion that Sweden was militarily
prepared). From another company, one example of the changing lustspel is Friberg’s Goda vänner och trogna grannar/‘Good Friends and
Faithful Neighbours’ (Weyler Hildebrand, 1938), where the theme of
community has an evident character of the Swedish folkhem. Here we
see little of the social differences of before. On the contrary, there is
reconciliation across class boundaries, where the enemies of the community are located in the periphery. The same can be said of one of
the most obvious folkhemslustspel: Herr Husassistenten/‘Mr Housemaid’
(Ragnar Arvedson, 1939).
The Farce
The pure film farce is to a large extent an innovation of the 1930s.
Earlier, it had been more sparsely represented in Swedish film and nor
is there much of it during the earliest years of the 1930s. It is not until
the mid 1930s that it makes itself evident, and at that point it does so
with a vengeance.
Unlike the folklustspel it is inspired from outside, which is also reflected
in the fundamental manner in which it differs from that genre. Except
for the above-mentioned social difference – the farce belongs a few
steps higher up on the social ladder – the genres differ on the level of
narrative construction. The farce is based on complications of a very
different kind. Usually it deals with mistaken identities and problems
which are unfamiliar in the lustspel. Furthermore, the farce is enacted
at a faster pace. This has led to some speculation about mentality (with
the ostensibly phlegmatic Swedish national character as a starting
point), whereas many Swedish film farces have, with some right, been
perceived as rather unsuccessful, and all too often as complete failures.
Gustaf Edgren, who once in a while guest-starred in the genre
with somewhat better luck, claimed at one point that lustspel and the
farce had never been compatible with the Swedes, and that was why
he regarded his own contribution as a challenge.22 Another exception
during the 1930s was Anders Henrikson, who also generally received
praise for his ability to maintain a high tempo in the farces he performed
in (see, for instance, the reviews of Annonsera!). Henrikson, too, was
conscious that the farce required a capacity to construct this speed in
the narrative, which he explained in an interview:
swedish film
It soon became clear that this ‘outsider’, this for film only theoretically
educated theatre man discovered and remedied one of the deficiencies
in the Swedish cinema that the active film men had not yet been able
to fix – he speeded up the tempo. It is necessary, Anders Henrikson
says … that if you act in a stupid farce at such a breakneck speed, the
audience will never have time to notice how empty and void of spirit
the whole things is at the core. This is of course one of the reasons for
the charm of the American nonsense film.23
On the other hand, the farce is similar to the folklustspel in that the farce
is sometimes based on material that has been well-established on the
stage; 65, 66 och jag, for instance, is based on a Danish farce which was
performed practically simultaneously as the film was shown in cinemas.
The earliest farce originals often came from the south, from Denmark
and Germany, which was sometimes commented on. As Robin Hood
remarked about the farce Svärmor kommer/‘Mother-in-law’s Coming’
(Paul Merzbach, 1932): ‘it is not possible to go further in Germanisms
than Svärmor kommer does. Not even by the Germans themselves.’24 A
film such as Hustru för en dag/‘Wife for a Day’ (Gösta Rodin, 1933)
was also regarded as influenced by German tradition, although it was
based on a supposedly original manuscript by the highly prolific farce
writer Torsten Lundquist.25
The influence from the south continued during the latter part of the
1930s (especially in regard to Denmark), but eventually the American
influence on the Swedish film farce becomes more noticeable. This
applies no less to the screwball comedy, which had a few descendents
like, for instance, Sara lär sig folkvett/‘Sara Learns a Lesson’ (Gustaf
Molander, 1937). Stig Almqvist remarked on the conspicuous similarity
to films such as Libeled Lady (Jack Conway, 1936) and My Man Godfrey
(Gregory La Cava, 1936).26 The latter film had obviously influenced a
film like Adolf klarar skivan/‘Adolf Saves the Day’ (Adolf Jahr, 1938).
That the farce is so often based on material from abroad does not
mean that it lacks Swedish motifs and stereotypes. In one review, the
above-mentioned Sara lär sig folkvett was described as a parody of
Swedish film in the 1930s.27 However, the most manifest parody of
Swedishness occurs in that infamous Swedish farce of the 1930s, Pensionat Paradiset. The film is often wrongly described as a pilsnerfilm,
but that is not the case. Rather, the influences for the genre came from
the west, from the crazy farce, and the connection to the pilsnerfilm
iii. genre cinema
lies only in its farcical parodying of some of the dearest motifs of the
lustspel, first and foremost the theme of the inventive, socially upwardstriving working-class kid à la Sture Lagerwall in Smålänningar/‘The
People of Småland’ (Gösta Rodin, 1935). All of it is so clearly and so
obviously carried through that it is slightly surprising that the parodic
element drew so little attention. To a certain extent contemporaneous
critics noted this. Eveo (Erik William Olsson) claimed in his review that
every now and then one has to ‘pinch oneself in the arm to persuade
oneself that one is awake and not sunken into a nightmare, in which
you have to watch all those silly Swedish films that you have seen the
past seven, eight years.’28
It has been remarked that the storm against Pensionat Paradiset was
a coincidence because it did not diverge so much from other contemporaneous, haphazardly made farces with weak plots.29 To a certain
extent this may be true. The debate after the premiere of the film was
triggered by an increasing sense of saturation by all the farces that had
been released in late 1936. However, this attempt to create a Swedish
crazy farce still struck what one might call the ‘typically Swedish’ at
its roots, and therefore the reaction was so strong. The film works as
a distorting mirror of ethnocentric motifs such as the emancipation
project and the dream of the folkhem, and this in the most Swedish
of all surroundings: the archipelago. This distorted reflection might
have contributed in a subconscious way to arousing the feelings of
some people.
Not surprisingly, the strongest criticism thus came from the realm
of adult education, introduced by Carl Björkman in his long and
scathing Dagens Nyheter review. Björkman’s main point was that the
film ruined everything that adult education had attempted to build,
which to some extent can reinforce such an argument as the one above.
Björkman and many other reviewers reacted against other ‘un-Swedish’
sentiments in the film, especially what was perceived of as an intemperance in the expression, first and foremost epitomised by Modéen’s
uninhibited acting.
Nevertheless, it is something of a myth that the film was completely
slammed. There was certainly some condemnation from people within
adult education, like for instance in the temperance magazine Reformatorn.
30 Here a request to the branches of the temperance movement to
boycott the film was printed as well. Such an attempt was later made
in Vänersborg, but after some consideration the film was screened.
swedish film
Many other reviewers regarded the film as more of a trifle that was not
worth becoming enraged about. This is quite apparent in the reviews
from the rural papers, which came in the wake of the first and biggest
Translated by Mariah Larsson
Excerpt from Per Olov Qvist (1995), Folkhemmets bilder: modernisering, motstånd och mentalitet i den svenska 30-talsfilmen, Lund: Arkiv.
1 See, for instance, Olle Sjögren: ‘Den komiska strömkantringen’, Chaplin 180
(1982), which deals with the new wave of comedies during these years. Perhaps
the importance of Lasse Ã…berg should simply be noted here (with five films among
the eight most successful Swedish films during the past 15 years).
2 The figures for Pensionat Paradiset are included, as mentioned earlier, in Wivefilm’s
accounts. There is an accounted production cost of approximately 206,000 crowns,
while the sum of accounted income until 1939 was 194,000. The rentals at the
Swedish cinemas amounted to approximately 168,000, indicating an audience
number of about 400,000, which is below average for this year.
3 The literature about the comic genres is quite extensive. A certain guidance has
been found in Olle Sjögren’s doctoral thesis which consists of a very exhaustive
overview of the literature: Olle Sjögren, (1989), Lekmannen i skrattspegeln: en
kulturpsykologisk analys av tio manliga filmkomiker. Diss. Stockholm University,
Uppsala: Filmförlaget, p. 19.
4 When Svensk Filmindustri produced farces, it was generally done through the
subsidiary Fribergs, which in a well-known manner acted as a front for what the
mother company did not wish to be associated with.
5 The folklustspel was a popular Swedish theatre genre which flourished in the late
19th century and early 20th century when it was adapted as a film genre as well.
It can be compared with British ‘end of the pier’ shows, but is really a more or less
national genre.
6 Reading the farces and the lustspel from a Baktinian perspective is very rewarding
and informative, and contributes to a deeper understanding of certain features such
as festivities, parody, etc.
7 Stockholms-Tidningen, 1 March 1932.
8 Jerome, review, ‘Skepparkärlek’, Dagens Nyheter, 24 November 1931.
9 Robin Hood, ‘Kan vi göra lustspel i Sverige?’, Biografbladet 1932:2. See also the
part below in the text about the so-called ‘pilsner film debate’.
10 Cyrano, ‘Den svenska filmens facit’, Dagens Nyheter, 15 May 1932. Cf. Filmson,
who in his review of Lyckansgullgossar (Aftonbladet, 27 December 1932) appointed
this film as a resounding protest against the Depression.
11 Cyrano, ‘Som man vill ha det’, Dagens Nyheter, 17 July 1932.
12 -sch. ‘Piggt huskors får snart premiär’, Filmjournalen, 1932:38.
iii. genre cinema
13 ‘Söderkåkar… Stinna plånböcker, supkalas, kärlekskvitter och romantik i filmen.
Högalidsmat, tuberkulos, soptunnor, arbetslöshet och vägglöss i verkligheten.’
(‘Southside housing… Fat wallets, drinking parties, love chirping and romance in
the film. Högalid food, tuberculosis, garbage cans, unemployment and bedbugs
in reality.’) Ny Dag, 18 November 1932.
14 Ingerl (Inga Osterman) review, ‘Augustas lilla felsteg’, Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 28
February 1933.
15 Hb (Harry Borglund) review, ‘Jag gifta mig – aldrig’, Social-Demokraten, 16 October
16 Eveo review, ‘Bröderna Östermans huskors’, Svenska Dagbladet, 19 November 1932.
17 Unsigned, ‘Skämtsam eller icke skämtsam – det är frågan’, Filmjournalen, 1932:48.
18 Jerome review, ‘Lördagskvällar’, Dagens Nyheter, 27 August 1933. Jurgen Schildt’s
attempt at an ironic comment about the film in Det pensionerade paradiset, pp. 106
(where he additionally provides an incorrect summary of the film’s introduction)
thus misfires completely.
19 Kjell Jerselius, Hotade reservat (1987), p. 59.
20 Wales in Filmbilden, 1936:2.
21 P.G., ‘Rolig film behöver ej vara okonstnärlig anser Arne Bornebusch’, Filmjournalen,
22 Filmjournalen, 1931:19. Edgren’s use of the word lustspel probably here refers to
the foreign (read: German) kind, which in practice coincides with the farce.
23 Ulfva W. Malm, ‘Artistisk yrkesman’, Teatern, 1937:6.
24 Robin Hood review ‘Svärmor kommer’, Stockholms-Tidningen 19 April, 1932.
25 See Hbs review of the film in Social-Demokraten 12 February, 1932.
26 Stig Almqvist review, ‘Sara lär sig folkvett’, Vecko-Journalen, 1937:34.
27 C. B–n (Carl Björkman) review, ‘Sara lär sig folkvett’, Dagens Nyheter, 10 August
28 Eveo review, ‘Pensionat Paradiset’, Svenska Dagbladet, 9 February 1937. See also Ive
(Ivar Löwenthal) review, ‘Pensionat Paradiset’, Nya Dagligt Allehanda, 9 February
1937, who expresses it in this way: ‘not only a parody of Swedish film at its worst’
or Ekå’s review of ‘Pensionat Paradiset’, Tidningen Upsala, 13 April 1937: ‘where
one does not understand the scenes in the pension as pure parody, the effects are
instances of reasonably simple peasant comedy’. An interesting fact is additionally that Robert Wahlberg had earlier been working in the US and probably been
influenced by ‘crazy’ film there.
29 The essay by Leif Furhammar in Svensk filmografi 3.
30 See Bläckstadius’ chronicle in 1937:9, as well as the review in that same issue.
31 See reviews by Eric Rosén in Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, 16 March
1937; Ekå in Tidningen Upsala, 13 April 1937, and Pir Ramek in Upsala Nya
Tidning, 13 April 1937, who all claimed to have seen worse; Grip. (Sten Björild)
in Göteborgs-Posten, 16 March 1937. La rogue (Sonja Thulin) in Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 10 August 1937, did not regard it as a greater danger to culture even though
it could be criticized. Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfartstidning, even claimed that a
greater danger to culture lay in foreign films portraying luxury, with their noble
mendacity and refined forgery of ethical and aesthetic values.
chapter 15
Celebrating Swedishness
Swedish-Americans and Cinema
Ann-Kristin Wallengren
More than 1,200,000 Swedes emigrated to the US between 1850 and
1940, and eighty per cent of these stayed for good. This high number
implies that in 1910 one-fifth of all Swedes lived in the US, mostly
in Minnesota and Illinois, and around 1920 Chicago was the second
biggest Swedish city calculated by population. Thus, many Swedes
left Sweden to seek their fortune as farmers or factory workers in
America; only Ireland and Norway had more emigrants in relation to
their population.1
In this article, one aim is to explore Sweden’s relation to Swedishness and America through the representations of Swedish-Americans
in national film in the first decades of the welfare state period, that
is to say between 1910 and 1950. Was the emigrant portrayed as a
transgressor, a traitor, a representative of a forbidden double ethnicity? Alternatively, was he/she a cinematic representative of ‘the dream
land’, a brave settler searching for a different kind of life? The welfare
state seemed in many ways to build on an ideal Swedishness: you were
not allowed to be an ethnic or cultural transgressor, which was exactly
what the emigrants were.
As a comparison to these issues, and in order to see what happened
to Swedishness in the diaspora, I am also going to explore how the
Swedish-Americans in special exhibitions used Swedish film to remember
their home country and to construct their cultural identity as SwedishAmericans. In the US the Swedish immigrants tried to create a cultural
community of their own – by printing newspapers, developing their
own publishing houses, and staging theatre. Among these diverse cultural manifestations, they also watched films, and imported Swedish
films for screenings in the Swedish community in the new land. Here,
iii. genre cinema
I will discuss what kinds of films were distributed among the SwedishAmericans, and which representations of the Old Country these films
highlighted. The Swedish films that were selected for distribution were
included in a cluster of cultural and national representations that in
some sense would maintain a nostalgic and romanticised link to the
Old Country, but at the same time distinguish the Swedish-Americans
from other ethnicities in the US, and also from the Swedes back home
to some extent.
Representations of America and the Swedish Emigrant
During the 1910s and 1920s, those Swedish films that represented
the US and emigrants dealt with what was regarded as ‘the emigrant
problem’, while later films focused on the returning or visiting SwedishAmericans. It was of course traumatic for Sweden that so many Swedes
chose to live in North America; a trauma that has been negotiated in
Swedish films throughout the years, with changing representations.
Emigration was indeed a hard blow to Sweden – a much needed
work force as well as military power disappeared.2
In order to try to
stop the flow of Swedes across the ocean, and to change the conceptions about America as a kind of dreamland, Nationalföreningen mot
emigrationen, the ‘National Society Against Emigration’ was founded
in 1907. The National Society Against Emigration cooperated even
with the emerging film industry in Sweden. The ideology constructed
by the National Society tried to denigrate America, and at the same
time aimed to promote the conception of Swedishness as something
thoroughly positive.
Several silent propaganda films were produced that described the
country in the west as a great danger for naïve Swedish immigrants.
One of the films made in cooperation with the National Society was
the early Emigrant or Amuletten /‘The Amulet’ (Gustaf Linden); one of
the first films made by the production company Svenska Biografteatern
(Svenska Bio). The film was produced in 1910, and tells the story about
a young man who together with a friend leaves his mother and sister to
seek his fortune in America. He is a good man – this early film uses all
the ordinary codification to show that – but as soon as he arrives in the
US he goes to a bar where crooks and prostitutes drink and play cards.
A couple of thieves take his money and valuable belongings, and the
rest of the film shows with all possible clarity how things get worse and
swedish film
worse for the unfortunate man, and in the end, he dies. The stereotyped
ethnicities are very conspicuous and significant in these films, and they
mirror the propaganda produced by the National Society: this was how
society wanted the Swedes to apprehend America. The Americans are
thieves and bandits; the African-Americans are shoe-shiners or servants,
and the Jews are usurers. This kind of portrayal of Jews, however, was
actually quite common in Swedish films until the 1940s.3
Death was the destiny for many emigrants in Swedish films of the
1910s and 1920s. If they did not die, they became criminals. In the
latter case, they of course stayed in the US – ‘the land of crooks’. Nevertheless, in some cases, the emigrant came to realise that Sweden was
the best country, so he returned and, because of his love for the mother
country, was forgiven for his transgression. Unfortunately, almost all the
early films until 1916 are now lost or missing; you have to depend on
what the archives and filmographies relate about the films. According
to filmographies, one of the most explicit anti-emigration films was Två
svenska emigranters äfventyr i Amerika /‘The Adventures of Two Swedish
Emigrants in America’ (Eric Malmberg, 1912), and some scenes were
shot in the US. In this film, several of the destinies outlined above are
present: the bragging Swedish-Americans; the deceiving Americans who
steal money; immigrants who, seized by homesickness, return home.
Before the good and nice immigrants are able to return to Sweden,
though, they have to experience the disadvantages of America, which
entails being chased on top of skyscrapers. The film ends with images
of the Swedish flag and the reunion with the parents.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many Swedish-Americans returned to Sweden, at least for a while. These visitors became
a recurrent theme in Swedish films, sensitive to the course of events
among the masses. Sometimes the emigrants were punished for having left Sweden; they were often seen as traitors and transgressors.
Accordingly these visitors are often negatively portrayed: boastful,
despising Sweden, wearing hideous large-checked suits, and remarkably often with ugly glasses. They are not completely unsympathetic,
but they behave in a way that is not really accepted by the Swedes.
The visiting Swedish-Americans, on the other hand, think that they
are not offered enough food; they are not always rich, which everybody expects them to be; they try to gain money by trickery, they
are eccentric and they think that nothing really works in Sweden. It
is worth noting that most of these films are comedies, a very popular
iii. genre cinema
genre in the 1930s, and often comedies negotiate themes that are
current in contemporary society.
The types characterised above are all, with some modifications,
portrayed in Tjocka släkten/Close Relations (Sölve Cederstrand, 1935),
where a married couple comes to visit the man’s sister and her family
in Sweden. They both have a rather bullying attitude but are gullible
at the same time: they even pay to chop wood, thinking it will help
them get a good night’s sleep, and plan to open a ‘wood-chopping
institute’ for rich people when back in the US. However, the woman
is strikingly different to both the ideals of womanhood and the actual
contemporary woman in Swedish society. She is masculine in her dress
and her way of speaking, drinking, and smoking. The big ugly glasses
are there, she has black-and-white flat shoes, tie and a masculine hat.
When she dresses for dinner, she puts on a perfectly awful large-checked
gown, tiara, dangling earrings and an oversized necklace: all conspicuous and thoroughly tasteless.
A related representation of women is to be found in Släkten är
värst/‘Unfriendly Relations’ (Anders Henrikson, 1936), and the women
in both films transgress not only the national boundaries but also the
gender boundaries in their behaviour and appearance. The women represent the new dominant and obstinate type of woman that was regarded
as an American phenomenon – in Sweden the new American woman
was perceived as a threat to the conventional boundaries between the
sexes. According to the views disseminated in Sweden through different channels, one of them of course cinema, the American woman was
dominant, opinionated, and with a henpecked husband.4
The woman
in Släkten är värst is also a businesswoman manufacturing and selling
baby talc, an occupation that is considered masculine as well as American: the US was regarded as a capitalist country where marketing was a
distinctive feature, and efficiency and profit were words that somewhat
automatically were related to America.5
Thus, the woman in Släkten är
värst challenges the ordinary Swedish ideals in many fundamental ways.
However, the conception of America and the emigrant is ambiguous
– in many films the relatives in Sweden are admiringly looking forward
to an expected visit or inheritance. In some cases the Swedish-Americans
are honest and of firm character; features that are encouraged in many
Swedish films during these decades. However, these kinds of hemvändare,
‘returnees’, are often discontented with their stay in the US: they say
things like ‘I was homesick’, ‘I am glad to escape from there alive’, or
swedish film
they are poor – providing the message that it is not easier to manage
in the US than in Sweden. The lines quoted above are articulated in
the film Smålänningar/‘The People of Småland’ (Gösta Rodin, 1935)
where the returning Swedish-American appears to be more Swedish
than anyone else, and the film ends in about the same manner as Två
svenska emigranters äfventyr i Amerika, with flag-waving and a celebration of Sweden.
The closer we get to the Second World War, the more conciliatory
towards Swedish-Americans the films become. Moreover, after the war,
the reconciliation is almost complete. Two films stand out as particularly
interesting in this context: one film from 1938 borrowing the title of
the Swedish national anthem, Du gamla, du fria /Thou Old, Thou Free
(Gunnar Olsson, 1938), and Jens MÃ¥nsson i Amerika /Jens Mons in
America (Bengt Janzon, 1947). Du gamla, du fria was also distributed
among Swedish-Americans in the US, and the film is interesting because
it does not delineate any of the countries as consistently good or consistently evil as earlier films had done. However, the Swedish-American
press in US, which considered the film more Swedish-American than
Swedish, wrote that the US was presented in a more favourable light
than Sweden, and it is implicitly discernable that at least the newspaper
Svenska Amerikanaren Tribunen considered this a fair view.6
The film is about a Swedish-American man, played, by the way, by
the same actor who had the leading role in Smålänningar, who wants
to return to Sweden because of his sick mother. In the beginning of the
film, he is tired of the US and really longs to go home. He expresses
this in both a conservatively patriotic and racist way, saying to another
Swedish-American: ‘Have you forgotten that there is a land on the
other side of the sea, a real country with a king and everything. Not
like this salad with whites, blacks, yellows, and reds’. Here, he expresses
an ideological notion common in Swedish films distributed among
Swedish-Americans, as well as in the films about returning SwedishAmericans. This notion conceived of Sweden as a country with heritage,
old culture, and a people of pure breed, versus the US as a new land,
without culture or old heritage, and with different ethnicities. Back in
Sweden, however, he concludes that the advantages are greater in the
US – the Swedes cannot have a drink without ordering something to
eat; the working conditions are far better in the US; the Swedes who
have left Sweden have been successful, while the Swedes who stayed
in Sweden seem to have achieved nothing.
iii. genre cinema
Nevertheless, the protagonist in Du gamla, du fria changes his opinions
after a while, and discovers that Sweden also has its benefits. However,
it is a love of Sweden that is conservative, nationalist, nostalgic, and
with an obvious political message: it is not the present times with social
democracy and the welfare state that is honoured, but times gone by.
The protagonist returns to America, but in a mood of reconciliation;
the love of his old country remains but as a nostalgic memory.
After the Second World War the reconciliatory attitude towards the
US became even more conspicuous, and it was not politically correct
to criticise the country and the Swedish-Americans in the same way
as before. In the film Jens MÃ¥nsson i America, Jens, played by a very
popular actor in Sweden as well as among Swedish-Americans, Edvard
Persson, goes to the US to collect an inheritance from his SwedishAmerican brother, and the film develops into a kind of tribute to the
US. Above all, it is a tribute to the Swedish-Americans: they are no
longer apprehended as transgressors. Everywhere Jens goes there are
Swedes, and they are all as honest and hard-working as any SwedenSwede is assumed to be.
This becomes clear in the concluding song, with the title ‘Sweden
America Hand in Hand’, in which Jens sings that America is as peaceful
as Skåne (the southernmost province in Sweden) – that is why Swedes
feel at home there; the US needs Swedish film stars and Swedish ball
bearings, and Sweden needs American nylon stockings. Sweden and
America need one another, therefore a strong bond of friendship must
be established – that is the concluding message of the song. Thus, the
tribute to America has nothing to do with American culture; it is the
Swedish culture in the US that is accentuated, or things that resemble
Sweden, that is to say the white culture. Other parts of American culture are almost despised. A very discomforting accentuation is a scene
where Jens meets an African-American servant at his brother’s home;
African-Americans are human beings whose colour Jens almost thinks
is contaminating. In this scene, he wipes off his hand as if he is afraid
that it will turn black. Instead of trying to understand another culture,
the film tries to change the US, to transform it into Sweden.
In the period discussed and exemplified here, the Swedish-Americans
are sometimes portrayed as people who bring modernity to Sweden,
but this is not very common. A far more common theme is that someone who has done something criminal or morally wrong, for example
making a woman pregnant, leaves for America. Sometimes you are
swedish film
sent to America to grow up, at least if you are from the working-class;
an upper-class youngster is sent to Paris. These characters return when
they are ready, ‘mature and very homesick’ as one character puts it.
Consequently, America is, if you see it positively, a kind of asylum. If
you see it negatively, it is a country for garbage where you can send all
people who do not behave in a ‘Swedish’ manner.
The attitudes towards Swedish-Americans are thus very ambiguous.
On the other hand, what about the Swedish-Americans’ view of their
old country, then? The protagonist in Du gamla, du fria found it hard
to come back to the old country, but what distinguishes the construction and evaluation of Swedishness in the reception of Swedish films
in the diaspora?
Swedish Films in the Swedish-American Diaspora
At the beginning of the 1920s, you could read the first advertisements
for Swedish films in the Swedish-American press in the US. Some
scholars claim that it is even possible to date the first screening of a
Swedish film there to 1922, when Herr Arnes pengar/The Treasure of
Arne (Mauritz Stiller, 1919) attracted an audience at the Auditorium
in Minneapolis.7
The films were screened in ordinary cinemas rented
by the organisers or distributors, and they often simultaneously in the
same place arranged art or handicraft exhibitions. The screenings were
very popular, and a quotation from one of the newspapers is representative of how the films were apprehended: ‘Every new film arriving
from Sweden is like a much longed-for greeting from Scandinavia,
and it is encouraging, particularly if it stages the merrier side of life.’8
During the 1950s, different Swedish-American organisations took
over screenings of Swedish films in those cases where they specifically
addressed a Swedish audience, and the films were no longer presented
in ordinary cinemas.
Generally, it is possible to discern three groups of films that were
distributed among the Swedish-American community. The most popular was the comedy, preferably the popular comedy about peasants or
working-class people, and I will discuss these in more detail below.
Secondly, we find documentary or semi-documentary films. The films
were typically entitled Filmen om Sverige/The Film about Sweden and
Det gamla sagolandet/The Old Land of Dreams, and seem to have been
produced directly for people in the diaspora and also as some kind of
iii. genre cinema
promotional films. This special genre seems to have been most popular
in the 1920s and 1930s, but similar films are still screened today at,
for example, the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. They
cultivated a mythology about the native country by highlighting such
Swedish icons as the Scandinavian mountains, the red cottage and the
birches, and Swedish traditional celebrations such as the midsummer
festivities. The third group of films consists of dramas, which seem to
have been the least frequented screenings – judging by the newspaper
advertisements, these screenings were seldom prolonged and they were
not described as such strong attractions as the popular comedies.
The distribution company Scandinavian Talking Pictures in New
York imported the most successful films in Sweden for distribution
among the Swedish-American communities. Thereby, the image of
Sweden that the Swedish-Americans were exposed to was the most successful cultural construction: the Swedish-Americans got, so to speak,
access to a cinematic representation where the cultural and national
construction was carried to an extreme. However, in the Swedish social
democratic welfare state of the 1930s, comedies that played with class
mobility were very popular. For some reason, Scandinavian Talking
Pictures and other distribution companies very seldom imported these
films. Moreover, if such a film in exceptional cases was screened, the
social democratic political message was played down. Instead, the
distributed films were significantly restricted to films that thematised
a spirit of community – films that depicted solidarity in the family, at
the farm, in the village, at work, and above all the national solidarity
that is a kind of ideological foundation in these films. The imagery of
an idyllic Sweden where class society does not even exist, and where
solidarity among people in one’s own sphere is crucial for identity,
became a motif that was cherished nostalgically and warmly by the
The by far most popular films among Swedish-Americans everywhere
in the US, at least according to the liberal-conservative newspapers,
appear to have been the comedies with Edvard Persson, the protagonist in
Jens MÃ¥nsson i America. This actor ironically seems to embody everything
that the emigrant did not manage to achieve in the Old Country – he
was a corpulent southern Swede who often depicted prosperous farmers.
It is in a way an ironic turn that this fat and well-fed farmer became
a part of the Swedish-Americans’ collective memory about Sweden;
Swedish-Americans whose parents had in many instances left Sweden
swedish film
because of the infertile soil. Also, it is in some sense a paradox that this
Edvard, who was so loved by the Swedish-Americans, is a representative
of the Swede who remains faithful to the homeland in many films with
a returning emigrant. Edvard Persson was an actor who, in film after
film, celebrated the Swedish soil, the national heritage, the Swedish
stereotyped character traits such as honesty, good-heartedness, common sense, while at the same time expressing conservative prejudices
that also flourished among the Swedish population.
Several films with Edvard Persson were screened during the 1930s
and 1940s in Swedish-American communities throughout the US,
and one of the most popular ever was Söder om landsvägen /South of
the Highway (Gideon Wahlberg, 1936). The film had great success in
1937, at the Metropolitan Theater in Seattle and Julian Theater in
Chicago, also called the Swedish Theater. The Chicago newspaper The
Swedish-American wrote that no other Swedish film had had a larger
audience than this film, and added: ‘Far away from north and south,
from east and west, crowds of people come every day to see, listen and
The film is shot on the farm of Charles Lindbergh’s ancestors;
a fact emphasised in the advertisement, and because of this seems to
specifically address Swedish-Americans. A kind of combination of the
documentary films and the popular comedies, it is introduced by a
rather extensive montage of the icons of Skåne – castles, beech forests,
storks, rolling cornfields, avenues of willows, farms, and windmills.
Accompanying these images, Edvard sings a song which also celebrates
this part of Sweden. A considerable part of the attraction for the
Swedish-Americans was probably the film’s depiction of traditional
Swedish cultural festivals such as the harvest home, where traditional
music and dance became nostalgic reunions for the Swedish-Americans.
This film is almost unbearably nationalist and nostalgic, which was a
sign of the times as well.
The Swedish-Americans seemed to prefer these representations of
times gone by, a kind of utopian view of a lost homeland. This and other
films distributed among the immigrants displayed a much-romanticised
version of Sweden with a pronounced national and cultural mythology.
This to some extent false nostalgia was part of a new cultural identity
in which it was necessary to come to grips with the old homeland.
With their iconic representation of an old and actually vanishing way
of life, these films became a vital ingredient in this imagined community. In the Swedish-American press, where the films were frequently
iii. genre cinema
presented and reviewed rather extensively, the writers often ignored
sometimes vital parts of the films and instead emphasised elements
that were regarded as Swedish; elements that sometimes were not even
especially significant in the film. The constructed conception of the
old homeland, made at a geographic distance, was guarded carefully
against influences of modernity and progress. Swedishness was nature,
old, summer, idyllic, funny – words always reappearing in the writings
about the films. It seems as if there was a built-in opposition between
the modern and the Swedish, and in that way the two identities could
exist at the same time for the Swedish-American – the old and the new
countries were in this way not rivals but represented different things.
1 Arnold H. Barton (1996), ‘A Heritage to Celebrate: Swedes in America, 1846–1946’,
Scandinavian Review, October, pp. 4–10, New York: American Scandinavian
2 Barton, (1996).
3 Rochelle Wright (1998), TheVisibleWall: Jews and other Ethnic Outsiders in Swedish
Film, Carbondale & Edwardsville: Southern Illinois Univ. Press.
4 Martin Alm (2002), Americanitis: Amerika som sjukdom eller läkemedel: svenska
berättelser om USA åren 1900–1939, Lund: Studia Historica Lundensia. See also
Lars Wendelius (1982), Bilden av Amerika i svensk prosafiktion 1890–1914, Uppsala:
Uppsala universitet.
5 Alm (2002).
6 Svenska Amerikanaren Tribunen, 26 January 1939.
7 Ann-Charlotte Harvey (2001), ‘Performing Ethnicity. The Role of Swedish Theatre
in the Twin Cities’ in Philip J Andersson & Dag Blanck, eds., Swedes in the Twin
Cities: Immigrant Life and Minnesota’s Urban Frontier, St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota
Historical Society Press.
8 Svenska PacificTribunen, 29 October 1942. Originally: ‘Varje ny film som anländer
från Sverige kommer liksom en efterlängtad hälsning från Norden, och den verkar
uppmuntrande, i all synnerhet om den tolkar den gladare sidan av livet.’
9 Svenska Amerikanaren Tribunen, 25 February 1937.
Hollywood’s Influence
after the War?
chapter 16
Mariah Larsson
During the Second World War, Sweden had remained neutral. Through
diplomatic compromises, which for instance included letting German
transit trains pass through the nation, Sweden kept out of the war and
avoided occupation; something which was endured by the neighbouring countries Denmark and Norway.
Film production, however, flourished. Because of the war, competition from foreign films had decreased, and people still went to the
cinema. The boom continued after the war, even though competition
was suddenly fiercer than ever when many of the foreign films which
had not been distributed in Sweden were released as the war ended.
Film production peaked in 1948 and cinema attendance would peak
in 1956 before a decline that has continued since then. Nevertheless,
the entertainment tax burdened the industry and as a public inquiry
investigating the need of support for Swedish film production was initiated by the government, Sveriges Filmproducenter, the Swedish film
producers’ association, proclaimed a general strike for all film production in Sweden. During the first half of 1951, nearly all production of
feature films ceased in Sweden. Commercials and a few films which
were excepted from the strike were the only films produced in Sweden
in these six months. For instance, Ingmar Bergman made seven commercials for the soap Bris, and Arne Mattsson was given dispensation
to make Hon dansade en sommar/One Summer of Happiness (1951) for
Nordisk Tonefilm.
The post-war years, nevertheless, were a creative time. The high pace
iii. genre cinema
of production seemed to have a positive effect on directors: Bergman
made his first films Kris/Crisis and Det regnar på vår kärlek /It Rains on
Our Love in 1946; Hasse Ekman directed a memorable string of films
culminating with Flickan från tredje raden/‘The Girl From the Third
Row’ (1949) and Flicka och hyacinther/GirlWith Hyacinths (1950), and
Arne Sucksdorff won an Oscar for his short Människor i stad /Symphony
of a City (1947). Melodramas as well as comedies were popular and the
juvenile delinquency film flourished – although critics were not always
very favourable towards the genre.
In 1956, a new medium was introduced in Sweden: television. After
a thorough public inquiry, the government had decided to permit
monopolised, state-controlled, licence-financed, public service television, and for many years only one channel was available to Swedes.
Nonetheless, the new medium provided entertainment to the extent
that attendance numbers for cinemas decreased, especially after 1958
when the football World Cup was played in Sweden and aired on television. As the 1950s ended, the Swedish film industry was in something
of a crisis; a crisis which grew worse in the first few years of the 1960s.
However, the two following texts are not about that crisis. Rather,
both of them deal with genre films which in one way or another relate
to American film genres – the juvenile delinquency film and film noir.
Bengt Bengtsson’s text is an excerpt from his doctoral thesis from 1998
which focuses on a number of popular films, albeit rarely considered
for their artistic merit, centring on the perils of being young in the
developing welfare society of Sweden. The juvenile delinquency films
(or, ‘youth-in-danger films’) told stories of drugs and violence, gangs,
greasers, unwanted pregnancies, and general rebellion against an older
generation and society’s norms and conventions. Included in the samples
of films discussed, are a few of Bergman’s early works and also films
rarely remembered today.
Hasse Ekman, who worked as a director as well as an actor, was
the son of Gösta Ekman – a famous actor during the silent and early
sound film era who starred in such epic title roles as Swedish king
Karl XII (1925) in the historic drama in two parts directed by John
W. Brunius and Faust in F. W. Murnau’s film from 1926. Furthermore,
Hasse Ekman’s son, also named Gösta Ekman, became a famous actor,
most popular, perhaps, for his comic characters but also displaying a
melancholic trait. Often disregarded in relation to his more famous
colleague, Ingmar Bergman, Hasse Ekman was perceived as a popular
swedish film
entertainer rather than a serious artist. Interestingly, one can see that
some kind of dialogue takes place between Bergman and Ekman during
some years in the late 1940s and early 1950s: Bergman cast Hasse Ekman
in some of his films, like Fängelse/Prison (1948) which portrays life as
hell on earth. Ekman, playing a film director in the film, countered
by scripting and directing Flicka från tredje raden (1949), which had
a more life-affirming outlook. In Bergman’s Gycklarnas afton/Sawdust
and Tinsel aka The Naked Night (1953), Ekman played the villain, the
womanising actor Frans. Still, his films contain depths which are rarely
elaborated on, one of which is the theme of gender and homosexuality. Mia Krokstäde dissects homosexual themes in Ekman’s Flicka och
hyacinter, and at the same time analyses the film as a Swedish noir film.
chapter 17
Youth Problem Films
in the Post-War Years
Bengt Bengtsson
Rötägg and Moral Uplift
In spite of the attention they evoked and their commercial successes,
it took some years before juvenile delinquency was the main theme of
any Swedish films. However, there were other films which dealt with
youth-related problems and generational issues. A number of ‘problem
films’ about abortion and unwanted pregnancy were released, and films
such as Swing it, magistern /‘Swing it, Teacher!’ (Schamyl Bauman,
1940) and Hets/Frenzy (Alf Sjöberg, 1944) were enacted in school
environments and depicted generational conflicts.
During the post-war years, one can trace a gradual change in the
perspective of the films, perhaps because less established directors made
them. The narrative perspective is displaced from the adult authoritarian viewpoint which is assumed in the films of the early 1940s by
established filmmakers such as Anders Henrikson and Olof Molander, in which young people are regarded von oben. Instead, there is a
significant tendency towards increasingly stronger opposition against
society, from young and obstinate filmmakers, in opposition against
the system. Films such as Hets, Det regnar på vår kärlek /It Rains on
Our Love (Ingmar Bergman, 1946) and Hamnstad /Port of Call (Ingmar
Bergman, 1948) introduce a tendency that does not judge the young
generation; which leaves the prevailing pattern of the centre for a more
generous identification with the young.
Leif Furhammar stresses that the youth films gained an increasingly
stronger commercial value, although their attraction was obviously
limited to quite a youthful audience. He notes a change from the
edifying films of the 1940s about orderly youth groups to a stronger
predominance of destructive and self-destructive elements, where vio-
swedish film
lence, sex, and traditional criminality were spiced with current patterns
of motoring, speed intoxication, narcotics, homosexual prostitution,
and vandalism. Additionally, many central films portended the animosity towards adults in youth culture which would dominate the entire
entertainment market during the 1960s.
And the question is whether the violent aggression laid bare in these
films was as much a first drastic marking of territory around a delimited
youth culture as it was an attempt to reproduce the veracities of the
social reality one wanted to depict. … The subcultural function of the
films was emphasised by their low prestige value with the established
cultural opinion, represented for instance by film censorship and film
criticism. They were regarded and described through and through as
catering to the lower instincts of the audience.1
Rötägg/‘Incorrigible’ (Arne Mattsson, 1946), on the other hand, adhered to the morally uplifting tradition from, for instance, Janssons
frestelse/‘Jansson’s Temptation’ (Gösta Rodin, 1936) of the 1930s. It
was launched as a Hets with the tables turned, in a study of young
rascal Krister’s rampage at a boarding school. But the reception was
poor and the explicit connection to Alf Sjöberg’s film became more
of an encumbrance.
After the divorce of his parents, Krister (Stig Ohlin) has been spoilt by
his mother who does not understand what a scoundrel he has turned
into. She finally realises, after he has happened to set fire to a curtain
while smoking in bed, that he needs a change of environment. He is
sent to an athletics-dominated boarding school in a small town, where
he soon starts to lead astray the weak-minded of his schoolmates.
Against him stand the teaching staff with the authoritarian but kindly
Mankan (Stig Järrel) in the forefront, as well as the more perceptive of
his fellow pupils like the athletics star Bengt Lange. Krister seduces the
barber’s assistant Vera and tries to blame Bengt for the sabotage against
a power plant. When Krister is discovered, he barricades himself and
Mankan’s daughter in a sports cabin which his mother has rented for
him, but dies in the flames when he accidentally sets fire to the cabin.
Rötägg deviates from the other main juvenile delinquency films, by
advocating harder means to thwart youth and by presenting those
who complain about the coddling of young people as correct. But the
iii. genre cinema
expressive direction by Arne Mattsson partly counteracts the uplifting
intent, since his depiction of Krister enhances his jokey character, his
humour, and his treacherous charm, rather than his destructive effect.
At the same time, the good educator Mankan is made into a fearsome
figure through a string of shot compositions which emphasise his
threatening cane.
Krister’s bad character is identified through his clothes: he wears
a black silk shirt and a spotted tie. He smokes and drinks alcohol –
luring his boarding-school comrades to get drunk – and plays pool
for money while pretending to take lessons in Russian. His arrogant
charm is effective on women; he picks up what is implied to be a young
prostitute in his home town and later has a relationship with the floozy
Vera from the barber’s.
These outward features also mirror his inner character, as he ruthlessly turns off the community’s main power current in order to throw
suspicion on Bengt Lange, placing one of Lange’s athletics trophies at
the scene of the crime. It is implied that Krister has a misused talent,
as he is described as being ‘phenomenal’ in physics; information which
seems to be given mostly to explain how he commits the deed. Otherwise, he tries to rape his teacher’s daughter, shoots a gun ‘for fun’ at
his classmates, and regards it in general as an intrinsic value to break
all kinds of prohibitions.
Besides negative media influence from detective novels, a hereditary
mental illness is suggested. Krister’s uncle, who gave him the gun used
against Krister’s antagonist at the end of the film, is described as a real
scoundrel. A certain support for this idea can be found in Krister’s
hysterically mad laughter while he is dying in the sports cabin; however,
the source of his problems seems to be located in the broken home and
his lenient upbringing by his single mother.
The film points specifically to the absence of a strong father figure as
the reason for Krister’s bad development and directs an explicit accusation against society, which mistakenly gives his mother custody after
the divorce. Krister was ‘comparatively nice as long as his daddy was
still at home’, but changed fatefully by the parents’ separation at the
sensitive age of thirteen, when he ‘better needed a strong father than a
weak mother’, according to his presentable sister and her husband. ‘Ask
the people who decide in such matters, dear Bertil. But the mother is
always closest at hand, unless there are particularly strong reasons to
choose the father,’ Krister’s father replies despondently.
swedish film
To counter bad behavior, society needs to be tougher against the
juvenile delinquents. This is especially advocated by the teacher Hacksén,
who complains that corporal punishment has been banned. Among the
staff there are discussions about the pupils’ terrorizing and the strange
‘new tone’ among the students, who tormented one of their colleagues
until he had to take a leave of absence. Consequently, Hacksén boxes
Krister’s ears after he has spoken ill of Vera.
Hacksén comments ironically on ‘modern methods of upbringing’
to the rest of the staff: if a teacher ‘boxes a rascal’s ears the parents come
running and protest and go to the local papers and even make it into
a court case if necessary. It is forbidden in this country to even touch
the royal Swedish youth.’ But he is fond of ‘the fair, the real young
people, not the scoundrels, no – and even less their often quite weak
parents’. This opinion is not undermined by his colleagues. Instead, it
is presented as representative and welcome.
Dynamit and the Solution Outside Society
Dynamit/‘Dynamite’ (Åke Ohberg, 1947) was based on a novel by
Harald Beijer and contrasted with the genre’s prevailing favourable
image of society and authorities. Åke Ohberg’s film received attention
because of its similarities with real-life ravages by the ‘Saturday dynamiter’ – or ‘sabbatical saboteur’, as the tabloids named him. During the
autumn of 1946, a dynamiter set off detonations in different parts of
central Stockholm almost every Saturday until New Year’s Eve, when the
perpetrator, an 18-year-old from Midsommarkransen (in the southern
part of Stockholm), was caught in the act. When the film was finally
released after an extended censorship process, the all-in-all impression
of its social ambitions was favourable; nobody suspected speculation,
even though many were surprised by the similarities between the film
and the case at hand.
Young, asocial Allan (Bengt Ekerot) is not happy in his poor home with
an oppressed mother and a hard-drinking stepfather. Mischievous and
wanting revenge, Allan scares the small-town dwellers of Broköping
by setting off comparatively innocent dynamite explosions. After one
attempt which turns serious, he becomes remorseful. As no one was
physically hurt, he decides to become a better person. Allan starts working in a grocer’s shop and also commences evening classes, with good
results. Still, his past catches up with him. A neighbour’s wife has seen
iii. genre cinema
him hiding dynamite sticks and claims the advertised reward, but Allan
cannot be tied to the crimes. During his arrest, however, he has become
resentful and breaks into the shop from which he was fired due to all
the gossip and vandalises the place. The only one who cares about Allan is his understanding teacher, Sixten, who refuses to report him and
thereby allows to him continue on his road to a new future in Stockholm.
The conflict has to do with whether one should forgive and forget or
follow the literal law and punish Allan for the crimes committed. At
odds with the norms of society, Sixten gives Allan a chance to begin
a new life, far away from home. However, this solution was received
quite critically by the press.
Dynamit points to class differences as the accelerating factor behind
Allan’s asocial behaviour; social causes such as the influence of environment, the hatred nourished by unbearable living conditions such
as a crowded home, unhappiness, and boredom. The film investigates
different ways of approaching Allan’s crime, and how there really is no
equality before the law. Affluent people can get away with things, while
there is no help for the proletarian Allan. In two other cases, similar
problems were treated differently. In the past, the reputation of Sixten’s
father was saved (he was in charge of a regiment and embezzled money).
After he shot himself, the affair was hushed up thanks to ‘powerful
friends’. Many years later, Sixten realises that nothing has changed and
chooses to give Allan a chance. Additionally, the town prosecutor’s son
was involved in the vandalism too, and his father arranged an amicable
settlement – an opportunity that Allan does not have.
Sixten’s opinion is that the detonation is ‘basically nothing more
than a mischief’. His tolerance is contrasted with, on the one hand,
the empty promises of charity from the church and the hypocritical
women’s club Hertha. They happily arrange bazaars for diverse, nonobliging causes such as ‘for the benefit of the city’s impoverished’, but
refuse to help one concrete case such as Allan’s. The minister’s wife is
supposedly ‘socially interested’, but has no forgiveness to give him – first
and foremost because he scared her dog with one of his detonations.
On the other hand there is the spirit of the authorities, where the
interpreters of the law cannot follow common sense and show consideration for the individual. However, there is still hope, since the police
most of the time are depicted in a favourable light, as is for instance the
understanding town prosecutor (Bullen Berglund). He and Constable
swedish film
Bodin agree that no one is helped by getting Allan caught and perhaps
even putting him in jail, instead of letting him study and maybe become
a useful member of society.
‘He will be put in an institution – and once he is there we will have
to take care of him forever’, Bodin says, but for him his wife’s greed
for the promised reward weighs heavier. And the town prosecutor has
to keep pushing the case because the law and the system demand it:
‘I am a civil servant’. Which is more important: a new chance for one
who has had a defective upbringing and ends up delinquent, or that
law-abiding citizens are protected and justice takes its course?
Sixten suggests implicitly the importance of preventative measures.
About Allan, he says that ‘he is innocent, because if he had been taken
care of he would not be throwing dynamite’. Appropriate leisure pursuits are regarded as edifying: during his time in school, Allan is seen
playing soccer in the school yard, as opposed to the listless wanderings
in the town centre. Just like the physician Ekblad pointed out to his
colleagues in Ungdom i bojor/‘Youth in Chains’ (Anders Henrikson,
1942), it all comes down to circumstances. Asked, as suspicions are
directed towards him, whether Allan could be the perpetrator, Sixten
agrees that the nowadays well-behaved young man is a potential criminal
‘under certain conditions; he is full of initiative and he is imaginative’.
These are qualities which can be used in different ways; it is necessary
to channel them in a positive direction.
The criticism is directed towards a certain kind of mentality and particular characters, but is first and foremost levelled at an ageing, bigoted
small-town mentality. Allan leaves Broköping for Stockholm, which
implicitly stands for a new, more tolerant folkhem mentality. Sixten’s
words of farewell are: ‘Tomorrow you are leaving for Stockholm to find
yourself a job. You won’t be a criminal who wastes away in jail. You will
work and achieve things when you’re done!’ In the closing shots, Allan
walks hopefully away and waves back. This idea about the importance of
giving young people another chance will return in several central films.
The Theme of Breaking Out
and Other Films of the 1940s
During the second part of the 1940s, other films refer to juvenile delinquency. There was a tendency for films to emphasise the positive counterbalance of organised youth, such as Prästen som slog knockout/‘The
iii. genre cinema
Parson’s Knock-out’ (Hugo Bolander, 1943). Ungdom i fara /‘Youth in
Danger’ (Per G. Holmgren, 1946) also praised organisations with an
understanding supervisor who guides the young car thief Wille back
to the straight and narrow, despite the beckoning calls from his former
gang led by the mean-spirited gangster character Ärret (Scar).
Less attention was given to Två kvinnor/‘Two Women’ (Arnold
Sjöstrand, 1947), a Swedish version of Prisons de femmes/‘Women’s
Prison’ (Roger Richebé, 1938) that no one could take really seriously.
Arnold Sjöstrand’s depiction of the attempts of two young girls to
leave their criminal path after having been blamelessly imprisoned
at LÃ¥ngholmen (a prison in Stockholm) was regarded as an unlikely
replanting. French drama with large gestures did not fit into the sociological perspective which characterised similar Swedish films during
this period. The film provides a bleak image of society, with a dreary
monotony in prison and strict police officers. But one never really gets
the sense that it takes place in modern Sweden: social welfare does not
seem to exist; instead, the previously unpunished and underage Cecilia
is sentenced straight to jail – after having, by accident, hurt the man
her foster parents intended to force her to marry.
Ingmar Bergman attracted attention as a new director with stylistic
exercises in various genres. With influences from neorealism, Hamnstad /Port of Call (Ingmar Bergman, 1948) was set in a working-class
environment in Gothenburg and received mostly good reviews.
Berit (Nine-Christine Jönsson), formerly an inmate at a juvenile home,
tries to create a new life together with the sailor Gösta (Bengt Eklund),
who has decided to stay ashore. Berit has a problematic background,
with a neurotic mother who has earlier set the authorities on her. The
reason is vaguely implied as ‘viciousness’, but it was mostly revenge
on the daughter who tried to emancipate herself. Berit works in a
factory and tries to hide her background from Gösta, but eventually
tells him about it. It is hard for him to take, but they decide to try to
create a future together. And they will not be doing it abroad, as they
first planned, but within Swedish society.
The film is partly reminiscent of Bergman’s earlier, more symbolic Det
regnar på vår kärlek which also paints a dark picture of rehabilitation.
In that film, the ex-convict David is denied a job he has been promised
and is met by suspicion and accusations of theft from his co-workers
at the market garden where he is now employed. Berit keeps trying to
swedish film
hide her past in Hamnstad and a boyfriend breaks up with her when he
finds out about the juvenile home. Her old gang calls her anstaltsfjälla
(institution hussy) and she puts up with monotonous and physically
debilitating factory work.
A subplot, in which Gertrud, Berit’s friend from the home, has an
illegal abortion, introduces a class theme. She does not dare to tell her
religious parents about her pregnancy, and although complications follow the abortion, she avoids seeing a doctor, for fear of having to return
to the home. When the police interrogate Berit afterwards, she points
out that she knew a rich girl who became pregnant with a boy who
was ‘kind of slow’. This girl managed to get an abortion through the
medical board, but poor girls like Gertrud are forced to do it illegally,
risking fatal complications.
Hamnstad expresses the first sharp reproach towards the social welfare system, in the form of Berit’s supervisor: a social assistant who is
embarrassed by having to deal with people from another social class.
She is unsympathetic to Berit’s difficulties and self-destructive behaviour and complains about the ‘pampering of the riff-raff’. The images
of the police force or the possibilities of rehabilitation in care are not
painted with lighter colours: gum-chewing, hardened girls pass their
days in endless boredom.
Berit is socially branded and has to struggle with an unsympathetic
environment. The film follows up on the themes of Det regnar på vår
kärlek, where society and its institutions throughout are regarded as
a threat against a young couple who try to manage a petty bourgeois
existence. Both films offer the same solution, pitting human will against
environmental and social circumstances. Humans have to take responsibility for their actions, keep struggling, and not devote themselves
to simple solutions like romantic escapism. The light Berit sees at the
end of Hamnstad is not brought about by the efforts of welfare society,
but rather by Gösta’s love for her and the realization that one has a
choice; one has to take responsibility for one’s future. ‘People like us
must never give up!’ Gösta says in his last line.
In Det regnar på vår kärlek, the rootless couple David and Maggi
both have a past within juvenile institutions. They make repeated
failed attempts to fit into society and are constantly opposed. However,
in the vaguely optimistic ending, when they are forced to leave their
home, they still return to the city – which has throughout the film
been presented as a threat – in order to make a new attempt to fit in.
iii. genre cinema
Themes of escape and outsider status recur in other early Bergman
films, like for instance Kris/Crisis (Ingmar Bergman, 1946) in which
a young woman returns to her small hometown community after a
failed escapade in the big city. The theme returns with a more tragic
outcome in Två trappor över gården/‘Across the Yard and Two Flights
up’ (Gösta Werner, 1950), the second of Gösta Werner’s two Karsten
Wimmermark adaptations after the prostitution film Gatan /‘The
Street’ (Gösta Werner, 1949).2
Två trappor över gården is one of the darkest contributions to the
genre. Inspired by the Swedish literary trend of the 1940s, it is a story
of doom and downfall describing the futile attempts of two marginalized persons to break out of their misery. Critics praised Werner’s
expressionistic direction, but seemed to agree that the content of the
film was speculative and with coarse effects.
Bengt (Bengt Eklund) is a rootless and maladjusted artist who escapes
from a mental hospital where he is considered a hopeless case. He looks
up his girlfriend Inga (Gertrud Fridh), who has a difficult background.
She grew up in miserable apartment blocks, wound up in prostitution
and has been in a juvenile home for some time. Together, they dream
about breaking out of their despondent existence and making a new
life for themselves on an island, far away in the archipelago. But they
have difficulties in finding money and Bengt is unable to keep out
of trouble with the police. The film ends with his suicide: he shoots
himself after Inga arrives too late at their meeting.
The film is about a double escape: from the city’s destructive environment as well as an inner one from their difficult pasts. In contrast to the
two Bergman films, where the potential rebels return to their everyday
lives, Två trappor över gården presents a utopian vision of the dream of
breaking out. The mutual dream of a life outside society together on
the island is symbolised by a lightly-coloured archipelago boat, which
at the end of the film leaves Stockholm harbour without the couple.
But the film suggests the hollowness of the escape dream early on,
for instance when Bengt happens to overhear the quarrel of a nagging
couple in the midst of divorce. Prior to this, the couple have apparently
been in love and had the same dream of a romantic existence in a cabin
on some island. Additionally, the film discloses a conversation among
the crew on the supposed ‘dream boat’, which by one of the stokers is
described as a ‘barge’ on a ‘pool’.
swedish film
The depiction of the social welfare institutions is as unfavourable
as in the Bergman films, without exception presenting the police as a
threat and the care at the juvenile home as ineffective. Authoritarian
discipline prevails there, as well as a competitive atmosphere in which
the weaker women lose. Since their sole ambition is to get out of the
home, one of the young women hangs herself when her application for
a pardon is refused. At the mental hospital, the harsh chief physician
claims that Bengt is a hopeless case, someone whom society needs to
be protected from.
Still, there is certain ambivalence in this picture: two separate individuals have ambitions for a more personal treatment, which makes
the overall impression somewhat more hopeful. The assistant physician
does not find Bengt incurable, ‘but this kind of case demands a personal
involvement which we don’t have the time for. Unfortunately!’ And
the warm-hearted housemistress Gunhild at the juvenile home tries to
encourage hope, and later helps Inga with money, but her involvement
is perhaps corrupted by an implied lesbian disposition.
Breaking out is a central theme in many films. The main characters
constantly attempt to break free of their pasts and problematic situations, or to liberate themselves from society and an unsympathetic
environment. What stops them can either be determined by internal
or external influences – such as a bad childhood home or other kinds
of negative forces. Furhammar points out that breaking out is a common theme in Swedish film in general, especially regarding the conflict
between the individual and the group. The same theme could be found
during the pre-war era, but at that time the community was regarded
in a positive light as an entity where inclusion equaled security. Later,
existential tragedy became more predominant, expressed through
exclusion, isolation, and force.3
Most often, the consequence of breaking out is that society, in spite
of everything, in the end appears complete and unthreatened. Since the
conflict is resolved either through the downfall of the person attempting
to break out, or through the realisation that the rootless existence of
the option outside the community is a bad choice, the normality of the
centre is affirmed. When the person attempting to break out chooses to
return, integration into the community is, in the end, strengthened.4
In the Swedish films of the 1950s, the main characters frequently
bitterly experience the failure of their attempts at breaking out.5
Solutions will not be found by looking for new realms, like for instance
iii. genre cinema
for the young musician in Ungsommar/‘Young Summer’ (Kenne Fant,
1954), who returns to the village community with his tail between his
legs after a futile effort to realise his musical dreams in the big city. He
recognises that the rural community, after all, has many advantages.
In the same manner, the attempts of most perpetrators to leave their
miserable existence through criminal behaviour are punished.6
Those problem children who succeed in breaking out are instead
those who paradoxically try to return to the community: like the streetwalkers who adjust to an honest folkhem existence or Ville in Ungdom
i fara who trusts the social assistant Wärn’s thoughtful care and seeks
out the youth club. In Dynamit and Hets, where Allan and Jan-Erik
respectively break with their old lives, the breaking out does not mean
that they place themselves outside society. Rather, in the end both of
them approach Stockholm to find a new future within society.
Medan staden sover
Produced by the respected production company Svensk Filmindustri,
directed by the established Lars-Eric Kjellgren and written by author
Per Anders Fogelström with the assistance of Bergman, Medan staden
sover/‘While the Town Sleeps’ (Lars-Eric Kjellgren, 1950) restored the
somewhat shabby reputation of Swedish youth films. Moreover, the
film had unusual qualities: despite its sociological perspective it managed to avoid the didactic and over-explicit character of its precursor
Ungdom i fara, which also featured Sven-Eric Gamble in a similar role.
Jompa (Gamble) is a tough young man who does not want to ‘get
dirty in a workshop’. Instead, he lures his idle and impressionable
friends from the public housing estate to accompany him on different crimes. After breaking into a suburban house, which Jompa
leaves before the police arrive, the rest of the gang are caught and
sentenced to probation. A disruption of the gang is the result: the
friends try to continue on the legal path and attempt half-heartedly
to start a recreational club. Having made the neighbour’s daughter
pregnant, Jompa is forced to marry her. However, he has no plans
but to continue with crime. While he attempts to sell stolen goods,
he happens to kill a fence and has to run off with the loyal Iris. In
the end, after the police have captured him helplessly floundering in
the water by the bridge at Skanstull, his friends ask themselves what
they could have done to save Jompa.
swedish film
Medan staden sover received attention and managed, in contrast to
many previous Swedish youth films, to create some discussion. The
urgency of the topic was duly noted in connection with the writings
in the press about youth riots and the fights in Berzelii park in Stockholm. Additionally, the artistic merits of the film were praised: ‘one of
the strangest works in the past years of Swedish film history’, Helge
Ã…kerhielm wrote in Morgontidningen.
It was regarded as a quality social
report with a persuasive depiction of environments and talented actors,
even though some were worried by the young audience’s admiration
for Gamble’s tough guy.
Medan staden sover presented the explanatory social background less
schematically than earlier films had. Most often, in Swedish juvenile
delinquency films, problematic youngsters with working-class backgrounds are described as embodying social misery, sometimes spiced
up with an alcoholic father like in Kvinnor i fångenskap /‘Women in
Prison’ (Olof Molander, 1943) and Dynamit. Jompa’s background is more
complex. For the first time a stable and complete family is presented,
where the hard-working parents advocate a traditional workers’ ethic of
providing for oneself. In contrast to his well-adjusted brothers and sister,
Jompa’s ill-fated trajectory is due to other factors, such as the destructive public housing estates and implied pathological characteristics.
Jompa aspires to be an übermensch, which is connected to his dreams
of the big job and big money. By committing crimes and letting people
down, he finds the opportunity to demonstrate his superiority. ‘I am
not like everyone else!’ In his opinion, anyone who works for an annual
income of 6,000 crowns instead of stealing is an idiot. ‘Me, I have my
own right. I am a little bit too smart to slave like you and my old man
do. … I made 6,000 crowns in one night, that’s more than your old
man makes in a year’, he says to his despairing fiancée Iris.
Occasionally, Jompa also shows glimpses of self-pity. For a brief
moment after the murder of the fence, he drops his tough mask and
vainly tries to deny the act: ‘It is no murder, I haven’t killed anyone.
It just happened that way.’ The pathological streak is perhaps more
pronounced in the original screenplay, in a flashback with Jompa and
the gang as ten-year-olds, which was cut from the film and is only
mentioned in passing.8
Sune remembers how Jompa in a playful boys’
fight suddenly broke an unknown boy’s fingers with a plank. ‘None
of us did anything like it.’
Medan staden sover demonstrates the destructive forces of gangs as
iii. genre cinema
well as how difficult it is to find any workable alternative within youth
organisations. The supposition that such organisations could work
wonders is undermined by some scenes of an almost parodic quality.
The neighbourhood gang has stayed together since childhood and
they become hooligans mostly because there is no resistance. Their
spineless attitudes make them into easy targets for Jompa’s demonic
charisma. For them, breaking into the house is an exciting mischief,
and they differ from Jompa in that they have hobbies such as music,
cars, and crafts, even though they cannot find the channels through
which to use them.
Social revenge and class differences are implied as contributing causes
to the problem. Looking around in surprise, the gang supply themselves
with cigars and brandy from the bar when they have broken into the
house. It is apparent that they are confronted with a different world
and that this is the one occasion when they will be able to move around
in such an environment. ‘What the hell do we know about a guy like
this? We don’t live in the same world!’ Slampen exclaims.
The probation sentences after the crime make them realise the dangers
of Jompa’s ways, and they develop a moral insight. At the same time,
the film stresses the dilemma that young people regard recreational
clubs and preventive organisational work as geeky. They are provided
with a place to stay, but relapse into childish behaviour which includes
model-making and a singing parade with a biscuit tin. Even the pingpong games seem like a cramped effort to be good, and when they
later, due to Jompa, have to leave the place, they do not seem to miss
it. Apparently, their inner maturity at the end of the film is thanks to
other things than organisational life.
Translated by Mariah Larsson
Excerpt from Bengt Bengtsson (1998), Ungdom i fara: ungdomsproblem i svensk
spelfilm 1942–62. Diss. Stockholm: Stockholms universitet.
1 Leif Furhammar (1991), Filmen i Sverige: en historia i tio kapitel, Höganäs: Wiken,
p. 227.
2 Karsten Wimmermark was a pseudonym for the former Pin up editor Nils Idström,
who published several narratives on urban subcultures.
3 Furhammar (1991), p. 229.
swedish film
4 Per Olov Qvist (1986), ‘Bort från byn och hem igen. Storstaden i svensk film’,
Filmhäftet, pp. 55–56.
5 For instance in Flottare med färg/‘Colourful Floaters’ (Ragnar Frisk, 1952), Hon
kom som en vind /‘She Came Like the Wind’ (Erik ‘Hampe’ Faustman, 1952), and
Ute blåser sommarvind /‘Outside the Summer Breezes Blow’ (Åke Ohberg, 1955).
6 Such as, for instance, many of Arne Ragneborn’s and Gunnar Hellström’s characters.
7 Helge Ã…kerhielm, Morgontidningen, 9 September 1950.
8 According to Per Anders Fogelström in Aftontidningen, 23 September 1950.
chapter 18
Little Miss Lonely
Style and Sexuality in Flicka och hyacinter
Mia Krokstäde
Little Miss Lonely, Dagmar Brink, is playing the piano at a party. She
leaves, walks home and hangs herself. In a letter she has asked her
neighbours, the Wikners, to organise the funeral. The Wikners start
investigating Dagmar’s background to find the reason for her suicide.
Mr Wikner seeks out people who knew her, who all give some clue to
the mystery. Wikner meets a banker who most likely is Dagmar’s father.
The banker had only met Dagmar once, when she extorted money
from him. After this, Wikner seeks out actress Gullan Wiklund, who
shared an apartment with Dagmar. He contacts the military captain
married to Dagmar, who is the first to mention an Alex, whom he –
after reading a personal letter from – suspected that Dagmar still loved.
Wikner finally tracks down artist Elias Körner, who talks about his
and Dagmar’s time together. The last person to share something is the
self-centred singer Willy Borge. He claims that Dagmar killed herself
over an unrequited love for him. He had been to the party, and when
he left to make love to ‘a redheaded woman’, she just couldn’t take
it. Mr Wikner is disappointed about the banality, but content with
the answer. His wife calls Borge and asks for the redheaded woman’s
name. Borge answers that she was called Alex. Mrs Wikner doesn’t say
anything to her husband.
Flicka och hyacinter/Girl with Hyacinths (Hasse Ekman, 1950) is one
of the clearest examples of Swedish film noir. In this article I will argue
this statement and use the ‘noir angle’ to look at the film’s stylistic elements and its representation of sexuality.
I will not enter into the discussion about whether film noir can be
regarded as a specific genre and, in that case, what would distinguish
it. Instead, I will lean on the so-called noir canon (like the 312 films
swedish film
in Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style),1
through this the largely acknowledged ‘genre likenesses’ that distinguish
the majority of the films today called film noir.
Hasse Ekman (1915–2004) worked as a director, scriptwriter, actor,
and producer in the creative chaos that characterised the Swedish film
industry during the post-war years. Ekman entered the film industry
at a young age, and by 1950 had managed to script and direct thrillers,
love stories, war films and comedies, as well as star in many of them.
Ekman was clearly inspired by Hollywood films, and spent half a year
in America watching well-known directors at work. Critics soon noticed
Ekman’s tendency to ‘borrow’ structures and elements from other people’s films. The well-known Robin Hood (Bengt Idestam-Almquist)
wrote: ‘You are a bartender, Hasse, and as such talented with both taste
and deft fingers. You should therefore state in your films that they are
a free translation of other people’s ideas (and you should for the sake
of honesty share your fee).’2
In 1950 Ekman made the film he is most remembered for, Flicka
och hyacinter. It was important for Ekman to make a ‘real’ film; a film
that would – in his own words – stand alongside Ingmar Bergman’s
best films. For this he needed a serious and controversial subject, and
Ekman made this film with a level of ambition and thoroughness above
his usual standards. After this high point of his career, Ekman made
some commissioned films, less ambitious comedies and attempts at
repeating previous successes. He left the film industry in 1964.
I see Flicka och hyacinter as a film noir. There are so many genre
traits that it very likely was consciously inspired by the films we today
call film noir. It is part of the ‘film noir family’, but a distant, Swedish relative; a relative that also seems to be akin both to the German
expressionism and French poetic realism, whose sad determinism can
be seen as an influence on the overall sense in Flicka och hyacinter that
no one can escape their destiny.
Flicka och hyacinter also has strong connections to a film noir forerunner: Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941). This film lent Flicka och
hyacinter its narrative structure, several stylistic elements (the moving
camera in long takes, extensive deep focus, high /low angle-takes,
dramatic lighting) and can be considered to have had a determining
influence on Ekman’s film.
iii. genre cinema
The Noir Style of Flicka och hyacinter
Like film noir, and unlike the classic Hollywood film where the style
was to be an ‘invisible’ means to an end, the stylistic elements are put
into the foreground in Flicka och hyacinter. One example of this is the
strong connection between content and form. An example is a scene
where Dagmar and Captain Brink talk. Dagmar walks to the mirror
to adjust her hair and we see her in the foreground to the left with her
back to the camera; at the same time we see Brink in the background
through the mirror – we see his reflection to the right. The setting
expresses the distance that has formed between Dagmar and her husband:
he has just read Alex’s letter and does not trust her. They cannot reach
each other; they are on different levels with a strong division between
them. The reflection of Brink is also marked by him being placed in
front of four crossed sabres hanging above and behind him in precise
focus. This can be seen as an image of his gloom and military rigour,
but also as a way to set him against Dagmar. She is more relaxed and
happier than we have seen her before, and he stands ominously dark
in her background.
Several scenes utilise deep focus. This creates an awareness of the, in
many cases, realistic scenography, since both fore- and backgrounds are
in focus. For instance, the interior decor – mostly paintings – is used
to mirror the characters living in the different apartments. Dagmar’s
apartment has paintings of only women, most notably a painting where
one woman is resting her head in another woman’s lap. The decor is
simple, and the bedroom is practically austere.
In one scene we see a clear expressionistic influence, when Dagmar
and Elias embrace for the first time. From their embrace in medium
shot, where it is so evident that they find each other in a joint loneliness and vulnerability, the film cuts to a long shot of his studio. Here,
an askew, large background wall and warped, angled windows lean
in over the, in contrast, very small couple. They look as if pressed in
towards each other by the large and warped decor. The scenography
mirrors the characters’ mental states. This can also be exemplified by
the scene where Dagmar walks home through the dark night wearing
dark clothes. In parts of the take she is occupying the lower half of
the frame while the upper half is taken up by black night-sky and a
barely discernible dark train. In this way she is virtually embraced by
darkness, at the same time that she is pressed downward by the dark
mass dominating the frame above her.
swedish film
The lighting is predominantly low-key. In several scenes the shadows
emanate from windows, their blinds and curtains. Through this shadowy
framework the characters given most focus all seem to be more or less
in darkness. When Dagmar walks home from the party a clear link is
established between her and the funeral home she passes. She looks in
their display window, casting a sharp shadow over the coffins. In this
way she almost physically touches death. Her dark self represents a
premonition of what is to come. The absence of light creates meaning,
and when the living Dagmar is seen she is always in relative darkness;
something that gives her a streak of gloom and sorrow, as well as warning
of her coming demise. Dagmar seems to belong to a shadow world and
thus is not one of the ordinary people who can just turn on a ceiling
light (she does not have a ceiling light; she has a hook).
The lighting is also used to direct attention to certain parts of the
mise-en-scène, as when Dagmar comes home to her apartment where the
light falls sharply and almost exclusively on the hook in the ceiling. In
the following take and some others, the lighting is used in another way:
Dagmar sits so that half her face is in light, the other half in shadow
– a conventional device to show a character as being split. Dagmar’s
split seems to be whether to commit suicide or not, a split or divide
which is also present for the audience: the plot is constructed in a way
that the possibility exists of her not committing suicide. When we see
Dagmar walk home she seems too calm to do anything so drastic, but
this hypothesis fails when she stops and leans over a bridge railing. The
hypothesis that she will now jump also fails when an unknown man
enters the frame. When Dagmar calmly walks on we might think that
the danger has passed, but are forced to reconsider the risk of suicide
when Dagmar looks at the funeral home so intently; as if she has been
reminded of something. This scenario is repeated in the apartment
where Dagmar sits calmly and smokes when she – and the audience
– are again ‘reminded’ of death through a close-up of the hook in the
ceiling, as if it was her predetermined destiny that claimed her (and
the audience’s) attention.
The Fatal Sexuality
Through its unusual subject matter, Flicka och hyacinter focuses strongly
on sexuality, which links it to film noir. The typical film noir often
staged a sexuality regarded as decadent at its time. Flicka och hyacinter
iii. genre cinema
portrays a twist of the decadent sexuality of a typical film noir. The
fabric of Flicka och hyacinter is dependent on heteronormative thinking; a way of understanding the world where the heterosexual practice
and norm is as obvious as it is unspoken. For instance, Dagmar meets
a man on her way home from the party, and he sees that Dagmar is
contemplating suicide by jumping off the bridge. He tries to avert this
with the line: ‘He’s not worth it’. Dagmar firmly states: ‘There isn’t a
‘he’’, emphasising he, which more than implies that there is someone,
just not a man. This sentence is repeated twice: first when Dagmar’s
husband asks if she ever loved another man before him and Dagmar
solemnly answers that there has not been another man before him;
and secondly, when Borge asks who ‘he’ was, he who made her lose
her inspiration to finish writing a song. Dagmar responds: ‘You got
it all wrong, there wasn’t a he at all’. The narrative logic of the film is
founded on heteronormative thinking – in order for the solution to
Dagmar’s mystery to be delayed, it is necessary that we, when given
each new clue to why Dagmar killed herself, simply cannot imagine
that there could ever have been a she.
Much energy has been devoted to defining film noir through its
handling of sexuality and gender. Steve Neale discusses how gender in
film noir has been seen as both ‘progressive’ – strong female characters
with a defined sexuality and their own agency – and misogynous: these
women are destroyed before the film is over so that the world can reassert its normality. Both the ‘bad’ and the ‘good’ women were a threat to
masculinity by the former showing the dangers of rejecting normality
and the latter the danger of being oppressed by it.3
The gender perspective has also been illuminated by Elizabeth Cowie, where one of her
central arguments is that even though sexual and gendered ‘differences’
are always important in noir films, the protagonists’, filmmakers’ and
preferred audiences’ gender can vary.4
Cowie’s view is that desire is a
fixed entity in film noir, coupled with destructiveness and death, but
that it does not have to be characterised by heterosexual desire. Desire
is more to be seen as determined by the situation. Sexual difference is
necessary, but the characters’ position and gender in relation to this
is variable.
In the constellations of people in Flicka och hyacinter we see differences in views of sexuality and of sexual practice. The couple that
play the most prominent part are Dagmar and Alex, and both their
sexualities do not correspond with the norm. Consequently, we can
swedish film
suspect that at least one of them will have to be destroyed before the
film is over, since normality otherwise would have been too disrupted.
Dagmar ends up being the one destroyed, but Alex gets through by
betraying the woman she loved and allying herself with a man who
can reify her as a (heterosexual) woman. Alex gets to play the role
of femme fatale.
In the very first image of Alex she is seen as a femme fatale; complementing her more than hinted on promiscuity and inebriation is a
visual connection to the prototypical noir femme fatale. When the film
presents Alex in its first scene, the camera centres and rests on her foot,
in a high-heeled shoe and with – in the absolute centre – an anklet. I
see an intertextual reference to the noir classic Double Indemnity (Billy
Wilder, 1944), where the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson is presented
with her anklet in the scene’s focal point. Alex drives (in the most
stereotypical of femme fatale ways: through her strong, treacherous
sexuality) Dagmar to suicide. She does it consciously; she knows that
she is betraying her. In the party scene we see Alex dance with Borge,
and when he comments that it would not give a good impression if
they disappeared to the bedroom with the guests still there, she replies:
‘Right now I feel like making a bad impression’, while clearly looking
in the direction where we, through the scene’s construction, know that
Dagmar sits. Alex is conscious of her power and of her betrayal. This
can be linked to the description that Neale gives of sexuality in both
film noir and gothic film: the focus on possibly fatal sexual attraction,
which can be seen in Dagmar’s, in both senses, doomed attraction to
Alex. The physical and emotional risks this attraction brings about are
also in focus, but perhaps mostly in the ‘rear-view mirror’, when we
find out who Alex is.
I would claim that Flicka och hyacinter has a progressive aspect in
how it stages a possible change in gendered positions. Dagmar loved
Alex most of all, but she also loved Brink and Elias. In regard to the
prototypical noir story of a man caught in his past, enticed by a dominant, sexual woman, Dagmar is a woman caught in her past, but can
still play the role partly from the same pattern as a man would have.
If a woman can play a traditionally male role, gender is a changeable
position. That Dagmar here plays the role of the betrayed man elevates
the question of sexual and gendered difference to another level.
The film hinges on us not expecting Dagmar to love a woman.
Coupled with the heteronormative hegemony, the reason for this is
iii. genre cinema
probably that open lesbian love was tremendously uncommon in films
(or anywhere) in 1950, and that Dagmar does not fit the decadent stereotype that bisexual and lesbian women suffered from (promiscuous,
amoral – one that Alex does fit). In this film it is not the common noir
theme of the definition and existence of masculinity that is in focus,
but Dagmar’s sexuality. For Dagmar the danger of abandoning normality is imminent; she knows what consequences she would suffer if she
entered into the alternative life of same-sex relationships – condemned
by and alienated from society. But the danger of being embraced and
oppressed by normality is also imminent: to give up her chance at happiness, her love for Alex, would mean denying and suppressing vital
experiences. She tries over and over to approach normality in different
ways, with different men, but we know that this is doomed to failure.
We have seen how it ends.
Since the film’s preferred position is often that we identify with Dagmar, it bears a seed of progression: we wish Dagmar happiness. Finally
we learn that the way she could have experienced happiness would
have been to live with her beloved Alex in a world without oppression
of homosexuals. We are also made responsible for this knowledge and
become personally involved because, besides Mrs Wikner, we are the
only ones who know it. By in this way limiting the knowledge of why
Dagmar committed suicide, our knowledge of Dagmar’s sexuality gains
greater implications.
The film shows the frightening consequences of being unable to live
up to the post-war years’ ideals of family unity and conformity.5
It points
to a disillusionment regarding the ability of the dominant ideologies to
include and define all people’s lives to their advantage. This too gives
Flicka och hyacinter a subversive trait: it shows the confrontation between
the individual and its wishes and the collective, the conformist society.
Flicka och hyacinter is a modern film. It was regarded as modern when
it premiered, and I see it as modern today, both through its subject
matter and its focus on aspects of modern life: alienation, urbanity, and
disillusionment. It might seem politically incorrect to claim a film to
still be modern when it shows how non-heterosexual love must end in
death after for years having condemned the lead character to alienated
loneliness. But Flicka och hyacinter also makes its theme the individual
against the collective, and if one believes that a sexual practice that still
today is seen as deviant and wrong cannot have destructive consequences,
one is a victim of misdirected optimism. To see suicide as a way out
swedish film
when the love you experience does not correspond to society’s norm is
sadly continuously present. Little Miss Lonely can still be far too lonely.
Translated by Mia Krokstäde
This article has been abridged. It was originally published as Mia Krokstäde ‘Lille
frøken Ensom: “Flicka och hyacinter” – en film noir om moderne tidsånd og
afvigende seksualitet i Sverige anno 1950’, Kosmorama 2002:230, pp. 92–107.
1 Alain Silver & Elisabeth Ward, eds. (1992), Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference
to the American Style, New York: Overlook Press.
2 Hasse Ekman (1955), Den vackra ankungen, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand,
p. 185 (author’s translation).
3 Steve Neale (2000), Genre and Hollywood, London: Routledge.
4 Elizabeth Cowie (1993), ‘Film noir and Women’ in Joan Copjec, ed.,Shades of noir,
New York, London: Verso.
5 Cf. Jack Nachbar (1998), ‘Film noir’ in Wes D. Gehring, ed., Handbook of American
Film Genres, New York, London: Greenwood Press.
Documentary Filmmaking
in Sweden
chapter 19
Mats Jönsson
Generally speaking, the term documentary was neither professionally
used nor broadly acknowledged until the early 1930s, when John
Grierson’s famous definition, ‘creative treatment of actuality’, caught
on more generally. Hence, it is somewhat problematic to label the
first decades of realistically registered film images as documentary.
Establishing where and when the Swedish non-fiction filmmaking
began is thus just as difficult as trying to determine where these films
were initially screened. Depending on whom you ask and what you
mean by documentary, suggestions on actual starting dates include
anything from private amateur recordings in the late 19th century,
through brief actuality shots or documentaries in the 1910s, to a more
regular output of documentary films in the mid 1920s. Taking all
these aspects into account, this introduction will only discuss some
of the most dominant tendencies and individuals of Swedish nonfiction filmmaking, and especially those preceding the filmmakers
discussed later in this section. Hopefully, these broad strokes will
trigger the imagination of the reader and result in a growing interest in the fascinating, and still fairly unexplored, history of Swedish
documentary film.
Just as elsewhere, the first films ever produced and screened in
Sweden can be categorised as documentaries. These short extracts were
very plain in content and story, solely recording what was going on in
front of the static camera’s lens. The main attraction of these images
had to do with people’s fascination with the film medium’s ability to
swedish film
realistically represent movement. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise
that one of the largest global film successes in the pioneer years was a
brief extract depicting dramatic waves at the cliffs of Dover in England.
Many of these early short extracts of film were shown in compiled
programmes that travelling exhibitors screened around the country (see
Åsa Jernudd’s contribution to this volume). Before the first Swedish
cinemas around 1905, the films were shown in different kinds of official venues such as hotels, public houses, theatres, and even churches.
For instance, it was not until 1899 that films were screened for the
first time in the small city of Lund, when the Danish photographer
C. V. Roikjer presented three major screenings of about one hour in
total length, consisting of a variety of short films, many of which were
documentaries of sorts. Among the films shown were international classics within the history of film such as the Lumière brothers’ La Sortie
des usines Lumière/Workers Leaving the Factory and L’arrivée d’un train
en gare de La Ciotat/The Train Arrives at the Station (1895), but also
Swedish actuality shorts depicting prominent celebrities such as the
royal family and the nation’s leading politicians. A majority of the films
that Roikjer screened were bought from the Swedish film distributor
and producer Numa Petersson, arguably the most dominant figure in
the first decade of Swedish film and therefore also imperative for the
birth of Swedish documentary.
In the 1910s, the newsreel became one of the most popular types
of documentary film. Originating from short actuality sequences of
about a minute or two and shown separately from about 1905 onwards,
different film companies all over the world began to compile their
news images into one single reel of film lasting from ten to fifteen
minutes – hence the name newsreel. Regular production of Swedish
newsreels did not commence in full scale until the mid 1910s and the
most successful output was Svenska Bio’s Veckorevy, which later became
Svensk Filmindustri’s SF-journalen. This newsreel was a weekly attraction in Swedish cinemas from 1914 all the way into the mid 1960s,
when television took over as a dominant news – and therefore also
documentary – medium.
In the 1910s, the short films from the pioneer period became far
longer, and in the 1920s certain documentaries began to be screened
regularly in the cinemas. With the arrival of sound in the late 1920s and
early 1930s, the documentary film began to constitute an interesting
tool for the ongoing propaganda apparatuses around the world. This was
iii. genre cinema
especially the case up until the end of the Second World War in 1945.
Among the documentary films in Sweden that were used for political
purposes we find commercial propaganda in advertising films, political
propaganda in election films, behavioural propaganda in educational
films and nationalistic propaganda in films commissioned by the state.
In all these films, the soundtrack played a crucial part in the audiovisual
rhetoric performed. With the help of the voice-over, the originators
were able to steer or influence people’s views and opinions vis-à-vis
the moving images on the screen. And with the help of music, it was
possible to trigger and evoke additional emotions among the audiences.
Naturally, several other documentary film genres have been central
in Swedish film history. One of the most popular brought images from
various parts of the world into the Swedish cinema. These productions
are called anything from ethnographic films or nature films to explorer
films or travelogues. It is worth pointing out that they did not solely
display a variety of foreign motifs to the Swedish audiences, but also
presented domestic fauna and flora. Two names stand out among the
Swedish filmmakers of such films: Wilhelm Bernadotte and Arne
Sucksdorff. The former was a Swedish prince who produced nature
films from the late 1920s up until the mid 1950s. For the most part,
Prince Wilhelm’s output consisted of idyllic portrayals of Swedish
regions and folkloristic activities, but he also filmed expeditions to
foreign countries. Normally, the Swedish prince functioned as sincere
commentator and intimate interviewer in his films, and on many occasions he personally introduced his own films to the cinema audience
by talking directly into the camera or performing live on the stage.
Even though he has been sharply criticised for producing too patriotic
and uncritical images of the Swedish realm as well as explicitly racist
portrayals of foreign locations, Prince Wilhelm was a highly popular
celebrity among Swedish citizens.
Arne Sucksdorff was a totally different kind of cinematographer, with
an artistic and professional training behind him. After a few years as
cameraman for Swedish newsreels and propaganda films, Sucksdorff
began to receive an increasing amount of critical acclaim for his subtle
filmmaking. His success was so profound that he was ultimately awarded
Sweden’s first ever Academy Award (an Oscar) in 1949 for Människor
i stad /Symphony of a City (1947). His documentary films were always
meticulously orchestrated and edited, and his style is therefore fairly
easily recognisable. Equally, one can detect certain narrative themes
swedish film
recurring in his output, which is dominated by emotionally laden yet
ideologically sincere and philosophically profound statements about
relations between man and nature. Not surprisingly, Sucksdorff’s last
four decades were exclusively devoted to minimising the increased
pollution of the environment. In other words, he is a filmmaker still
with a high degree of relevance today.
It was during Sucksdorff’s career that we saw the arrival of television.
From the 1960s onwards, Swedish TV began to broadcast documentaries specifically made for the small screen. Here, names such as Tom
Alandh, Olle Häger and Hans Villius, and the so-called Löagroup, all
stand out. Normally, their productions attracted audiences that makers
of documentary films for the cinema could never dream of. However,
there are also common denominators between documentary production
in film and TV during the 1960s and 1970s, and the pioneering output
of Grierson and his colleagues in the 1930s and 1940s. In Sweden, for
instance, a new generation of filmmakers – such as Rainer Hartleb (En
pizza i Jordbro /‘A Pizza in Jordbro’, 1994), Maj Wechselmann (Viggen
37, 1973), Lars Lennart Forsberg, and Johan Bergenstråhle – took the
documentary to new and more politically explicit heights. The most
prominent name among them was Stefan Jarl, who revealed a strong
pathos when portraying subcultures and outsiders on the margins of
Swedish society. Jarl had initially learnt much of his profession when
working as an assistant to the aforementioned Sucksdorff. Following
in his mentor’s footsteps, Jarl also deliberately used documentary film
as a discursive tool for trying to change society and public opinion.
Finally, Jarl too received international acclaim in the form of various
distinguished prizes. Today’s new generation of Swedish filmmakers,
such as Lukas Moodysson and Erik Gandini, clearly follow in Jarl’s
and Sucksdorff’s footsteps, while still preserving their personal style.
In the future, however, we will probably not talk about documentary
film as such anymore. The next chapters in the history of the Swedish
documentary will not be written on film or television but with the help
of the Internet or new mobile multimedia. And to me, this inevitable
progression is something worth exploring further, not least because it
is at the very centre of historical change today.
chapter 20
A Fly on the Wall
On Dom kallar oss mods and the Mods Trilogy
Bjørn Sørenssen
What today is called the Mods Trilogy is an inclusive title for the three films
Dom kallar oss mods/They Call Us Misfits (Stefan Jarl and Jan Lindqvist,
1968), Ett anständigt liv/A Respectable Life (Stefan Jarl, 1979), and Det
sociala arvet/The Social Contract (Stefan Jarl, 1993). The concept of a
trilogy was born during the postproduction of Ett anständigt liv, as the
decision was made to – through a wipe – replace the film’s title with the
words ‘part two in a trilogy of which Dom kallar oss mods is part one’.
Jarl himself claimed in an interview that the concept of a trilogy was
more of a coincidence:
Towards the end, when I was working with the film, all these people
started having children. My God, it doesn’t end here! I can’t keep filming the children, too. Hang on, this must be part two, I said. Thereby
not said that I would make part three, because I didn’t think about
that. I said it was part two in a trilogy because I didn’t know what you
called it when there were two parts.1
In the same interview, he also maintained that, at this point, he did not
see it as a requirement that there had to be a third part made.
In any case, it did become a trilogy, and the three films were separately
as well as together one of the largest audience successes of cinemadistributed documentary films. Dom kallar oss mods, with its 167,000
viewers during 1968, was one of the most widely seen Swedish-produced
films in Sweden, and a large audience went to see Ett anständigt liv and
Det sociala arvet as well.
There is, thus, good reason to consider the three films as a whole; a
work which was not intended as such, but became one during a timespan
of twenty-five years. Obviously, this invites reflections upon this turbu-
swedish film
lent period in Swedish post-war history, something which is reinforced
by Jarl’s consistent use of retrospective narration in the two latter films.
In Dom kallar oss mods we meet 17-year olds Kenta and Stoffe,
the core of a group of long-haired youngsters, and follow their lives
together during one year, 1967. They make statements as a group that
consciously lives on the outskirts of social democratic society, and
distances itself from the grey workers and ‘Svenssons’ (i.e. ‘Joneses’)
through the members’ free lifestyle: music, alcohol, sex and hash. During the course of the film, Kenta and Stoffe grow apart and the film
ends with a confrontation between them.
Ten years later we meet Kenta and Stoffe again in Ett anständigt liv.
These ten years have been rough on them and their friends. What was
once a ‘game’ of drugs has now become the daily realities of life as drug
addicts: the hunt for the next fix. The Stockholm Central underground
station, which in the first film was the playground of the mods, has in
this film become the forecourt of hell; or, as Jarl clearly states with an
aggressive montage, a place of execution for a superfluous generation.
Stoffe has become a heroin addict and dies during the course of the
film’s narrative. Kenta moves on, dependent on alcohol and hash, but still
able to manage somewhat. Both of them have children, the sons Patrik
and Janne. At the end of the film, Janne stares into the camera, illustrating an open question about what will be in store for the next generation.
In Det sociala arvet it is revealed that things have not gone as badly
for the next generation as one would have thought. The children have
not, as one feared after seeing the previous film, ended up in the same
gutter as their parents. Fifteen years have passed. Patrik has become
a successful salesman, Janne a mechanic in the countryside and Jajje,
whom we met in various stages of alcoholism in the earlier films, has a
daughter who has completed secondary school. In this film, Jarl actively
participates in a frame story, attempting to speak with Stoffe’s son. Kenta
and his wife Eva try to set up their own business in the countryside,
a dream that the city girl Eva has had for many years. Nobody dies:
everyone lives, if not well, then at least reasonably so – or do they? The
trilogy ends with a confused Jarl setting fire to his Malcolm X jacket,
which he has been wearing during the shooting of the film.
The trilogy can also be regarded as an illustrative collection of strategies for documentary filmmaking. Recent literature on documentary
film has focused especially on its modes of expression.2
In the following,
I will argue that the three films in the trilogy represent three different
iii. genre cinema
modes of expression, each from a different phase in the history of the
documentary film. A specific way of addressing the audience dominates
each film. Dom kallar oss mods is dominated by the observational mode
of expression; in Ett anständigt liv we find that the expository mode of
expression of the classic documentary reigns, whereas Det sociala arvet
can be described as a reflexive documentary film.
Dom kallar oss mods – a Fly on the Wall
When I, more than twenty years after my first encounter with Dom
kallar oss mods, saw the film again, I was very surprised. I was convinced
that the film began with the ‘fish-eye scene’, in which the long-haired
mods Kenta and Stoffe run through the streets of Stockholm to contemporaneous music, but that reminiscence was wrong. Instead, the
film begins with a close-up of a comparatively short-haired young
man, Tompa, who delivers a nearly five-minute long monologue about
growing up in foster homes and in various institutions, before the
Richard Lester-inspired title sequence is shown. In his book on Jarl,
Mats Nilsson describes this introduction as a ‘gigantic breach of style’.3
Perhaps this is true. However, it may be a question of different ways of
utilising the camera technology that came about due to the introduction
of documentary films on television. In that case, this introductory scene
represents a trend in documentary film which came into being as early
as 1935, during the bloom of the John Grierson tradition. It was then
Arthur Elton and Edgar Anstey brought 35 mm sound cameras and a
truck full of batteries and lighting equipment with them to London’s
East End and had frightened cockneys stare into the camera and tell all
about their squalid housing conditions. According to Brian Winston,
this film was the beginning of an unbroken documentary tradition –
the depiction of the members of the working-class as victims.4
It was not until the 1960s, through the development of 16 mm technology combined with portable recorders of the Nagra type, that Anstey and
Elton’s film could become the precursor of a particular cinematographic
school. In the same manner as Jacob Riis around the turn of the century
had used a similar leap in the development of photographic technology
in order to depict ‘how the other half lives’,5
television and film crews
now sought out people and environments on the margins of society and
collected testimony that engendered viewer empathy with the victims
as well as provoking a sense of relief at not being in the same situation.
swedish film
With the increasing politicization of the 1960s, a new factor entered
into this type of reportage indignation: this is how it is, but this is
not how it will remain. This is the context in which to understand
the ostensible breach of style in the introductory scene of Dom kallar
oss mods. The personal testimony of the social case in close-up had
become one of the accepted modes of expression in the tradition that
Jean Rouch, inspired by Dziga Vertov’s demand that the documentarist
‘capture life unawares’, called cinéma vérité.
This introductory scene may have escaped my own (and others’) mind
because another tradition dominates the film, a documentary narrative
tradition which also has its origins in the technological innovations that
resulted in cinéma vérité – and which Bill Nichols terms the documentary
film’s observational mode of expression. The foremost spokespersons
of the observational documentary are found in the US, in the circles
of people such as Richard Leacock, David Pennebaker, and Albert and
David Maysles. Films such as Primary (Robert Drew, 1960), Happy
Mother’s Day (Joyce Chopra & Richard Leacock, 1963), Don’t Look Back
(D A Pennebaker, 1967) and especially the Maysles brothers’ Salesman
(David & Albert Maysles, 1967) cultivated the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ ideal,
in which the new mobility of the camera allowed for a presence almost
everywhere. According to the originators of the observational mode, this
method resulted in a truer representation of reality than the traditional
documentary film by making the camera and crew, and thereby the
viewer, an invisible part of the environment. This direct cinema tradition
differed from cinema vérité first and foremost in that its practitioners
declared war on the voice-over narrator in the documentary film. With
the new freedom and mobility, the omniscient and controlling voice-over
narrator could be removed from the documentary. The film could now
speak for itself without being controlled by an invisible commentator.
Hence, the strategies of direct cinema were contrary to the conscious
use of directors and interviews, in front of or behind the camera, in cinéma
vérité. In cinéma vérité the director and the interviews were supposed to
work as a personal connection between film and viewer, and the director
might very well, for instance, provoke his interviewees. Whereas direct
cinema operates with an observational mode of expression, cinéma vérité,
according to Nichols, represents an interactive mode of expression.
In Dom kallar oss mods, the observational direct cinema tradition
dominates over the cinéma vérité tradition, although the interactive
features are many and quite extended. The introductory scene with
iii. genre cinema
Tompa, which is a camera interview where the questions and reactions
of the interviewer are omitted, represents a classic cinéma vérité technique that returns later in the film in the conversations with Kracks,
Jajje, Kenta, Stoffe, Zagge, the dealer Peter, Lunkan and Storkenta. In
most of these conversations the interviewer’s voice is missing. In some
scenes, a voice-over commentator is used, albeit with a realistic sound
recording containing background noise.
However, the direct cinema features are the ones that first and foremost contribute to the distinctive character of the film, which made it
an audience success in 1968. The two film-school students had learned
to master the new film technology in a way which draws attention away
from the fact that a film crew with cinematographer and sound director is present. The scenes from the Stockholm Central underground
station, which in the two other films were a static, retrospective point
of reference, and the many scenes in which Stoffe and Kenta act out
their lives in front of Jarl and Lindqvist’s camera and microphone,
seem to be captured directly from life itself. These features were also
the ones that received the most attention in contemporaneous reviews.
However, the observational mode of expression, as it was developed
by the American direct cinema documentarists, has some obvious
problematic aspects. One of these is the claim of a different and better
representation of ‘real life’ than the earlier, commentator-controlled
documentary films had. As Nichols has noted, the absence of a distinct
‘voice’ can be as concealing to the viewer as the presence of a didactic,
omniscient ‘voice-of-God’.6
In Salesman, Albert and David Maysles follow a group of Bible salesmen for a couple of months. The film is made in the direct cinema
style, without one single explanatory text or commentating voice. The
everyday life of these salesmen seemingly takes place in front of a camera
which passively observes and records. Nonetheless, the film neglects to
tell the whole truth: that besides the salesmen there is a whole crew of
filmmakers present, with cameras, recorders, microphones, and lights.
Every indication of these circumstances has been carefully hidden or
omitted in the editing process, and only the initiated ask themselves
how natural it would be that a person who opens the door and sees
a Bible salesman, one or two cinematographers, two sound directors,
and several other people, without hesitation or a glance into the camera
would simply say: ‘Hi, do you want to come in?’
In the interview quoted above, Jarl has no problem admitting the
swedish film
relation to direct cinema in general and Salesman in particular (interestingly enough, Salesman was made more than a year after Dom kallar
oss mods).7
However, unlike the spokespersons for direct cinema, Jarl
has no illusions about the claims of this method to a better representation of reality. In interviews and discussions in relation to the film,
Jarl does not hesitate to characterise his films as fiction films, and the
documentary as a ‘fiction (un)like every other fiction’, as Nichols has
described the form.
But in Dom kallar oss mods, the observational mode of expression
dominates, and Jarl does not escape the problems raised by this method,
especially regarding responsibility for the people depicted. In order to
clarify this dilemma, there can be reason to study the perhaps most
famous – and infamous – scene in the film, in which Kenta has sexual
intercourse with an anonymous young woman. This is the scene which in
many ways formed the basis for the success of the film with the audience.
The scene is one of many in a sequence which details Kenta’s and
Stoffe’s relation to love. Introducing the sequence is a scene where the shot
presents the two protagonists at a youth club, talking with friends and
‘chicks’. On the soundtrack, there is a voice-over in which we hear Kenta
and Stoffe brag about their sexual experiences and consciously attempt
to provoke the film crew as well as the viewers with statements such as:
– We don’t care if the chicks don’t like us, if we’re disgusting in some
way, we just have our own style, even if the chicks don’t like it.
– Of course you should be with different chicks! Think about screwing
the same pussy for fifteen years.
– I wonder how many kids I have downtown, really.8
After this jaunty immature boasting, there is a scene between Stoffe and
Eva, the young woman with whom Stoffe – to Kenta’s chagrin – becomes
more and more involved during the course of the film. They are together
at her place, and their intimate and low-key conversation is underlined
by extreme close-ups. The contrast to the boasting in the scene before
could not be more jarring. In a clumsy kind of way, Stoffe tries to explain
to Eva that he thinks they should spend more time together, and there
is not much left of the jaunty tone of the preceding scene.
Subsequently, we are presented with the controversial scene, which
only lasts for about two and half minutes. Kenta is shown in an intimate
iii. genre cinema
close-up together with a blonde young woman, and persuades her to
pull down her trousers, because, as Kenta says: ‘I have to make love’.
We see Kenta lie down on top of the young woman while he tries to
make her tell him how much she likes him, and then a few seconds of
Kenta’s bottom, moving rhythmically.
This is the scene that the National Board of Film Censors (Statens
Biografbyrå) on 14 February 1968 wanted omitted, which the film
reviewing committee (a complementary committee to the Board and
to which the filmmakers appealed because they perceived the Board’s
decision as unjust) on 20 March argued should be kept. In accordance
with the king’s decision of 22 March, it was approved for public screening. This finally gave Dom kallar oss mods its status as a cause célèbre,
providing the focal point for a controversy in the arts section of the
press and on television in the late winter of 1968 – before the spring
and summer of that famous year arrived.
The victorious ones are the writers of history. The censor RÃ¥land
Häggbom has therefore received little honour for his contribution to
the assessment of Dom kallar oss mods, and has remained the epitome
of the faceless bureaucrat who, helpless in the face of filmic form and
message, resorts to the statutes. The scene he wanted to omit was
described by contemporaneous and later film critics and film historians as one of ‘the finest depictions of love rendered on the screen’
(Leif Furhammar);9
‘a love scene with a sensitivity and freshness which
contrasts with a refreshing sharpness with what older directors have
accomplished before’ (Carl Henrik Svenstedt),10 and a ‘fumblingly
beautiful and tender scene’ (Mats Nilsson).11
However, let us hear what the scolded Häggbom had to say for
himself when he in 1968 had to defend the actions which had made
him the bad guy for the whole of intellectual Sweden. He actually highlighted one of the most problematic areas regarding the observational
documentary: the issue of the rights of the person being filmed. In
an article after the release of the film, he wrote about Jarl’s statement
that the anonymity of the young woman had been retained in order
to protect her from the public:
Regarding the young woman and Kenta, they have already been left
to the mercy of the public, not by the National Board of Censors,
but by the creators of the film and by all of those who have nodded
yes and said amen to a scene of intercourse which the young woman
in question has already begun to experience the consequences of.12
swedish film
In spite of Jarl’s assurances that he wanted to keep the young woman
outside the debate by making her ‘anonymous enough so that no one
will recognise her’, he had nonetheless thereby made himself into her
chief guardian. And what, then, remained of her rights?13 Her passive
and subordinate role was here in stark contrast to the all but anonymous mods in the film.
And if you look at the film, the description of the two and half minutes as remarkably beautiful, warm and sincere is no longer so obvious,
especially not if you delve into the dialogue between the two of them,
as it has been spelled out in the book about the film:
Kenta: Lie down.
The young woman: No.
– None of that stuff… no, stop! It feels so good. It does. You must
admit it. You… you… I must make love. Pull down your [trousers].
– Pull them down.
Kenta pulls her trousers down.
– Can you open your legs? Take it easy. Relax, relax. It feels good. Don’t
you think it feels good? Don’t you? Do you like me?
– Mmm.
– Sorry?
– Yes.
– A lot?
– Mmm.
– How much? Hey, how much do you like me? Well, tell me!
– A lot.
– A lot?
– Yes.14
That the young woman does not seem too enthusiastic about either
Kenta’s demands that she tell him how much she loves him or about
the act itself is not, I believe, because she does not like Kenta or because
she does not want to sleep with him. In that regard I do not doubt the
representativeness of the scene. However, I do believe that the presence
of Lindqvist and his whirring 16 mm camera with zoom lens during the
act provokes an embarrassment which now, looking at the film again,
seems natural and tangibly apparent.15 That Kenta does not mind any
of this undoubtedly has to do with the fact that he is used to acting
out his life in front of the camera and the microphone, and he seems
irritated that the young woman cannot participate in the play in front
of the camera to the same extent.
iii. genre cinema
The problem of the ‘fly on the wall’ is that it is as intrusively and
obviously present to those who experience it as it is invisible and
unnoticeable to the viewer. This is where the Jean Rouch version of
cinéma vérité is more socially responsible than the American tradition.
In Dom kallar oss mods, both these traditions meet. Nevertheless,
the film is clearly dominated by direct cinema with its hidden voice,
and thereby also the problems of ethical and moral character which are
connected to that tradition. This was pushed to the background in the
contemporaneous debate, which mainly came to focus on censorship
and the lifestyle of the mods.
Translated by Mariah Larsson
Excerpt from Bjørn Sørenssen (1998), ‘Från fluga på väggen till fluga i soppan: om Stefan Jarls “Modstrilogi”’, originally published in Erik Hedling, ed.,
Blågult flimmer: Svenska filmanalyser, Lund: Studentlitteratur.
1 Unpublished interview with Stefan Jarl, Folkets Bio, Stockholm, 12 May 1993.
Interview and transcription by Søren Birkvad and Jan Anders Diesen.
2 For instance, Bill Nichols (1989), Representing Reality, Berkeley: University of California Press, and John Corner (1996), The Art of Record, Manchester: Manchester
University Press.
3 Mats Nilsson (1991), Rebell i verkligheten. Stefan Jarl och hans filmer, Gothenburg:
Filmkonst, p. 63.
4 Brian Winston (1995), Claiming the Real, London: BFI, p. 43.
5 For a discussion of the importance of technology for Riis’ famous photographic
reportage from New York’s slums, see Rune Hassner (1970), Jacob A. Riis. Reporter
med kamera i New Yorks slum, Stockholm: Bonniers, pp. 7–18.
6 Bill Nichols (1988), ‘The voice of the documentary’, in Alan Rosenthal, ed., New
Challenges for Documentary, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 48–64.
7 See note 1.
8 Transcript of the dialogue in Stefan Jarl and Jan Lindqvist (1968), Dom kallas oss
mods, Stockholm: Aldus/Bonniers, pp. 64–66.
9 In OBS, 14 February 1968, and in Jarl and Lindqvist (1968), p. 114.
10 Svenska Dagbladet, 26 March 1968, and in Jarl and Lindqvist (1968), p. 114.
11 Nilsson (1991), p. 54.
12 Jarl and Lindqvist (1968), p. 174.
13 Jarl and Lindqvist (1968), p. 174.
14 Jarl and Lindqvist (1968), p. 70.
15 According to information from Mats Nilsson, Lindqvist shot the intercourse scene
in Jarl’s apartment while Jarl handled the sound recording in an adjacent room.
Genre Filmmaking in
a Difficult Film Climate
chapter 21
Anders Marklund
The 1970s are usually seen as a quite difficult decade for Swedish cinema.
It is of course possible to point to individual important works in many
different genres, but those are rather few. The difficulties are partly
related to changing film-viewing habits. The number of tickets sold
annually would continue to fall, even after they had been halved during
the years after television’s introduction. During the season 1975 /76,
23.7 million tickets were sold, compared with 37.1 in 1965 /66. Admissions would suffer another decrease after VHS had been introduced
around 1980 – in 1985 /86 only 17.5 million tickets were sold. Since
Svenska Filminstitutet’s (the Swedish Film Institute’s) income consisted
of ten per cent of the box office, the negative trend there also meant
less money for the Film Institute’s various support funds.
Film companies had a difficult decade, especially initially before
they had somewhat adapted to the changing market. Even previously
powerful companies struggled. Sandrews and Europa Film, for example,
made only thirteen films each during the decade – hardly enough to
carry the costs of running their studio operations. Sandrews production
would survive until 2007, whereas Europa Film would be bought by
Svensk Filmindustri (SF) in 1984.
In such a harsh climate it is not surprising to see a greater focus on
genre films, and less on the creativity so characteristic of the previous
decade – a creativity that not only resulted in interesting films, but
also came with less predictable budgets, films and filmmakers. The
directors who would make most films during the 1970s were closely
iii. genre cinema
related to genre production. Mac Ahlberg (aka Bert Torn) and Torgny
Wickman, who made most films – twelve and nine respectively – made
sex /pornographic films, with titles such as Porr i skandalskolan/Second
Coming of Eva (Mac Ahlberg, 1974), and Kyrkoherden /The Lustful
Vicar (Torgny Wickman, 1970). Olle Hellbom, working closely with
the producer Olle Nordemar, made eight features in their series of
children’s/family films based on works by Astrid Lindgren. Jan Halldoff
also made eight films in different genres, for example Jack /‘Jack’ (Jan
Halldoff, 1976) based on poet, rock singer, and writer Ulf Lundell’s
successful debut novel. Previously creatively free filmmakers like Bo
Widerberg would find significantly fewer possibilities, and would be
less productive or be pushed into making genre films. Widerberg made
only three features with distribution in cinemas in Sweden during the
1970s, among them the celebrated crime film Mannen på taket/The
Man on the Roof (Bo Widerberg, 1976).
During these years very few new directors were recruited, especially
in comparison with the 1960s. Still, it was not impossible to break into
filmmaking. Lasse Hallström is an interesting, and rather telling example. Hallström first started out in television in 1969, the year Swedes
were given a second television channel (it too ‘state’ television), which
initially recruited a number of personnel. After his success with the TV
film with the long title Ska vi hem till dig… eller hem till mig… eller
var och en till sitt?/‘Shall We Go to My Place or Your Place or Each
Go Home Alone?’ (Lasse Hallström, 1973), the Swedish Film Institute
would support his work with the screenplay, and later also finance the
production of En kille och en tjej/‘A Guy and a Girl’ (Lasse Hallström,
1975), Hallström’s highly successful debut film. It was agreed that postproduction and distribution would be handled by Svensk Filmindustri,
which would benefit both from the good earnings and henceforth from
having a talented filmmaker making equally successful films for them.
Besides television and film, Hallström also made early music videos,
shooting most of ABBA’s promotion films in the 1970s as well as the
tour film ABBA – The Movie (Lasse Hallström, 1977).
At a time like this it was natural for the industry to continue to rely
on comedies in various forms. Of great significance were Hans Alfredson
and Tage Danielsson – better known as ‘Hasseåtage’ – not only for the
quite unconventional comedies they made for cinemas, but also for
their highly popular cabarets in Stockholm theatres and restaurants,
blending songs, comedy, and politics. Also important, but relying on
swedish film
more traditional forms of comedy such as slapstick, was the series of
highly successful comedies remade from the internationally better-known
Danish originals Olsen-banden. Right from the beginning, with Varning
för Jönssonligan/‘Beware of the Jönsson Gang’ (Jonas Cornell, 1981),
Swedes would love to see this band of small-time criminals engage in an
imaginative fight against rich and powerful people, companies, and institutions. Even more popular, Lasse Åberg, starting with Repmånad /‘The
Conscripts’ Refresher Course’ (Lasse Åberg and Peter Hald, 1979),
would make a number of recognition comedies about topical social
experiences, such as package holidays, playing golf, etc. These films,
which like the Jönsson gang films depended on an anti-hero (Åberg
himself as the timid and unfashionable Stig-Helmer), allowed Swedes
to smile at their own habits and peculiarities, and would be the most
successful Swedish films at the box office each year they were released.
Not all genres prospered during the 1970s and 1980s, however. In
particular the countryside comedies and melodramas, so successful during the 1940s and 1950s, were almost nowhere to be found, unless one
looked for the setting and themes in other genres. Also, the previously
much loved military farces would become almost extinct, although films
like Repmånad and Nionde Kompaniet/‘The Ninth Company’ (Colin
Nutley, 1987) were still made and would be successful.
In her article, Chris Holmlund discusses gender and nostalgia as well
as other issues in the many adaptations of Astrid Lindgren’s children’s
books made for cinema and television since 1947. Just as Lindgren’s
œuvre has been of unparalleled importance to Swedish children’s literature, it is difficult to imagine Swedish children’s cinema and television
without these adaptations, both for their cultural impact and because
they could offer a reliable source of income to an industry in crisis.
In his dissertation, Daniel Brodén writes about crime films made for
both cinema and television, analysing both changes within the genre
and the genre’s relationship with Swedish society. In this text he focuses
on the adaptations of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s novels and their
social criticism. It should be noted that since the mid 1990s crime fiction has had a very strong position in Swedish popular culture, and one
of its most important franchises has been built around the character
Martin Beck created by Sjöwall & Wahlöö in their successful novels.
In her text, Mariah Larsson, concentrates on sex /pornographic films
which became one of the most important genres during the 1970s. With
a focus on two films – Anita – ur en tonårsflickas dagbok /Anita – Swedish
iii. genre cinema
Nymphet (Torgny Wickman, 1973) and DeepThroat (Gerard Damiano,
1972) – she discusses a number of important questions regarding these
films, not least how they relate to changes in Sweden (and elsewhere)
regarding gender equality and discourses on female sexual pleasure.
chapter 22
Pippi and her Pals
Chris Holmlund
Dying at the age of ninety-four, on 28 January 2002, Astrid Lindgren
had already achieved the status of a national monument and cultural
treasure. In the days after her death, hundreds of children and adults
covered the entrance to her Stockholm apartment building with flowers.1
For the last quarter of a century, she had been mentioned as a
candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. She mastered several art
forms (radio, children’s literature, autobiography, theatre, screenwriting); she explored several genres (detective fiction, fantasy, romance,
sagas, and more). Designated ‘Swede of the Year’ at the age of ninety,
she responded with characteristic modesty and good humour: ‘We’ve
chosen an old person who is deaf and dumb and half blind… People
around the world will think all Swedes are like this!’
Margareta Rönnberg is not overstating the case when she writes:
‘Astrid Lindgren… plays a unifying function, for that which unites
the Swedish people is not least a love for her and her characters.’2
of what does this unifying function consist? How has it changed over
the years? How do the films and television programmes modify the
national ‘pastimes’ represented in the books, written in another era?
The Lindgren films, like the books, have been and are important
because they revolve around three periods that are foundational for
‘modern’ (i.e. post-Second World War) Swedish society: (1) the smalltown and urban welfare state (folkhemmet) of the 1940s to 1970s; (2)
the rural, peasant era of the 1880s to the 1920s; and (3) a mythical
Viking era. I treat each of these time frames in turn, prefacing my
remarks about the films with short historical commentaries. I then
note where the films and television programmes inscribe attitudes
and concerns specific to their times of production and original reception. Since Pippi is Lindgren’s most famous character, I accord her
most attention.
iii. genre cinema
The first section, ‘Professing Nuttiness in 1940s’ and 1970s’ Sweden,’
compares the 1949 film directed by Per Gunvall with the three 1970s’
Olle Hellbom films. I examine how all, though differently, position Pippi
as a lovably eccentric girl who is never really ‘foreign’. By comparison,
the 1974 fantasy figure Karlsson on the roof (Mats Wikström), is more
intractable but still friendly and fun.
The second section, ‘Troubling Paradise in Rural Turn-of-the-Century
Sweden,’ centres on two late-1970s films directed by Göran Graffman.
Both portray the adventurous, upper-class Madicken as a budding
‘pre-’ social democrat who, unlike Pippi or Karlsson, is generally wellbehaved. More briefly, I discuss the three 1970s’ Hellbom films about
the impish Emil in Lönneberga (Jan Ohlsson). Variously nostalgic for
the times of grandmother and grandfather (or great-, or even greatgreat-grandmother and grandfather) and for the security of the 1960s
and 1970s welfare state, these films are basically realist.
In conclusion, I review how childhood and adulthood have been
reconceived in the Lindgren films and Swedish society, anchoring my
observations around the 1955 Rasmus original and the 1981 colour
remake. I explore the consistently favourable responses of children to
all the films and particularly to those featuring Pippi and Emil. Finally,
I speculate on what the Lindgren film representations of national
pastimes may offer audiences growing up in this century’s Sweden,
weaving my reflections around reactions to the 1997 animated Pippi
film and a final live-action girl: Emil’s little sister, Ida (Lena Wisborg).
Professing Nuttiness in 1940s’ and 1970s’ Sweden
By the 1970s, thanks to the efforts of the social democrats together
with other political parties, business leaders, unions, and cooperative
movements, the economic and cultural gaps that had distinguished
the Swedish working-class from the bourgeoisie during the 1940s had
narrowed. In the 1940s, most households had been relatively spartan;
consumer goods were not really widespread until the 1970s. Changing
gender roles helped increase purchasing power: in 1950 only fifteen
per cent of women in Sweden worked outside of the home; by 1980,
sixty-four per cent did so. Racial and ethnic composition altered only
in the late 1970s.
To promote a ‘radical democratic and egalitarian society,’ in 1975
the social democratic state announced that three key tenets would
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govern future social research and institutional implementation: equality
(jämlikhet), freedom of choice (valfrihet), and partnership (samverkan).3
Designed to recognise individuality while fostering social responsibility, these principles were meant to integrate immigrants and ethnic
minorities into mainstream Swedish society and to promote equality
between women and men.4
Based on Lindgren’s three books about Pippi, written in 1945, 1946,
and 1948 respectively, the four Swedish live-action Pippi films shape
the main character according to the times in which they were made.
Rarely shown today – in part because Lindgren opposed Per Gunvall’s
addition of certain scenes, in part because Gunvall so assiduously repeats
the racism of the original books – Gunvall’s 1949 film stars 26-year-old
Viveca Serlachius as Pippi and features Bengt-Ã…ke Bengtsson as her
father. The fat, jolly king of a ‘Negro island,’ Captain Longstocking
is almost, but not quite, as strong as his daughter. In a town where
everyone knows everyone else, the residents are particularly intrigued
by the king’s black servant. In one scene, the servant, wearing a chef’s
hat, plays an African drum while Pippi’s dad, clad in a grass skirt and
shell necklace, dances. A policeman tries unsuccessfully to scrape the
servant’s ‘colour’ off with a knife, then comments, ‘They have GOOD
shoe polish in Africa, you can’t scrape shoe polish like that off!’
Pippi is not as crass, although she too is fascinated by foreign cultures, often making up stories to explain her own outlandish habits (she
walks backwards, sleeps with her feet on her pillow, etc.) as customs
learned while traveling in Egypt, India or Brazil. As in the books, she
constantly flouts bourgeois decorum. At a coffee party hosted by Tommy
and Annika’s mother (Emy Hagman), Pippi talks back to the priggish
middle-class female guests who cluck about the need to punish illmannered children with spankings or confinement. Undaunted, Pippi
helps herself to cake and biscuits, drinks her coffee from her saucer, then
triggers a slapstick chase. In another sequence, when she goes to school
for a visit, Pippi calls the teacher by the informal du (you) at a time
when it was customary to distinguish differences in class, rank and age
by levels of address. Pippi then lies down on top of the teacher’s desk,
one leg flung into the air, casually displaying her garters, mismatched
stockings, and oversized shoes for all to see.
Overall, though, Serlachius’ Pippi adopts middle-class mores more
frequently than the Pippis of either the books or subsequent films. In
one of several sequences, she buys a grand piano only so she can display
iii. genre cinema
it in her living room. In another, four female clients break into song
as they surrealistically appear and disappear in a music store via jump
cuts, superimpositions, and dissolves. Usually adventurous, Pippi leaves
the premises, saying she does not want to vanish.
Pippi’s own house is without film magic: camera movements and
angles are minimal, and the editing is traditional. Only outside does
Gunvall occasionally use extreme camera angles and pans to convey her
rambunctiousness. Per 1940s custom, gender roles are clearly divided:
Tommy and Annika’s mother, a housewife, is helped by a female servant;
Annika (Berit Essler) is a shy, well-behaved little girl. The least likable
character, the stodgy music-store owner (Stig Järrel), is a figment of
Gunvall’s, not Lindgren’s, imagination.
Hellbom’s 1970s films are more faithful to the books, but then
Lindgren wrote all the screenplays. All feature a younger Pippi (Inger
Nilsson) who is surrounded with characters who, for the most part, are
comic ‘types’.5
Gone is the racism of the original film. Even the 1970s
Pippi Långstrump på de sju haven/Pippi Longstocking in the South Seas
(1970) avoids the book’s references to the ‘sweet little black children’
who stupidly think whites are better. Curiously, however, although the
children have left home far behind, flying over oceans and a volcano
on a bed held up by balloons, and then by a bicycle transformed into
a plane, only light-skinned ‘Swedes’ ever appear in Hellbom’s film.6
The children encounter crocodiles, lions and snakes but no people of
other races; instead, Swedish pirates threaten them with knives, guns
and cannons. Reviewers worried that the excitement of this Pippi film,
easily the most action-packed of the Hellbom Pippis, might be a tad
too much for tots.7
Hellbom’s two other 1970s’ Pippi films are tamer. Less exotic, they
more easily avoid mention of racial ‘others’ as well. The 1971 På rymmen med Pippi Långstrump /Pippi on the Run and the 1973 Här kommer Pippi Långstrump (released in the US as Pippi Longstocking and
Pippi Goes on Board) position Pippi as abnormal, even other-wordly.
At the end of PÃ¥ rymmen med Pippi LÃ¥ngstrump, she even flies off on a
broom. In Här kommer Pippi Långstrump, her father (Beppe Wolgers)
lifts five sailors on a door; Pippi lifts five sailors, the door, her horse
and her monkey, Tommy (Pär Sundberg), and Annika (Maria Persson).
And at one moment in Pippi på de sju haven, she speaks in a (dubbed)
male voice; she wears oversized male shoes. Tommy and Annika also
incarnate more liberal 1970s gender roles. They help Pippi tar a boat
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and wash the floor, and all three clamber on roofs and hide in Pippi’s
hollow tree. The relationship between Pippi and Annika has changed
noticeably as well. Annika says much more, and Pippi speaks to her
directly. Strong primary colours, omnipresent close-ups, and extreme
high angles (used when the children do something outlandish indoors,
like hanging from a chandelier) encourage affinity with their world.
The voice-over narration by the child actors, frequent use of songs,
familiar small-town settings (the films were shot primarily on the island
of Gotland, in Visby, and in Röros), recurring gestures, and episodic
plots make the stories comprehensible to young children. Threats are
carefully prepared and contained; whatever happens, Pippi is in control.
The adult male characters, in contrast, are infantilised. In Pippi på de
sju haven, for example, Pippi’s father cries when he is imprisoned and
deprived of food by the enemy pirates; bravely, his daughter rescues him.
In the other two films, duos of childish robbers and cops are similarly
dependent on Pippi’s generosity and forbearance. Only Tommy and
Annika’s mother (Öllegård Wellton) seems like a ‘normal’ 1970s adult:
understanding, caring, and none too strict. Class differences are not
particularly marked.
By comparison, Karlsson in Karlsson på taket/Karlsson on the Roof
is less brave or generous than Pippi, and more destructive. The 1958,
1962 and 1968 books describe him as an amiable little man ‘in his best
years’; Hellbom constructs him as part older boy (actor Mats Wikström
is a chunky adolescent), part grown-up (an adult male actor speaks
Karlsson’s lines). Invisible to everyone but the seven-year-old Lillebror
(Lars Söderdahl), Karlsson lives in a messy cottage with a turf roof and
outdoor toilet on top of Lillebror’s apartment building, from which
he flies in and out of Lillebror’s room and over Stockholm, thanks to
a retractable propeller on his back.
As boy /man/machine, Karlsson is clearly different from everyone
else. He is also greedy and unpredictable: he gobbles up meatballs; he
devours Lillebror’s birthday cake; he blows up Lillebror’s steam engine.
But Lillebror is glad to take the blame, for he is lonely if loved – per
1970s social changes, both his father and mother work outside the
home, and his older brother and sister are busy with secondary school.
Since Lillebror’s world is basically such a safe and settled one, however,
Karlsson’s messes are easily put aright, and eventually everyone in the
family comes to know and to protect him.
Both Pippi and Karlsson were and are popular because they are
iii. genre cinema
fun-loving and feisty; that their rebelliousness is always, ultimately,
checked is reassuring. Indeed, though literary and film critics of all
decades have labelled Pippi an outsider, occasionally even an anarchist,
the 1970s film Pippi might better be characterised as a bohemian, a
younger version of the Swedish hippies, who also wore mismatched
and patched clothing and lived in dusty and disorderly older villas.
Like them, Pippi poses no real social threat. She is well-liked by most
of the characters, and she values her place in small-town life. Roughly
the same can be said about Karlsson; especially on film, he looks and
acts like an eccentric old man.
As Margareta Strömstedt observes, as welfare-state children, Lillebror, Pippi, Tommy and Annika all ‘live out their aggression within
a frame of security.’8
Like most Swedish children’s films made in the
1970s, moreover, Hellbom’s cinematic renditions of ‘modern’ life dodge
disagreement and curb criticism; more exceptional amid a decade of
boy-centred detective films, Gunvall’s 1949 Pippi film foregrounded
racial distinction, if in racist ways.9
In partial contrast, the predominantly realist films set between the
1880s and 1920s – the bulk of the Lindgren oeuvre – more frequently
inscribe class and gender differences. Yet they, too, rarely show poverty.
Instead, the films made in the late 1970s and 1980s – those about
Madicken and the Bullerby children, for example – respond to other
concerns, proffering nostalgic fantasies to audiences whose welfare-state
bubbles were beginning to burst.
Troubling Paradise in Rural
Turn-of-the-Century Sweden
At the turn of the last century, the overwhelming majority of Swedes
were landless peasants. The working-class was quite small; the upperclass amounted to five per cent of the population. Rural households
were generally large, with the more well-to-do encompassing not only
other generations but also servants.10 Everyone, including children,
worked; the two sexes often functioned as separate units. Occasionally,
people travelled by horse to the local market or visited nearby relatives
on key holidays. Only gradually, at the beginning of the 20th century
and as a result of economic and population pressures, did Swedes begin
to move to the cities; many continued onwards to the US.11 Finally, as
the cities grew, so did the working-class and the bourgeoisie.
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The titles of many Lindgren works set during the period – Emil in
Lönneberga, The Children of Bullerby, Madicken of Junibacken – recall
the importance of place. Both the films and books concentrate on rural
life as seen through children’s eyes; often they explore children’s relationships with servants. Göran Graffman’s two films about Madicken, Du
är inte klok, Madicken/You’re Out of Your Mind, Madicken (1979) and
Madicken på Junibacken/Madicken of Junibacken (1980), are somewhat
atypical in that they revolve around a girl, a composite of Lindgren herself
and her best friend. Exceptionally, too, Madicken is middle-class, and,
like the more modern Pippi, she lives in a town. All the other turn-ofthe-century films either feature boys (Emil and Rasmus) or showcase a
mixed group (the Bullerby children).12
Shot in 1979 (the second originally as six television episodes), as
Swedish children’s films began to address issues such as sibling rivalry,
class conflict and changing gender roles, Graffman’s Madicken films
engage with ‘daily life’ somewhat more than do Hellbom’s films. Critics
preferred Graffman’s work to Hellbom’s, praising the former as sober
and realistic; the trend toward ‘authenticity’, if nostalgic, adaptations
continued into the 1980s.13
Nevertheless, in Graffman’s films as in Hellbom’s, rose-coloured
retrospection generally rules, though a very mid to late 1970s insistence on collaboration (samförstånd) among the classes undergirds
Madicken’s interactions with adults and other children. Gender roles
are pronounced, as befits the times portrayed and not the late 1970s:
Madicken’s mother (Monica Nordqvist) stays home to care for her
attractive children; there’s a kindly maid named Alva (Lis Nilheim);
Madicken’s father (Björn Granath) owns a newspaper. A ‘gentleman
socialist,’ he is fond of testing class boundaries. In Du är inte klok,
Madicken!, for example, he encourages Alva to attend a ball given by
the mayor’s wife. Shunned by the upper-class guests, Alva is miserable
until the handsome chimney sweep (Ted Åström) appears to whisk her
onto the dance floor. The family loves the town baker and drunken
dreamer, Mr Nilsson (Allan Edwall), too. Typical of Graffman’s handsoff style, only the ‘small, sure, pen strokes’ of Edwall’s acting create the
character as charming but shiftless.14
Class differences are, however, quite visible in both films.15 One
episode revolves around Madicken’s love for her new sandals, consumer
goods her barefoot best friend, Mia (Kerstin Hansson), certainly cannot
afford; Mia is too poor even to have a sandwich to eat at lunch. After an
iii. genre cinema
initial rivalry, Madicken sticks up for Mia at school. Her relationship
with Mr Nilsson’s hard-working son, Abbe (Sebastian Håkansson), is
more a little girl’s admiration for an attractive older boy who takes her
seriously. In one of two subjective sequences in the film, Madicken
yields her chance to ride in aeroplane to Abbe, and we experience his
joy via the camera’s loops and spins. In a second, we share Madicken’s
own fear and joy when she walks across the school roof.
As in Hellbom’s Pippi films, the overarching narratives of both
Madicken movies centre on a late-1970s framing of the welfare state
as familial and familiar.16 Security and excitement go hand in hand.
As the first film opens, Madicken and her little sister (Liv Alsterlund)
awake in their airy upstairs bedroom on a bright summer’s day; as the
film ends, they climb onto the roof into the snow, elated because a
new baby sister is about to arrive, just in time for Christmas. Two of
the more ‘threatening’ episodes shot for television (Madicken nearly
drowns; Lisabet hitches a sled ride and ends up far from home) were
even cut for the cinema release of the second film.
In contrast, the second of the three Emil films directed by Hellbom
at least raises the possibility that Emil’s best friend, the servant Alfred
(Björn Gustafsson), will die if not seen by a doctor. Ever resourceful,
though, little Emil drives Alfred on a sled through a snowstorm to the
town doctor in time.
All three films touch on poverty (in the first, Emil invites the poorhouse inhabitants to feast on his family’s Christmas food when his
parents leave), but all put Emil’s pranks front and centre. Significantly,
the relationship between Emil and Alfred is virtually equal. In the first
film, Emil tells Albert how to conduct his love life; in all three, rhyming
responses of ‘You and I, Alfred,’ ‘You and I, Emil,’ signal the strength
of their cross-class bonds.
Like Lillebror and Madicken, Emil gets into trouble safe in the
knowledge that his (extended) family will always support him. Narrated by Lindgren herself and set on a farm, the Emil films place
nostalgia for nature everywhere. Spectacular twilight skies form pacific
winter backdrops for the house, barn, and out-buildings: bright skies
illuminate late-summer crayfish trapping. Critics were appreciative
of the bonderomantik that underpins the films; by the third, Emil och
griseknoen/Emil and the Piglet (1973), however, most had had enough:
they praised the piglet above all else.17
swedish film
Imaginary Friends, Imagined Communities:
Of Nature, Nurture, and Nation
Astrid Lindgren’s original portrayals of Pippi and her pals stemmed
from her convictions that children have a right to self-respect and
autonomy yet should be able to feel that they belong to a community.
In the context of 1940s debates about childrearing, these were progressive positions, indicative of the welfare state’s concern for all Swedes,
including children. Today Lindgren’s work is more frequently regarded
as ‘safe’, middle-of-the-road, even conservative.18 Most Swedes feel
that her books and films are part of a cultural heritage to which all
should have easy access. A storm of controversy surrounded Bröderna
Lejonhjärta /The Lionheart Brothers (Olle Hellbom, 1977), for example,
because cinema screenings were restricted to children age eleven and
older. So many argued that younger children gained access to more
troubling and violent works via television and video that a new censorship age of seven was established.
Children’s reactions have, in contrast, consistently been positive,
varying primarily by age and to a lesser degree by gender. The 1950s
detective films unleashed an epidemic of play, replete with a secret
language. In the 1980s, Rönnberg found many day care-age children
pretending to be Pippi and Emil, basing their imitations on the 1970s’
Hellbom films;19 my young relatives still do so today. Costumes are,
after all, easily in reach – for Pippi, unmatched stockings, big shoes,
red yarn pigtails; for Emil, a wooden stick for a gun, a cap, and black
clogs. Key to the films’ cum television episodes’ popularity, of course,
are their clearly delimited, familiar settings, easily interpreted daily dramas, catchy songs, and tag lines delivered by little heroines and heroes
who speak Swedish. In my own mid 1990s interviews with ten older
(nine to thirteen) children, everyone told me she or he liked Ronia best
because she is ‘active, funny, and lively’; the adventure-filled Bröderna
Lejonhjärta was their next favorite. The girls thought Madicken sweet
and they loved Pippi, but the nine- and ten-year-old boys could not
imagine pretending to be Pippi ‘because she dresses too bizarrely,’ and
insisted they would never want to be Madicken because she is too ‘girly.’
The two oldest boys, both thirteen, however, remembered hopping
and climbing ‘like Pippi’ when they were little. One volunteered that
he liked the times when Ronia’s father cried ‘because that’s realistic’:
his parents were on the verge of divorce.
iii. genre cinema
Yet what will the future hold for these (largely blonde) Lindgren heroines and heroes? Today’s Sweden is, after all, increasingly multicultural; a
significant minority of young Swedes are now either second-generation
immigrants or were born abroad. In a backlash, racist movements are
on the rise, leading some to argue that ‘though the policy of the last
half-century has been to advocate tolerance and understanding for people from all ethnic backgrounds,’ such efforts have been ineffectual.20
Similarly, though much has changed for women in Sweden since the
1940s, much remains problematic. Women now constitute almost half
the labour force and more than half the total population. The nowadult Hanna Zetterberg (Ronja) among them, they make up more than
forty per cent of the members of parliament. Yet women continue to
earn less than men do, and few hold visible or influential government
posts. In 1997, unemployment is, in fact, on a par with what it was
in 1930, due to what has become a new underclass of women, young
people, and foreigners.21
If films about Pippi and her pals are to continue to be made and
enjoyed, therefore, it will be thanks to a combination of factors. The
single most important elements will surely remain Lindgren’s partisanship
of children and her adoption of children’s points of view. To a population now clustered in just three per cent of the country, nostalgia for
wide-open spaces and unspoiled nature will undoubtedly also play a
role, as will the progressive visions of gendered equality and the more
reactionary repressions of class and ethnic differences these films proffer. Amorphously ‘pro-Swedish’ sentiments are likely to become more
important; witness the overwhelmingly negative reaction of critics, if
not children, to the 1997 animated Pippi. Reviewers raged against the
modernization of Pippi’s clothes, her ‘Pepsodent’ smile, the lack of
‘authentic’ settings, and the inclusion of English text on signs, labelling this version a ‘scandal’ and voicing vehement protests against the
‘Disney’ look and ‘Euro-pudding’ attitudes it conveys.
I, too, think that the live-action films are becoming increasingly nostalgic. But I predict that Swedes will continue to appreciate Lindgren’s
sense of humor and her willingness to play with gender, generation,
and nation. For me, a final, girl-centered moment in the otherwise
boy-dominated Emil i Lönneberga, summarizes what is at stake: one
warm midsummer afternoon, as Emil’s parents’ guests arrive for Sunday
dinner, Emil kindly hoists his sister, Little Ida, to the top of the family
flag pole. Emil sees this as a way to help Little Ida vicariously travel:
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from way up there surely she can see farther than she’s ever been, why
all of Småland! The myopic Mrs. Petrell sees not a little girl in a red
dress and white apron, however, but a national scandal. ‘Oh, my God!’
she cries. ‘They’ve raised the Danish flag!’
Wise old Swede that she was, Astrid Lindgren was not above using
little girls to play with symbols of national identity – providing, of
course, they remained identifiably Scandinavian.
This article is an abridged version of a text which was first published as ‘Pippi
and Her Pals’, by Chris Holmlund, from Cinema Journal Volume 42 Issue 2,
pp. 3–24. Austin: University of Texas Press. Reprinted by permission.
1 Harald Bergius, ‘Världen sörjer Astrid’, Dagens Nyheter, 29 January 2002 http://www.
2 Margareta Rönnberg (1987), En lek för ögat, Uppsala: Filmförlaget, p. 141.
3 See Aleksandra Ålund and Carl-Ulrik Schierup (1991), ‘Prescribed Multiculturalism in Crisis,’ in Ålund and Schierup eds., Paradoxes of Multiculturalism: Essays on
Swedish Society, Avesbury, UK: Aldershot, p. 2.
4 See Lars Magnusson (1993), ‘Den svenska modellens uppgång och fall’, in Birgitta
Furuhagen, ed., Äventyret Sverige: En ekonomisk och social historia, Stockholm: Bra
böcker, pp. 313–17.
5 See Elisabet Edlund-Wester and Ulla Lindström (1980), ‘Bättre kan du, Pippi
Långstrump!’ in Katalog, Stockholm: Barnfilmrådet, pp. 196–97.
6 For adults in the know, the casting is full of in-jokes: the pirates are played by a
director of Svensk filmindustri, an ambassador, several high-ranking officials from
Scandinavian Airlines, and the explorer Thor Heyerdahl.
7 See, for example, ‘Pippi Långstrump på de sju haven’, in Lars Åhlander, ed. (1989),
Svensk filmografi: 1970–1979, vol. 7, p. 72.
8 Margareta Strömstedt (1977), Astrid Lindgren: En levnadsteckning, Stockholm:
Rabén & Sjögren, p. 99.
9 See Margareta Norlin (1997), ‘På väg ut ur genretvånget: Om 70-talets barn- och
ungdomsfilm’, and ‘Reträtt till femtiotalsidyllen’, in Lars Åhlander, ed., Svensk filmografi: 1980–1989, vol. 8, Stockholm: Svenska Filminstitutet, pp. 27–28, 60–61.
See also Norlin (1984), ‘Blomkvisteri, idyller och Arne Sucksdorff’, in Lars Åhlander,
ed., Svensk filmografi 1950–1959, vol. 5, Stockholm: Svenska Filminstitutet, pp.
10 See Franklin Scott (1988), Sweden:The Nation’s History, Carbondale: Southern Illinois
University Press, p. 338, and Orvar Löfgren, ‘Family and Household: Images and
Realities: Cultural Change in Swedish Society,’ in Robert Netting, Richard Wilk,
and Eric Arnold, eds. (1984), Households: Comparative and Historical Studies of the
Domestic Group, Berkeley: University of California Press, p. 453.
11 By 1930 there were three million first-, second-, and third-generation SwedishAmericans and only six million Swedes. In proportion to its population, Sweden saw
iii. genre cinema
more of its people emigrate than any other European country apart from Ireland
and Norway. See Scott (1988), pp. 339–40, 366.
12 The Emil stories are based on Lindgren’s father’s childhood at the end of the 1800s;
the Bullerby stories’ refer to Lindgren’s, her sisters’, and her brother’s childhoods
during the 1910s.
13 See Norlin, (1997), pp. 22–28.
14 See ‘Allan Edwall – ett rollbildcollage,’ in Kjell Andersson, Elisabet Edlund, Susanne
Marko, and Annika Thor, eds. (1991), Inte bara Emil, Lund: Wallin & Dalholm,
p. 29.
15 In a sense, argued Ingegärd Martinell of Aftonbladet, class distinctions are necessary to the nostalgic idyll the films portray. See ‘Madicken på Junibacken’, in Lars
Åhlander, ed. (1989), Svensk filmografi: 1970–1979, p. 464.
16 As Mårten Blomkvist of Expressen complained, ‘Du är inte klok, Madicken is primarily a … didactic tale about the importance of being nice.’ See ‘Du är inte klok,
Madicken’, in Lars Åhlander, ed., Svensk filmografi: 1970–1979, p. 464.
17 See ‘Emil och Griseknoen,’ in Lars Åhlander, ed., Svensk filmografi: 1970–1979, p.
18 Lindgren’s own politics fluctuated. The child of a well-to-do farmer, she voted
for the farmer and ‘folk’ parties in the 1920s. Influenced by writers like Ivar Lo
[Johansson] and Moa Martinsson, she voted for the social democrats in the 1930s.
In 1976 she attacked the social democrats because her taxes had climbed to 102
per cent of her income and she became the darling of the right. More recently, she
argued for cows’ right to graze freely. See Strömstedt (1977), pp. 299–301.
19 See Rönnberg (1987).
20 Rochelle Wright (1998), TheVisibleWall: Jews and Other Ethnic Outsiders in Swedish
Film, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 320. See also Magnusson
(1993), p. 312, and Ålund and Shierup (1991), pp. 4, 11–12, 17.
21 ‘Fact Sheet on Equality between Women and Men,’ Swedish Institute, 1997.
chapter 23
The Criminal and Society
in Mannen på taket
Daniel Brodén
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö’s ten internationally acclaimed police
procedure novels about Martin Beck, published in 1965–1975, received
a lot of attention in the media. Similar to the novels of Ed McBain,
translated into Swedish by Sjöwall and Wahlöö, the books depicted a
new, more violent Swedish society with brutal murders and unprecedented crime. Beck leads a group of police officers from the National
Murder Commission who investigate murders around the country.
Whereas earlier police heroes had been connected to the idea of Sweden
as a safe community – reflecting an idealised image of the welfare state
model widely known as folkhemmet – Sjöwall and Wahlöö painted a
dark picture of contemporaneous Sweden as a highly industrialised
consumer society plagued by alienation and class conflicts. According to the television documentary Verklighetens Beck /Beck in Real Life
(1997), the series of ten books reflected the social changes of the time
and a more politicised public debate:
The hopes of the early 1960s were gone and in 1968 Vietnam protests
and clashes between police and citizens were a part of reality. … It was
a time when confrontation became more frequent and social change
more palpable … The clashes between police and demonstrators gave
rise to strong criticism of the police force. Critics accused the police
of being brutal and ruthless and of demonstrating fascist inclinations.
Halfway through the book series, Sjöwall and Wahlöö published an
essay in which they stressed their aim for ‘psychological balance, realism,
sociological analysis, as well as social consciousness’. They indicated
the politically radical agenda that had become increasingly apparent.
iii. genre cinema
The authors were Marxists and their aim was ‘to produce an analysis
of bourgeois welfare society – an analysis in which we try to assess its
criminality in relation to its political and ideological doctrines’.1
In the
first Martin Beck novels this intent is not obvious, but the subsequent
stories are characterised by social criticism and deal with capitalist
exploitation, police brutality, and social corruption.
Wahlöö called his novels ‘socialist whodunnits’.2
The title of the
book series – Roman om ett brott/The Story of a Crime – did not refer
to a particular case, but to a bigger crime: the treachery of the Social
Democratic Party. According to Sjöwall and Wahlöö, the capitalistic
class society permitted criminal exploitation of its citizens. The worst
perpetrators were not ordinary criminals, but profiteers who acted
within the boundaries of the law and made living conditions worse for
everyday citizens. In the dissertation Roman om en forbrydelse (1976),
literary historian Ejgil Søholm emphasises how the two authors’ bitter
criticism of the police force reflected the hostile debate surrounding
the nationalisation of the Swedish police force in 1965.3
The national
organisation, which had been divided into smaller police districts, was
then reorganised into a modern state bureaucracy with the National
Police Board as executive authority. The book series by Sjöwall and
Wahlöö, which began the same year as the nationalisation of the police
force, shows how the social responsibility of the police is abandoned
in favour of dangerous militarisation and cold-hearted crime fighting.
This background is only partly relevant for the first film adaptation of a Martin Beck novel, Roseanna (Hans Abramson), which was
produced as early as 1967. The story revolves around a sex murder and
focuses upon the darker aspects of the sexual liberation of the 1960s,
and lacks the political calibre of the later stories.
Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s book series became international bestsellers and
Den skrattande polisen /The Laughing Policeman (Stuart Rosenberg)
was turned into a Hollywood thriller in 1973. But, in this case, the
plot was transferred to San Francisco and the hero was renamed Jake
Martin (Walter Matthau). Also, the fascination for a more brutal social
violence – with the depiction of a bloody massacre on a city bus –
completely overshadowed Sjöwall and Wahlöö’s criticism of modern
capitalist mentality (the perpetrator is a ruthless businessman trying
to cover up his shady dealings). Instead, it was Bo Widerberg’s Mannen på taket/The Man on the Roof (1976), based on Den vedervärdige
swedish film
mannen från Säffle/The Abominable Man that was hailed by critics as
the first successful Martin Beck film adaptation. The film, a critically
acclaimed box office hit in Sweden, was also exported abroad. Reviewers
praised Widerberg for his gloomy depiction of everyday life and critical
elucidation of social violence. One critic wrote about ‘a heartbreaking
view of the hopelessness of contemporary Swedish society’.4
For Swedish cinema, where the crime thriller was a marginal genre,
Mannen på taket was an unusual film. It was both a dense action
film and a social-political film, and the combination of subtle acting,
authentic locations, and bit parts played by drug addicts increased the
film’s credibility. Also, the film had a special atmosphere engendered
largely by the unstable camera and the restless music characterised by
the use of a flute. But the really unique feature for Swedish cinema was
the large-scale action scenes: a killer makes his stand on a rooftop in
central Stockholm and shoots down a police helicopter that crashes onto
the crowd below. The filming of this sensational helicopter crash, with
thousands of extras, got considerable attention in the media.5 Mannen
på taket was a Swedish film which had scenes that could compete with
the mass panic scenes of the Hollywood thriller Jaws (Steven Spielberg,
1975), the hectic chase scenes of The French Connection (William
Friedkin, 1971), and the spectacular roof-climbing in the French Peur
sur la ville/The Night Caller (Henri Verneuil, 1975).
At the time, Widerberg was one of the leading filmmakers of Sweden and was renowned for his sympathies for social democracy and
his narratives of the working-class struggle. In his early biography Bo
Widerberg (1971), Ingmar Björkstén notes how the director in several
films explored the gap between folkhemmet as fact and as myth.6
both the topical documentary about the demonstrations against the
controversial Sweden–Rhodesia tennis match, Den vita sporten /The
White Sport (Grupp 13, 1968), and Ådalen 31 /Adalen 31 (Bo Widerberg, 1969), about the military’s killing of striking workers, Widerberg
depicted Swedish authorities responding to civic protest with brutal
violence. His aim with Mannen på taket was to make a film about police
abuse: ‘how it can happen by the esprit de corps is debated … in a very
good and palpable way in the novel, which I also want to do with my
film. At the same time, we want to tackle the subject in a film with
a lot of action’.7
Furthermore, Mannen på taket reminded viewers of
Norrmalmstorgsdramat, a hostage situation during a bank robbery in
1973 which gave rise to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ (with regard
iii. genre cinema
to the unexpected loyalties between hostage and hostage-taker). In this
case, the television broadcast more than sufficiently displayed Sjöwall
and Wahlöö’s idea of the police as a superior military force – it looked
like a small police army had invaded the square outside the bank. But
as a social democrat, Widerberg was not as critical as the two authors,
and his good co-operation with the police during the filming clashed
with the authors’ Marxist perspective on conflict.8
Additionally, the
controversy regarding the nationalisation of the police force had started
to peter out and criticism of the police force was now more common
in film and television.9
Consequently, the well-known social debater
Hans Hederberg regarded Mannen på taket as ‘a sort of culmination of
several years of debate on police brutality and police abuse’.10
Nevertheless, Widerberg’s police thriller was considerably more
critical of Swedish society than Roseanna. It painted a bleak picture
of contemporaneous life in folkhemmet in the Marxist tradition of
critical realism, which aims to elucidate how people’s living conditions
are determined by socio-economic factors.11 Whereas Martin Beck
in Roseanna is a happily married man and an enthusiastic criminal
investigator, in Widerberg’s film the character is marked by more pessimistic features. He is lonely, middle-aged, overweight, and trapped
in a loveless marriage. His hobby is building model ships; an allegory
of the broken dream of folkhemmet, withdrawing from the new society.
This more reserved Beck was played by Carl-Gustaf Lindstedt, a rather
unorthodox casting choice which challenged the expectations of the
audience: up to this point, the very popular Lindstedt had had a long
career as a cheerful comedian. There is a strained atmosphere in Beck’s
police department and antagonism between the detectives. Beck looks
disapprovingly at his tired colleague Rönn (Håkan Serner), and the
brutish snob Gunvald Larsson (Thomas Hellberg) does not want to
have anything to do with the pacifist Kollberg (Sven Wollter).
The plot builds up to a brutal change of perspective. In the opening
scene, an old man is slashed to death in a hospital ward. The rapid
editing and lack of film music contribute to making the scene particularly gruesome, as the killer slashes with his bayonet and blood sprays
over the white floor. But the slaughter is a symptom of a greater social
illness and is regarded as a justified revenge. In his prime, the murder
victim was a sadistic police commander who hid behind the strong
esprit de corps. ‘He was one hell of a bad cop’, Kollberg says. Mannen
på taket is structured in accordance with Beck’s reluctant realisation
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of the brutality of the police force. The decay of society and all the
horrible things he has witnessed during his time on the force, lie heavily on Beck. But even though the police hero is just a tiny cog in the
social machinery, he also has a conscience. And when a fascist police
officer proudly speaks of all the things he has learned from the dead
commander, Beck says resolutely:
How to commit perjury? How to copy one anothers’ reports so that
they correspond despite the fact that every word is a lie? How to brutalise people in custody? Where to park if you want to give some poor
bastard an extra beating on your way from the district police station
to the criminal investigation department? … You’ve never cut down
striking workers back in the old days when police officers carried sabres? … Never trampled unarmed school children from horseback?
Obviously, as a polemical film, Mannen på taket is part of the left-wing
political film movement of the 1960s and 1970s in Sweden. The killer
is a former police officer, Ã…ke Eriksson (Ingvar Hirdwall), whose wife
died in police custody due to the negligence of the murdered police
commander. In a way, the killing is presented as a fair punishment –
the victim represents an unjust society while the criminal is the true
victim. Gradually, all the injustices which shaped Eriksson’s tragic life are
revealed: that his mental health deteriorated after his wife’s death; that
he was evicted, and that the authorities took custody of his daughter.
While the film’s whodunnit-plot sheds light on the criminal as a social
victim, the hunt for him raises the question of the threat of a militarised
police force. The mentally disturbed Eriksson takes his stand on a rooftop
in central Stockholm and starts to systematically gun down policemen
below. This gives the pompous police commissioner Malm an excuse to
mount a large-scale attack with heavily armed police officers, including
snipers and helicopters. When Beck and his colleagues protest against
‘Operation Pincer’, Malm rejects their so-called amateurish objections
and bawls: ‘understood?’ (to which Gunvald Larsson responds ‘Heil
Hitler’). Without the possibility to intervene, Beck is forced to watch
as the attack goes horribly wrong and becomes a public danger when
a helicopter, shot down by Eriksson, crashes on the street.
One way to emphasise the threat from dangerous social processes
is to underline the individual’s limited possibilities of preventing big
mistakes. The socially compassionate Beck’s own action of climbing
iii. genre cinema
alone to bring Eriksson down ends ignominiously. The hero is severely
wounded by gunfire even before reaching the roof. In Med sikte på realism/‘Aiming for Realism’ (2004), the documentary about the making
of Mannen på taket, stuntman Johan Thorén says that Widerberg’s film
differs from other action films in that it ‘mixes humanity and effects’ in
a particular way. The large-scale action scenes are distinguished by how
they are set in everyday milieus which are emphasised by striking details.
A little boy riding a creaking bicycle approaches two gunned-down
police officers and asks why they are lying in the street. A girl screams
in terror when she catches sight of a couple of wounded policemen.
Were it not for one of their blood-soaked hands gleaming scarlet red in
the sunshine, one could think they were resting. As John Fraser states
in Violence in the Arts (1974), the odd and incongruent are common
ways of making violent scenes in films unpleasant.12 But the scenes of
violence in Mannen på taket also serve a symbolic function. They disrupt
the imagined safety of the folkhemmet and illuminate the institutional
violence by bringing it to the street. Also, the unconventional final
scene becomes such a commentary. After Gunvald Larsson storms the
roof, the film ends abruptly with a zoom-in and a frozen close-up of
the face of the unconscious Eriksson. The killer looks like a small boy
asleep. This rather poetic image reminds the viewer of how the man
was once just an innocent child, but that his subsequent tragic life was
shaped by the cruel social machinery.
Translated by Daniel Brodén
Excerpt from Daniel Brodén (2008), Folkhemmets skuggbilder: en kulturanalytisk genrestudie av svensk kriminalfiktion i film och TV, Stockholm: Ekholm
& Tegebjer.
1 Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö (1972), ‘Kriminalromanens förnyelse’, Jury no. 1, pp.
11, 9.
2 See Berit Greider (1992), ‘Fallet Sjöwall och Wahlöö’, in Göran Greider & Björn
Gunnarsson, eds., Att läsa världen, Göteborg: Daidalos, p. 151.
3 Ejgil Søholm (1976), Roman om en forbrydelse: Sjöwall &Wahlöös værk og virkelighed,
Viborg: Spektrum, pp. 128–185; see also Lars Wendelius (1999), Rationalitet och
kaos: Nedslag i svensk kriminalfiktion efter 1965, Hedemora: Gidlunds, pp. 53–106.
4 Review, Expressen, 2 October 1976.
5 See ‘Filmkaos på Odenplan imorgon’, Dagens Nyheter, 15 April 1976.
swedish film
6 Ingmar Björkstén (1971), Bo Widerberg: Författaren, teatermannen, filmskaparen,
Halmstad: Forum, p. 150.
7 TV feature, in Rapport, 12 December 1975.
8 ‘Så blev Carl Gustaf Martin Beck’, in Svenska Dagbladet, 13 December 1975.
9 TV documentaries such as ‘Here are the Police’ (Här är polisen, 1973) had reported
on the police’s brutal treatment of youngsters, and in ‘Release the Prisoners: It is
Springtime!’ (Släpp fångarne loss – det är vår!, 1975), Hasse Alfredson and Tage
Danielsson, the very popular Swedish comedy duo, satirised the police machinery.
10 Review in Chaplin, 1976 no. 6.
11 See Cecilia Mörner (2000), Vissa visioner: Tendenser i svensk biografdistribuerad
fiktionsfilm 1967–1972, Stockholm: University of Stockholm, p. 34.
12 John Fraser (1974), Violence in the Arts, London: Cambridge University Press, p.
chapter 24
Contested Pleasures
Mariah Larsson
On 8 January 1973, the American pornographic film DeepThroat (Gerard Damiano, 1972) premiered in Sweden. Only a few weeks earlier,
the first ‘real’ full-length Swedish hardcore film in 35 mm and colour
had been released, Bäddat för lusta /‘The Bed Made for Lust’ (Rune
Ljungberg, 1972).1
At this point, however, the Swedish pornographic
film industry was only just at the beginning of its ‘golden age’, during
which approximately one-fifth of the Swedish film production for cinema
release would be more or less pornographic.2
But in 1973, most of the
pornographic material that was shown in Swedish cinemas – around thirty
films – was imported from the US, Germany and Denmark.3
and sex education films, the precursors of hardcore pornographic film,
were nevertheless still marketable, like for instance the final sequel in the
Kärlekens språk series (Torgny Wickman, 1969–1973) and the softcore
or sexploitation film Anita – ur en tonårsflickas dagbok /Anita – Swedish Nymphet (Torgny Wickman, 1973) with famous pin-up Christina
Lindberg and Stellan Skarsgård (now perhaps best known for playing
Will Turner’s father in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy).
The production and the import of pornographic film in Sweden
during the 1970s were to a large extent completely dependent on the
removal, in 1971, of the clause in the penal code that forbade allegedly
obscene material.4
There were many reasons for this removal, but one
important reason had to do with the debates on sexuality, censorship
and freedom of expression which had taken place in the 1960s. These
debates had been characterised by liberalism, tolerance, a certain kind
of reasonable argument and by what might be described as a sex-positive
standpoint in opposition to a supposed ideal of chastity within established institutions.5
In the 1970s, however, the public discussion on
sexuality was a lot more polemical and aggressive and – which perhaps
explains the aggressiveness – the two most persistent opponents in this
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discussion were two phenomena, both in an outside position in relation
to established society: the women’s movement and pornographic film.
This paper deals with the encounter between the women’s movement and pornographic film in the early 1970s. More specifically, the
points of departure are the feminist organisation Grupp 8, its journal
Kvinnobulletinen and a booklet, Kvinnor och sex /‘Women and sex’, by
Maud Hägg and Barbro Werkmäster who were involved in Grupp 8,
and two films, DeepThroat and Anita – ur en tonårsflickas dagbok. The
conflict between the women’s movement and the pornography industry
might seem to have been unavoidable and predictable. Although both
of them had their roots in the liberalism of the 1960s and the prevalent
discussion on sexuality and gender roles, they came to develop into two
opposing forces on a head-on collision course. What was at stake in this
ferocious – especially concerning the women’s movement – debate was
the right to the priority of interpretation on issues regarding the female
body and female sexuality; the right, actually, to speak of and to claim
truths about female sexual pleasure. While this conflict in hindsight
may seem obvious and unsurprising, what is interesting about it is the
paradox that two such opposing forces to a very high degree spoke
about the same thing and, in a sense, shared the same goals: to liberate
female sexuality from inhibitions and do away with a Victorian and
Freudian notion of a ‘correct’ and chaste female sexuality whose main
origin and purpose lay in reproduction.
‘The Most Extreme Deformed Variety of Oppression’
‘Nowhere does the oppression of women become more apparent than
in its most extreme deformed variety – pornography’, the editorial of
Kvinnobulletinen states in a special edition on sexual politics in 1973.6
In Maud Hägg and Barbro Werkmäster’s booklet on women and sex, it
says: ‘The entire porn industry is one visual rape of woman. Vaginas slit
open in the face of the viewer. Carrots and bananas that are stuck into
the genital and anal openings. Little girls who are exploited. Women
who are being mated with animals. Women who are being beaten and
whipped. Woman sacrificed on the altar of patriarchy and capitalism.’7
The analysis made by Grupp 8 of patriarchal society was securely –
and from a modern, feminist perspective, problematically – grounded in
Marxist ideas. Consequently, capitalism was regarded as the root cause
of oppression and completely and mutually dependent on patriarchy
iii. genre cinema
to uphold the hierarchy necessary for the capitalist system. Therefore,
pornography was not only from the perspective of the consumer a
reproductive vehicle for the patriarchal ideology and the oppression
of women, it was furthermore dependent on an exploitation of young
women of the working-class. Hardcore, softcore, pornographic magazines, prostitution, live shows and striptease, together with commercials,
ladies’ weekly magazines and romance novels were, with a wink at
T. W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, categorised as belonging to ‘the
love industry’.8
The Importance of the Female Orgasm
In Anita – ur en tonårsflickas dagbok, Christina Lindberg – who was a
pin-up girl in the 1970s and is now a journalist and the editor-in-chief
of a journal on flying – plays a young woman whose parents seem to
have her younger sister as their favourite. By growing up in a loveless
environment, she has developed a compulsive need for acknowledgement through temporary sexual encounters. She quickly gains a reputation as a slut in the small town where she lives and is forced to leave.
In the Swedish capital Stockholm she makes sexual advances towards
older men and by coincidence meets Erik (Stellan Skarsgård), who is a
psychology student. Soon he is intent on treating what he diagnoses as
her nymphomania, partly because of a professional interest and partly
because he has fallen in love with her. She seems to become better but
has a relapse when Erik says she needs to have an orgasm in order to be
fully cured. It is not until she has mutually fulfilling sex with Erik at the
end of the film that she is freed from her compulsive sexual behaviour.
The film, directed by Wickman, is characterised by some typical authorial trademarks. For instance, it is a softcore sexploitation film and not
hardcore (to my knowledge, Lindberg never did any hardcore scenes).
Furthermore, it carries an ambivalence bordering on hypocrisy since,
on the one hand, Lindberg’s famous body is extensively exposed and,
on the other, some kind of sexual mission is presented with optimistic
zeal. There is criticism against small-town hypocrisy as well as against the
‘dirty old men’ who take advantage of Anita’s compulsive behaviour. The
explicit sexual ideology expressed in the film is that sexuality has to be
mutual and that people need to feel appreciated for who they are. Erik
is assertive when he claims that Anita needs an orgasm, but he is also a
modern man who cooks as well as does the washing up.
swedish film
The necessity of the female orgasm ties Anita to another and far more
famous film of the same period, to wit the aforementioned DeepThroat.
In this film, too, the female lead – played by Linda Lovelace – needs
to ‘untangle her tingle’ or achieve orgasm. Nonetheless, the discourse
of this film is more humorous and more anatomic than in Anita. A
doctor (Harry Reems) examines Lovelace and finds her clitoris located
in her throat. The solution to her non-orgasmic sex life is simply to
learn the ‘deep throat-technique’ in order to stimulate the clitoris and
thereby achieve a real orgasm.
In the booklet Kvinnor och sex from 1973, Hägg and Werkmäster
state about the film that ‘To place the clitoris in the throat proves how
far patriarchy can go: to even alter women physically in order to satisfy
the man. Experiments on women have taken place in reality, as for
example in Nazi Germany.’9
I regard this as a typical example of ‘guilt by association’; a direct connection between a pornographic fictional film and atrocities committed
in reality. Thus, the patriarchal society and its ‘most extreme deformed
variety’ – pornography – are juxtaposed with Nazi ideology and one
of its most extreme deformed components: the medical experiments
that were conducted in the concentration camps. At the same time,
this is contrasted with what throughout the booklet is called ‘ordinary
women’, ‘us women’ or simply ‘women’, by which is meant women
in real life: ‘The ordinary woman has not really learned to enjoy the
sucking of a penis, she does it mostly for his sake. If she does it at all.’10
The fixation on oral sex in Deep Throat can obviously be read as a
male wet dream of sexual domination. Especially if fellatio is regarded as
a submissive worship of the male sexual organ, as Hägg and Werkmäster
seem to do.11 What is forgotten, however, in such an interpretation,
is the equally strong fixation on the female orgasm in the film – the
female clitoral orgasm, that is. The documentary Inside Deep Throat
(Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, 2005) claims at one point that an
important argument by the district attorney during the trial against
the film was that it promoted the clitoral orgasm rather than what the
Freudian myth saw as the truly feminine vaginal orgasm. Deep Throat
thematises the clitoris and emphasises its importance at a point in time
when ‘frigidity’ in the US was defined as the absence of vaginal orgasm.
In spite of this, and as Linda Williams notes in her influential study
Hardcore: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of theVisible’ (1989), the film
fetishises to a very great extent the penis, and through the ‘clitoris-in-
iii. genre cinema
the-throat’ gimmick the film can naturally incorporate a number of
fellatio scenes, ‘the most photogenic of all sexual practices’.12
Simultaneously, DeepThroat negotiates sexual difference: ‘The very
fact that the expanded narrative of the new feature-length hard-core
film parodically joins with the scientific, Masters and Johnson-style
quest for the “truth” of woman’s difference indicates how fully the
woman’s invisible and unquantifiable pleasure has now been brought
into frame, onto the scene of the obscene.’13
Anita does not have such a gimmick. Neither does Wickman’s film
place such emphasis on the female orgasm as DeepThroat, even though
it is one of the keys necessary to unlock Anita’s problems. Early in his
treatment of Anita, Erik is convinced that the main cause of Anita’s
nymphomania is her loveless childhood and her sense of worthlessness.
She has to come to terms with her past. But she also needs to have sex
for her own sake, not to ease her anxiety. ‘I don’t care how you do it,
but get yourself an orgasm’, he says to her. In the end, however, it is
only Erik – a kind, caring and equal man embodying true love – who
can make Anita come.
The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm
The feminist assertion of the importance of the clitoris and the notion
of the clitoral orgasm as a way to reclaim female sexuality originates in
Anne Koedt’s article ‘The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm’, published in
Notes from the First Year in 1968. Koedt’s article has become a feminist
classic, although it was not the only one at the time which highlighted
the importance of the clitoris.14 The historian and literary scholar Jane
Gerhard argues that before Alfred Kinsey, female sexuality had been
constructed by an opposition between the vagina and the clitoris as sites
for female sexual pleasure.15 In the wake of Sigmund Freud’s theories on
female sexuality, the development of a young girl’s sexuality was regarded
as a transferral of genital pleasure from the clitoris to the vagina. Not until
this transferral was complete could a young woman be considered mature.
If the transferral was not complete, and the clitoris remained the main
erogenous zone, she risked developing penis envy, hostility towards men,
hysteria and neurotic discontent.16 Since the vagina brought together the
reproductive and sexual identities of women, it was the ideal site for female
sexual pleasure, whereas clitoral sexuality was regarded as more masculine
and aggressive. The logic of this construction was thus crystal clear: ‘In
swedish film
short, women who loved their husbands, embraced motherhood, and
accepted their position also enjoyed vaginal orgasms.’17 Correspondingly,
frigidity – that is, the inability to achieve vaginal orgasm – a fixation on
the clitoris and feminism were interconnected.18
The research carried out by first Kinsey and later the research team
of William H. Masters and Virginia Johnson turned earlier notions of
sexuality in general, but perhaps female sexuality in particular, on their
head. The clitoris, according to their studies, was essential for the female
orgasm. When the women’s movement in the late 1960s started to explore
female sexuality and contradict the myth of the vaginal orgasm, they
used the science of sexology to argue their case. Nevertheless, Gerhard
claims that a great deal of the political force of the assertion of the clitoris
as the site for female pleasure came from the threat of the clitoris that
had been constructed by the Freudian imaginary; to wit, that women
who had clitoral orgasms were sexually aggressive, neurotic, discontent
with their position as women and most likely lesbians. In a heterosexual,
patriarchal and reproductive model of sexuality, the vagina was the perfect counterpart to the male, active and phallic penis, whereas clitoral
sexuality was regarded as more active and aggressive. When feminists
actively tried to dismantle the myth of the vaginal orgasm and claim
the clitoris as being the most important erogenous zone, they not only
tried to improve women’s sex life, but an additional goal was to counter
the sexual identity constructed by the precedence of the vagina: woman
as passive, receiving, submissive and maternal.19 With the clitoris as a
point of departure for female sexuality, woman could be released from
a heterosexuality built on her subservience.
These ideas – as elaborated by Gerhard and very briefly outlined
here – were adopted by the Swedish women’s movement, influenced
by American and Anglo-Saxon feminism: books such as Betty Friedan’s
The Feminine Mystique (1963), Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch
(1970), and Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics (1970), were all translated into
Swedish between 1968 and 1972. Furthermore, and noteworthy in
this context, Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) was
published in Swedish as late as 1968 – in contrast to Sexual Behavior in
the Human Male, which was translated the year after it was published
in the US (1948 and 1949 respectively). However, most influential on
the women’s movement was Masters’ and Johnson’s research and, in
particular, their claim that all female orgasms originate in the clitoris
and are dependent on direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris.20
iii. genre cinema
Sexual Utopias and Pornography as Sex Education
In the pornographic film as well as within the women’s movement
there is a trace of the old Victorian morals. This trace complicates the
relation of both phenomena to what they express. In pornography as
well as within the women’s movement there is a duality in regard to
sexuality, where, on the one hand, the very break-up of earlier norms
of sexuality, of public and private, of love and desire, are important
elements in both worlds in order to construct their respective opposition to established society. On the other hand, those same norms still
influence the discourses on sex, sexuality and sexual morals possible
within both worlds. For instance, pornography – in the 1970s as well
as today – has a streak of the ‘freak show’ as part of its attraction, of
the ‘white trash’ aesthetics that Constance Penley has described.21 The
women’s movement had to (and still has to) balance a fear of sex and
the threat of male (and/or patriarchal) sexuality, the notion of the ‘loose
woman’ or whore or slut, with the important and valuable goal of female
sexual emancipation. That pornography and the women’s movement
were at some point not so far removed from each other as one would
think is demonstrated by the fact that Germaine Greer actively took
part in the first erotic Wet Dream Festival in Amsterdam in 1970.22
However, Greer’s experience of the erotic film festival was disappointing, and as Elena Glorfinkel writes in an essay: ‘Her involvement in the
festival, as well as her subsequent falling out with the SUCK magazine
collective, also spoke, however obliquely, to the emerging discontent
of the women’s movement with pornographic materials.’23
In the special issue of Kvinnobulletinen on sex and in Hägg and
Werkmäster’s booklet, a sexuality of equality is called for. Consequently,
Hägg and Werkmäster analyse women’s sexual problems and see them as
a result of the patriarchal order – since woman is subordinate to man,
she cannot relax sexually. Sex becomes a demand, something the man
needs or wants in order to get satisfaction. To abandon oneself becomes
impossible, since the man in his superior position always implies a
threat. Only in a relationship where the partners are equal and can take
turns being strong and weak can female sexuality flourish. As Hägg
and Werkmäster write: ‘A relaxed intercourse does not take place in
one position but many. We start one way and end in another. When
we are rolling around, no one is above and no one is underneath.’24
In the special issue of Kvinnobulletinen, it says: ‘Women, comrades,
sisters, we have to reclaim our body parts, put them back together and
swedish film
build our own sexual liberation on the grounds of sensualism, desire,
tenderness, longing, and consideration. A sensitive sexuality taking
place between whole human beings!’25
In spite of the differences, it actually seems as if pornographic film
and the women’s movement at this point in time had something in
common: the focus on female sexual pleasure, the interest in and references to a medical discourse based on Kinsey and Masters and Johnson
in order to undermine earlier notions of female sexuality, but also,
perhaps, in order to lean on some kind of authority. At the same time,
the sexual utopias constructed by both phenomena are at odds with one
another: the phallic orientation of pornography, which gives precedence
to certain sexual practices not necessarily stimulating the important
clitoris, collides head-on with the softer sexuality of tenderness and
consideration that seems to be promoted by the women’s movement.
The duality or ambiguity regarding sexuality within the women’s
movement and the anti-pornography standpoint taken so early on – in
Sweden it is one of the most important legacies of the 1970s’ women’s
movement, together with parental insurance and the expanded daycare
for children – perhaps has an explanation. For the women’s movement,
one essential goal was the right of every woman to define her own sexuality. Nonetheless, every definition became either an anti-definition, a
negation of earlier definitions, or a modification of earlier discourses on
female sexuality. Pornography was – and still is in many ways – a male
enterprise; what Williams explains as an investigation of the mystery
of the Other, woman.26 When pornography became public in Sweden
after the removal of the obscenity clause in the penal code, suddenly
a male discourse on female sexuality became very, very obvious and
was subjected to criticism. Although this discourse redefined female
sexuality in opposition to Freudian and Victorian ideals, it was still
a male, patriarchal and capitalist discourse, which had to be argued
against no matter what it said.
This article is a revised and abridged version of Mariah Larsson (2008), ‘Långt
ner i 1973: Kvinnlig njutning enligt kvinnorörelsen och porrfilmen’, originally
published in Marie Cronqvist, Lina Sturfelt & Martin Wiklund, eds., 1973:
en träff med tidsandan, Lund: Nordic Academic Press. It was presented as a
paper at NECS, the Network for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in
Budapest, 2008.
iii. genre cinema
1 According to Svensk filmografi 7: 1970–1979, p. 184, 1973 /2: Bäddat för lusta,
2 Leif Furhammar (1993), Filmen i Sverige. En historia i tio kapitel, Höganäs: Wiken,
pp. 328–329.
3 This is an estimate based on Bertil Wredlund (1983), Långfilm i Sverige 7, 1970–
1979: fakta om 3.198 långfilmer godkända för visning eller censurförbjudna i Sverige
1970–1979, Stockholm: Proprius.
4 The Swedish penal code, chapter 16, clause 11. See SOU 1969:38, ‘Yttrandefrihetens
gränser’, p. 9.
5 See, for instance, Lena Lennerhed (1994), Frihet att njuta: Sexualdebatten i Sverige
på 1960-talet, Stockholm: Norstedts, for a very thorough study of the sexual debate
in Sweden in the 1960s. See also Cristine Sarrimo (2000), När det personliga blev
politiskt: 1970-talets kvinnliga bekännelse och självbiografi, Stockholm/Stehag: Brutus
Östlings bokförlag Symposion, pp. 94–98, and Mariah Larsson (2006), Skenet som
bedrog: Mai Zetterling och det svenska sextiotalet, Lund: Sekel bokförlag, pp. 78–82.
6 Kvinnobulletinen, no. 3–4 /1973, p. 3.
7 Maud Hägg and Barbro Werkmäster (1973), Kvinnor och sex, Gothenburg: Författarförlaget, p. 74.
8 Inger Jarméus and Suzanne Osten (1973), ‘Pengar mellan kvinnoben’, Kvinnobulletinen, no. 3–4, p. 12.
9 Hägg and Werkmäster (1973), pp. 71–72.
10 Hägg and Werkmäster (1973), p. 71.
11 Hägg and Werkmäster (1973), p. 71.
12 Linda Williams (1999), Hardcore: Power, Pleasure and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’,
Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, (1st edition
1989), pp. 111–112, quote from p. 111.
13 Williams (1999), p. 113.
14 Jane Gerhard (2000), ‘Revisiting “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm”: The Female
Orgasm in American Sexual Thought and Second Wave Feminism’, Feminist Studies,
no. 2, pp. 449–476, p. 449. Koedt’s article can be found at http://www.cwluherstory.
org /classic-feminist-writings/myth-of-the-vaginal-orgasm.html, accessed 2 October
15 Gerhard (2000), pp. 451–459.
16 Gerhard (2000), pp. 453–454.
17 Gerhard (2000), p. 456.
18 Gerhard (2000), p. 458.
19 Gerhard (2000), p. 459.
20 See, for instance, Hägg and Werkmäster (1973), p. 56.
21 Constance Penley (2006), ‘Crackers and Whackers: The White Trashing of Porn’
in Peter Lehman, ed., Pornography: Film and Culture, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers
University Press, pp. 99–117.
22 Elena Glorfinkel (2006), ‘Wet Dreams: Erotic Film Festivals of the Early 1970s and
the Utopian Sexual Public Sphere’, Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media
vol. 47, no 2, pp. 59–86, p. 63.
23 Glorfinkel (2006), p. 64.
24 Hägg and Werkmäster (1973), p. 50.
25 Annika Nordin (1973), Kvinnobulletinen, no. 3–4 p. 15.
26 Williams (1999), e.g. p. 113.

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auteurs and art cinema
Art Cinema, Auteurs and
the Art Cinema ‘Institution’
chapter 25
Mariah Larsson
The post-war period in Sweden brought some critical success to Swedish filmmakers abroad. Alf Sjöberg, a director working in theatre as
well as in film, won prizes with his films Hets/Frenzy (1944), Bara en
mor/Only a Mother (1949), and Fröken Julie/Miss Julie (1951) at the
Cannes festival in 1946 (grand international prize); the Venice festival
in 1950 (best cinematography); and at Cannes again in 1951 (Palme
d’Or, together with Miracolo a Milano /Miracle in Milan, Vittorio de
Sica, 1951). Arne Sucksdorff won a number of awards for Det stora
äventyret/The Great Adventure (1953), and Arne Mattsson’s Hon dansade en sommar/One Summer of Happiness (1951) not only received
awards at Cannes as well as at the Berlin festival but was also a huge
commercial success and began to provide nourishment for the complex
image of Sweden which contained the notion of ‘sin’ as well as ideals
of modernity and equality.
No less importance, however, should be ascribed to the successes
of Ingmar Bergman. Although his international breakthrough is usually ascribed to the prize of poetic humour given to Sommarnattens
leende/Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) at the Cannes film festival in
1956, his Sommaren med Monika /Summer with Monika (1953) had
already made him popular with a select group of film critics, namely
the writers of the French journal Cahiers du cinéma. Famously, critic
and director François Truffaut had his young protagonist steal a picture of Harriet Andersson from the film in his debut Les Quatre cents
coups/The 400 Blows, (1959). Correspondingly, Swedish critics were
iv. auteurs and art cinema
inspired by Continental auteur criticism and ideas of film as art. In the
highbrow literary journal Bonniers Litterära Magasin (BLM), film essays
had become a standing feature. Thus, whereas film waned somewhat
as an entertainment business due to competition from television, it
gained respect as an art form.
Auteur criticism, simply put, promoted an idea of the director as
the artistic creator of a film. Not all directors, however, were worthy
of being called auteurs; only those who made a personal imprint on
their films of their vision of the world, a vision which was supposed to
be coherent, universal, and consistent from film to film. The notion
of the importance of the director was not new, yet the auteur critics
elevated the director to the highest level of artistic importance – great
films were films by great auteurs, and a film which was not made by an
auteur was, simply, not art. It started in France as a reaction against the
tradition of quality, in which high-budget film adaptations of literary
works or theatre plays were the norm. These directors, the auteur critics complained, were only skilled craftsmen who did as the script told
them. ‘Auteur theory’ spread across the world, most notably through
the Cahiers du Cinéma critics and the American critic Andrew Sarris.
It became highly influential within the Swedish art cinema institution
as well. The auteur theory provided an important argument for film
as art – not just the avant-garde and experimental kind of art which
within film usually at this point came in the form of short films, shot
on 16 mm, and shown in film clubs and art societies, but feature-length
art films screened in regular cinemas. The Swedish art cinema institution can be regarded as a field of agents (critics, producers, directors,
but also production companies) struggling for hegemonic control
and canonising certain films as well as particular film directors.1
1963, the hegemonic power of the art cinema institution was formally
placed within the newly founded Svenska Filminstitutet (Swedish Film
Institute) through a film reform, implemented that year. It provided a
completely new national film policy aiming to stimulate the production of what was called ‘quality film’, by which was meant, basically,
a kind of artistically ambitious and valuable film that could have the
same impact as Ingmar Bergman’s films had.
In this part of the book, two texts provide different perspectives on
art cinema in Sweden just before the Swedish film reform. The first,
by Erik Hedling, deals with Ingmar Bergman and his relation to the
Swedish welfare state – a welfare state which played a crucial role in the
swedish film
film reform, just as Bergman’s own international success as an auteur
did. However, as Hedling demonstrates, Bergman was ambivalent to
modernity and to the modern Swedish welfare state.
The second contribution deals with a kind of art cinema which was
marginalised in relation to the still comparatively regular art cinema;
namely, the avant-garde or experimental film. German-born writer, artist,
and filmmaker Peter Weiss moved to Sweden in 1939 and eventually
became a Swedish citizen. Lars Gustaf Andersson offers an analysis of
Weiss’s short films, documentaries and Hägringen/The Mirage aka Fata
Morgana (1959), his only feature-length film. Perhaps one should say
his only acknowledged feature-length film – Weiss collaborated with
Barbro Boman on the production of Svenska flickor i Paris/The Flamboyant Sex (1961), but withdrew his name from the credits when he
realised the film would be promoted as a sexploitation film.
1 See Steve Neale (2002) ‘Art Cinema as Institution’ in Catherine Fowler, ed., The
European Cinema Reader, London, New York: Routledge, pp. 103–120, originally
published in Screen vol. 22, no 1, 1981; Lars Gustaf Andersson (1995), ‘Den svenska
konstfilmsinstitutionen’, Filmhäftet no 1–2, 1995, pp. 5–14; Anders Åberg (2001),
Tabu: Filmaren Vilgot Sjöman, Lund: Filmhäftet, pp. 78.
chapter 26
Ingmar Bergman
and Modernity
Some Contextual Remarks
Erik Hedling
Ingmar Bergman’s films have only very seldom triggered ideological
analyses. Where they have, it has been mostly from a modernist perspective; that is, Bergman has been considered to be a representative
of what has been perceived as ancient, old fashioned, or just not up to
date. One such study was Maria Bergom Larsson’s book Ingmar Bergman
and Society,
in which Bergman was criticised for his generally bourgeois
outlook and his failure to see how modernity had paved the way for a
new socialist society. He was the reactionary who did not understand
that the people he showed on the screen were already history.
In one of the most interesting books on Bergman that I have read,
however, a particular outlook that interests me is very present; namely,
the collision between the dominant social democratic ideology of Swedish post-war society and the Bergmanian production of meaning. That
is, Bergman’s films are studied as a critique of modern society, not the
other way round, as in Bergom Larsson’s book.
The book I am referring to is Swedish journalist Leif Zern’s Se Bergman from the beginning of the 1990s.2
Here, Zern discusses in some
detail how Bergman’s metaphysics represented a striking contrast to
the ruling rationalism of the Social Democratic Party:
In 1945, when Bergman directed his first film, Sweden was rising from
the shambles of war more easily than any other country in Europe
and started to build the welfare state and the ‘people’s home’, as it
was called. With social reforms and economic progress, not only was
a modern and extremely well-organised society built in record speed,
swedish film
a society that reached its zenith in the mid 1960s. As important an
aspect of the modernisation was the Swedish self-image. Few societies have been so scared of conflicts. Every time we saw ourselves in
the mirror, we were successful, healthy, rational and just. There could
be accidents but Sweden was in practice a country without tragedy. 3
Thereafter, he concludes with particular emphasis:
In the films of Bergman this mirror is cracked. And what he shows us is
not even a consciously created image mocking the dominant ideology,
but a warped image of all that we thought we had left, all that we had
repressed, all that we thought ancient and, at worst, incapable of life.
Bergman’s characters live on as if nothing has happened. They suffer,
have bad consciences, they have complexes, and refuse to be like all
others: that is, grown up, cooperative, integrated. It is questionable
whether they have noticed that the country by now is secularised and
that all troubles of the mind have since far back been cured by material rewards.4
Zern also shows how Bergman regularly turns his gaze away from the
entire welfare state project in Sweden. One instance of this could be
Bergman’s implicit criticism of arch-rationalist Ingemar Hedenius, a
philosophy professor at the University of Uppsala, who was very influential in the public debate of the 1950s and 1960s. Hedenius and his
critique of religion were not least savoured by the social democratic
ideology. The atheist Hedenius is parodied under the pseudonym
Vergérus in several Bergman films, as in Ansiktet/The Magician (1958),
where Gunnar Björnstrand played a scornful, arrogant, and ice-cold
man of medicine who refuses too see anything beyond the physically
discernible. Instead, Bergman focused on ‘the other’: those existential
problems that the welfare state, according to Zern, had repressed.
Inspired by Zern, I have, for instance, studied the landscape depiction in some of Bergman’s 1960s’ films, like Nattvardsgästerna /Winter
Light (1963) and Persona (1966).5
Here, I read the warped and consciously stylised stone landscape on the island of Fårö as a critique of
the ostensibly self-satisfied and verdant landscape aesthetics that had
earlier permeated Swedish cinema. These latter aesthetics could be
claimed to represent the self-image of Swedish ideology in a period
when Sweden had risen from a place in the shadows to become one of
the richest countries in the world.
iv. auteurs and art cinema
In the following, I will study similar ideological structures in some
of Bergman’s early films; works that are not as well-known and extensively studied as the ones that he made after he became world-famous
with films like Sommarnattens leende/Smiles of a Summer Night (1955),
Det sjunde inseglet/The Seventh Seal (1956) and Smultronstället/Wild
Strawberries (1957). At the same time, it is important to note that
Bergman himself always emphasised that he never had any ideological
intentions behind his films. In the book-length interview he gave to
Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns and Jonas Sima in the late 1960s he
claimed regarding his 1940s’ films that:
I have had no political passions. I struggled mostly and was forced to
earn money for two families and cared little about anything but to
stage plays and make films.6
The films, however, can without a doubt be understood precisely against
the background of a political context, particularly the one that had to
do with the emergence of the Swedish welfare state.
The Insolence of Office
Both early and late Bergman depict the authorities with the utmost
As early as in Hets/Frenzy(Alf Sjöberg, 1945), which Bergman wrote
the script for, the civil servant and powerful Latin lecturer Caligula (Stig
Järrel) abuses everybody in his power, like the bullied pupil Widgren
(Alf Kjellin) and the poor Berta (Mai Zetterling), the sexually harassed
girl in the tobacco shop. The famous establishing shots at the beginning of the school from a bird’s eye perspective express the generally
oppressive nature of the big public institution.
One of the films that depict the budding welfare state most literally
is Hamnstad /Port of Call (1948), Bergman’s adaptation of a script by
author Olle Länsberg. The film tells the story of Berit (Nine-Christine
Jönsson), a girl generically linked to the popular youth-going-astray
films of the time. It starts with a scene where she is trying to commit
suicide but is saved. Eventually she meets the sailor Gösta (Bengt
Eklund), and step-by-step her tragic story is revealed. She grows up with
a stern mother (Berta Hall), and one night when Berit comes home too
late her mother locks her out. In the night she meets a man, Tomas,
swedish film
characteristically played by Bergman bad boy Stig Olin. Her mother
reports her to the police and she is sentenced to corrective training
as a juvenile delinquent in an institution. Bergman stages the entire
sequence as a nightmare, particularly the judge’s callous declamation
of the verdict. The ideological context is here the humiliation of the
individual by contemporaneous social engineering. Zern’s generalization seems to be applicable: ‘Bergman is no social poet, but his stories
hit society in the guts’.7
In the correctional institution the girls rebel passively: they smoke,
apply lipstick, and dream of freedom. (In one of the scenes Bergman
displays female nudity, something that the censor must have missed.
According to the standard version of film history, this did not appear in
Swedish cinema until three years later, in Arne Mattsson’s Hon dansade
en sommar/One Summer of Happiness, 1951.) After fourteen months in
the institution Berit is put on probation, but lapses (sexually, according
to the code of the time) and tries to commit suicide. The most critical
depiction of a representative of the authorities in the film is the social
worker Agneta Vilander (Birgitta Valberg). When Berit has slept with
Gösta for the first time, the mother reports her to the welfare office.
Thus, the social worker Vilander comes visiting and threatens to have
Berit sent back to the institution, ‘I wish to be free. Free,’ a desperate
Berit exclaims.
It is also the social worker who subjects Berit to the final humiliation – the central Bergman theme – in the film. Berit helps her
friend from the institution, Gertrud (Mimi Nelson), to an illegal
abortionist. Gertrud is taken ill after the abortion and Gösta calls
an ambulance, which is immediately followed by the police. The
policemen that take Berit away are shown as expressionistic shadows,
cinematographer Gunnar Fischer’s particular signature. At the police
station we encounter the social worker, who gives Berit an ultimatum:
if she betrays the illegal abortionist she will not have to go back to
the institution. Berit points to the differences between the classes.
Gertrud, who belongs to the underprivileged, was not able to afford
a private doctor but had to go to the illegal one. In spite of being
humiliated, Berit in the end defers to the authorities. Hamnstad
ends with Berit and Gösta deciding after all to continue their life
together: ‘We will not surrender’, Gösta concludes in the final piece
of dialogue. The depiction of the social worker can be compared to
Bergman’s script for Trolösa /Faithless (Liv Ullmann, 2003), where
iv. auteurs and art cinema
David (Krister Henriksson) and Marianne (Lena Endre) are subjected
to the same kind of humiliating investigation regarding Marianne’s
children with another man.
Public health care does not enjoy any higher status in Bergman’s
universe. Törst/Three Strange Loves (1949), from a script by Herbert
Grevenius, who adapted one of the short stories in actress Birgit Tengroth’s collection Törst/Thirst (1948), is the story of the unhappy Viola
(played by Tengroth herself). Depressed and lonely, she solicits help
from the psychiatrist Dr Rosengren. Well-known actor Hasse Ekman
plays Rosengren with a diabolical smile, complete with an evil-looking
goatee (connotations of the Devil). He tries to seduce her more or
less right away. When rejected, he threatens to have her locked up in
a mental institution. At the end of the film Viola commits suicide by
drowning herself, according to the film a consequence of the alienation
in society. In Bergman’s universe, medical doctors would most often
prove themselves to be particularly frigid: for example, Isak (Victor
Sjöström) and Evald Borg (Gunnar Björnstrand) in Smutronstället
(1957), or professor Jensen (Martin Benrath) in Aus dem Leben der
Marionetten/From the Life of the Marionettes (1980). Not to speak of
the medical counsellor Dr Vergérus (Gunnar Björnstrand) in Ansiktet.
Threatening Trains
One of the most striking aspects of early Bergman is the aversion to
modernity as such. Many of the technological innovations characterising
modern societies are depicted as carriers of evil demons. A good example
is the railway. Kris/Crisis (1946), Bergman’s first film as a director, had
already presented an unhappy train journey. And in the establishing
shots of the film, the countryside town is presented by the voice-over
as having no train station that can disturb the peace.
The film is about the 18-year-old Nelly (Inga Landgré), who lives
in the town with her foster mother Ingeborg (Dagny Lind). One day,
Nelly’s biological mother, the fashionable Jenny (Marianne Löfgren),
arrives; Jenny was the one who once deposited Nelly with Ingeborg.
Now, however, she wants her daughter back, and manages to persuade
Nelly to start working in her beauty parlour – of course, in the big city.
We see them board the train and we also notice that Jenny’s evil lover
Jack (Stig Olin) is there. In a threatening scene, an indication of how
life will turn out in the big city, Jack laughs menacingly while Nelly
swedish film
looks particularly disturbed. Taking into consideration how Bergman’s
films would look in the future, it is certainly no coincidence that the
scene is set on a train.
It gets even tenser when Ingeborg, frantic with worry, decides to go
and see Nelly. The train runs into Stockholm Central station straight
against the camera, nearly forcing the viewer out of his seat. But it is
when Ingeborg returns, after having failed to lure Nelly back, that the
meaning of the train in the film becomes the most apparent. Ingeborg is
in the sleeping-carriage. The camera focuses her anxious face in close-up.
The images of her face are interspersed partly with flashbacks from her
earlier life and partly with shots of the railway track. When Ingeborg
has fallen asleep the same montage appears, now as an expression of her
nightmare. Suddenly Ingeborg sits up in her bed, shouting in panic:
‘Help me! I do not want to be dead’. (I might mention that the film,
in accordance with its anti-urban adoration of the countryside, ends
with Nelly returning to Ingeborg.)
I have here discussed this anti-modern structure in Bergman’s films in
some detail. It was to follow Bergman well into the 1960s. After Kris, it
reappeared already in Törst in the shape of the neurotically quarrelling
couple Bertil (Birger Malmsten) and Rut (Eva Henning). The entire
marriage drama is set on a screeching train, travelling through a postwar Germany in ruins. Bergman’s own metaphor is illuminating: ‘In
order to develop this technique, we built a monstrous railway carriage’.8
In Kvinnodröm/Dreams (1955), we find the perhaps best example.
Here, Susanne (Eva Dahlbeck) goes by train to Gothenburg in order
to see her lover Henrik (Ulf Palme). Henrik does not want to leave his
wife for the sake of Susanne. The train rushes forward and Susanne is
having a cigarette in the corridor.
Suddenly she hears Henrik’s voice addressing her, but when she turns
around nobody is there. She is getting more and more panicky and
looks at the railway-carriage door. The camera focuses on the warning
sign: ‘Is the door really closed?’. Then follows a brisk montage where
Bergman (or rather Carl-Olov Skeppsholm, who was the editor of the
film) cuts between Susanne’s gaze, the ‘Open’ door handle and the
‘Closed’ one, and from time to time the plate on the door depicting
a man falling out of the high-speed train. The screeching of the train
and the regular throbbing beat of the engine accompany everything.
Susanne is clearly contemplating suicide. Then follows an image of
Susanne, who forces down a window, panting for breath. The camera
iv. auteurs and art cinema
closes in on her face, sweaty from anguish. Later, this train code in
Bergman would be most prominent in Tystnaden/The Silence (1963),
with its agonizing train journey to nowhere land at the beginning.
Ominous Telephones
The telephone is also ill-omened in Bergman’s films, something that
has to do with the negatively charged context of modernity. It starts as
early as in Hets, and the fact is that not a single telephone conversation
in the films leads to anything good. It is striking how Caligula reports
Widgren by way of the telephone and also how he pesters the poor
Berta with the same tool.
Till glädje/To Joy (1950) is the story of the violinist Stig who marries Marta (Maj-Britt Nilsson), also a violinist in the same orchestra.
Stig is an egoist who dreams of being a great artist. When he fails
completely as a solo violinist, he blames his wife and leaves her. They
reunite, though. An image shows her leaving for the couple’s summer
cottage – unsurprisingly, and fatefully, by train. All this takes place in
the flashback that constitutes the main part of the film. At the beginning of the narrative itself, Stig is informed about the death of his
wife. The paraffin stove has exploded. This tragic message is received
as the orchestra, ironically enough, is rehearsing Beethoven’s Ninth
Symphony, the ‘Ode to Joy’ – expressing the very opposite of what is
happening. The message that she is dead is delivered – by telephone.
An even more striking example regarding the appearance of telephones
appears in Kvinnodröm. Susanne, longing in vain for her lover, enters
a café and asks to use the phone. Desperately, she rings her lover’s
company, and asks to speak to the managing director. A stiff secretary
informs her that this is not possible since the director is in a meeting
and cannot be disturbed. The highly-strung Susanne, however, gets
angry. The secretary capitulates, and after a little while the lover appears
on the receiver. Susanne begs and pleads but the lover initially rejects
her: ‘I cannot and I will not’, he repeats time after time.
After a long conversation, during which Susanne becomes gradually
more and more agitated, he succumbs, and promises to see her later
that day. Here comes the highlight of the scene. Susanne rushes towards
the café door. The shop assistant then tells her that the telephone call
cost 25 öre. Susanne searches her purse and brings out a note. The
shop assistant rejects it, claiming not to have change. Susanne asks for
swedish film
a pack of cigarettes, to which the shop assistant replies: ‘In that case
the lady must eat something’. Susanne then panics and rushes towards
the door. A telephone call, the scene seems to imply, will only lead to a
lot of trouble. Zern writes: ‘All the frustration appearing in Bergman’s
film – which is often about the inability of people to communicate
with each other – derives from an unsolved tension between words and
silence, between language and non-language.’9
The threats from the telephone would remain for a long time with
Bergman; perhaps most forcefully when Marianne (Liv Ullmann) in
Scener ur ett äktenskap /Scenes from a Marriage (1974) is telling a friend
on the phone that her husband Johan (Erland Josephson) is having an
affair with another woman. Marianne is deeply humiliated when the
friend informs her that she and her husband have known of Johan’s
infidelity for a long time.
The Absent Home
Of the early Bergman films besides Hamnstad, Sommaren med
Monika /Summer with Monika (1953) is probably the one that most
obviously connects to the Swedish welfare project. This sociological
bias in the film, as Frank Gado has observed, probably derived from
Bergman’s co-author of the script, the realism-orientated writer Per
Anders Fogelström.10 Sommaren med Monika is the tragic story of two
working-class teenagers, Monika (Harriet Andersson) and Harry (Lars
Ekborg). The narrative motif is the interplay of the absence or presence
of a home: a theme very much in vogue at a time when the welfare state
was heavily engaged in the mass-production of new housing estates on
the outskirts of the big cities.
At the beginning, Harry lives with his father, and Monika lives with
her alcoholic father in the kitchen of their home. She has many siblings,
and the kitchen gets very cramped. Harry and Monika go to live on a
motorboat; the boat symbolically lies at anchor just in front of several
new high-rise buildings on the other side of the creek, clearly a result of
the massive building programme. The entire situation connects to the
post-war housing shortage and could certainly be read as a contribution to the contemporaneous political debate. The young couple lack
a place to live of their own, hence they are unhappy.
Harry and Monika, however, journey out into the archipelago. Bergman’s images are here among the most euphoric and erotic in his entire
iv. auteurs and art cinema
Å“uvre. The young couple thrive in the sun and Harriet Andersson is
breathtakingly beautiful in a series of classic shots, sunbathing on the
flat rocks or on the boat. The film here is about expressing the utmost
feeling of freedom. Material necessities, however, catch up with them
and soon they are out of provisions. Monika even tries to steal, but is
caught. This kind of life, accordingly, did not work.
When they discover that Monika is pregnant, they go back to the
city and a relative of Harry helps them to obtain an apartment. They
get married; Harry gets a job and starts to attend evening classes in
engineering. They are now trying to adapt themselves to the ideals of
the welfare state, having a hygienic home and struggling to transcend
class barriers.
Once again, though, life catches them up. When towards the end of
the film we see Harry return from a weekend course, anyone familiar
with the meaning of trains in a Bergman film will note the evil tidings.
Unsurprisingly, then, Harry finds Monika with another man in their
bed. This life, thus, did not work either.
Neither the gigantic public welfare project, nor the dreams articulated by the ruling social democrats in the 1950s, provided solutions
for Bergman’s characters. Life, the films seem to say, is all the same just
a tragedy. Zern concludes sensitively that Bergman’s
[t]ragic view of life is out of phase with the social development. While
the essence of tragedy is alien to any kind of compromise, the Swedish
model welfare state hopes for precisely that compromise. To anyone
who besides Bergman is looking for another solution – a moratorium, a
standstill – this remains just the dream of conciliation and liberation.11
The most conspicuous subject of all in the films of Bergman is humiliation. No ideological system can cure this, even if it reckons that it can.
Translated by Erik Hedling
This article was originally published as Erik Hedling (2007), ‘Ingmar Bergman,
moderniteten och välfärdsstaten. Några kontextuella betraktelser’, in Karin
Nykvist et al., eds., Möten: festskrift till Anders Palm, Lund: Anacapri förlag.
swedish film
1 Maria Bergom Larsson (1978), Ingmar Bergman and Society, London: Tantivy Press.
2 Leif Zern (1993), Se Bergman, Stockholm: Norstedts.
3 Zern (1993), p. 25 (my translation).
4 Zern (1993), p. 25 (my translation).
5 Erik Hedling (2006). ‘Bergman and the Welfare State’, Film International, vol. 4,
no. 1, pp. 50–59.
6 Stig Björkman, Torsten Manns, Jonas Sima (1970), Bergman om Bergman, Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt & söners Förlag, p. 15 (my translation).
7 Zern (1993), p. 24 (my translation).
8 Ingmar Bergman (1990), Bilder, Stockholm: Norstedts, p. 157 (my translation).
9 Zern (1993), p. 20 (my translation).
10 Frank Gado (1986), The Passion of Ingmar Bergman, Durham: Duke University
Press, p. 162.
11 Zern (1993), p. 27 (my translation).
chapter 27
Peter Weiss: Underground
and Resistance
Lars Gustaf Andersson
Peter Weiss (1916–82) was a unique artist in Swedish experimental
film culture, and the single most important agent in the development
of a Swedish filmic avant-garde. To a wide international audience
he is known as a German novelist and playwright, with works like
Marat/Sade, Die Ermittlung and Die Ästhetik des Widerstands.
However, Weiss also played an important role in the expanding film culture
in Sweden during the 1950s, directing several films, and writing and
debating on avant-garde film as well as on political matters. Maybe
his most important role was as a transgressor, linking different strands
of film culture together.
Weiss was born in Germany but lived in Sweden from the beginning
of the Second World War. We know little about his first encounters
with film art, except for the accounts in his autobiographical novel
Fluchtpunkt (Vanishing Point), published in 1962. According to this
work, cinema seems to have been important during his early years:
In Jackie Coogan I saw myself rushing across the street, clambering up
walls, in patched trousers several sizes too large, and with long hair and
a rakish sports cap set askew. … Two years later I came across Douglas
Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad [Raoul Walsh, 1924] I opened the
book full of sketches of episodes from this film. … Later, when I had
already discovered books, painting and music, I saw Murnau’s film
Tabu [Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, 1931].2
These childhood memories, fictionalised and transformed over the
years, form recurrent patterns in the art of Peter Weiss; in paintings,
sketches, prose poems, film scripts and collages. Later in life Weiss
swedish film
would establish a more intellectual relationship with modern film,
especially the avant-garde. In Fluchtpunkt he reflects on how late he
came to understand the avant-garde:
Only now did I realise what the authorities had been hiding from
me; I discovered Dadaism, found out about Huelsenbeck, Ball, Arp,
Schwitters, studied the works of Picabia, Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, Raoul
Haussmann, Max Ernst, read about the films of René Clair, Eggeling
and Richter, saw Schlemmer’s figures for the Triadic ballet, read Klee’s
essays and diary, Tollers’ and Kaiser’s dramas, engrossed myself in the
paintings of Kandinsky, Chirico, Miró, Dali, Tanguy, Magritte and in
the poems of Jarry and Apollinaire. … Everything that had been attacked
during that one decade still existed today, just as vigorously as ever. The
pictures and sculpture, the plays, dances, films, fiction, and music were
not isolated but embodied values which one could continue to develop.3
As an immigrant he tried to establish himself as a painter and a novelist.
He presented his first Swedish art exhibition in Stockholm in March
1941, and was appointed guest student at the Royal University College
of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1942. He wrote several books in Swedish
but never really became part of the insular intellectual culture of early
post-war Sweden. He was luckier, though, when he turned to film.
Weiss was early in touch with the cinephiles of Stockholm, and
became a member of the students’ film club; slowly his film interest
came into focus. In 1947 he had started to contribute to Biografbladet.
Among the things he published were a script for a planned short film,
Början/Beginning, an account of the German post-war film industry, and
a review of Vredens dag/Day ofWrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1943). At
the same time he started to lecture at the evening classes of Stockholm
University College. He taught courses in painting, art history and film;
a position he held until 1958.
Together with friends he made his debut as film director with Studie
1 / ‘Study 1’ (Peter Weiss, 1952), the first in a series of surrealist substandard (8 or 16 mm) shorts, which became more and more technically and artistically complex. Between 1952 and 1961 he made five
more surrealistic films – now produced within the Independent Film
Group – and documentaries on juvenile prisons, drug abuse, and other
social topics, and finally the experimental feature film Hägringen/The
Mirage (Peter Weiss, 1959).
Weiss wrote several articles and essays on experimental film, for
iv. auteurs and art cinema
example in the new film magazine Filmfront and in daily newspapers.
The articles were later revised and collected in the volume Avantgardefilm, published 1956.4
Here, surrealism is given a privileged role. As
Yvonne Spielmann puts it:
At stake for Weiss is the conviction that film allows a visual concept of
poetics conceived through surrealism, and his comments throughout the
book highlight two major issues: the poetics of cinema as the visual language of film and the interrelationship or shifting relationship between
dream and reality, paradigmatically expressed in surrealist film form.5
The poetics that Weiss formulates in Avantgardefilm are a Ding-Dichtung of sorts, a way of liberating reality, with all its spots and marks
and scratches, and to conceptualise the historical unconscious of the
photographic image; the cinematographic medium cannot avoid documenting our world. 6
In his book Weiss also portraits those filmmakers he considers as
being the great masters: Buñuel, Cocteau, Vigo, Peixoto, Eisenstein
and Dreyer. He devotes two chapters to American avant-garde cinema,
discusses film and music and observes some new experiments in France.
In a thematic chapter on the city, Weiss’ss first lines can be seen as an
introduction to his own filmic universe:
The contradictory and rich life of the great city, with its pulse and the
human fates passing by, has often been depicted in film. There is a
vast amount of works that rely on the imagery of the architecture, the
rhythm of the industry, the traffic and the machines, the movements
of people and the changes from morning to night. The theme is inexhaustible; every day the city offers new views for those who can see.7
The first film Weiss directed, Studie I, also entitled Uppvaknandet/‘The
Awakening’ was made with almost no budget at all, and filmed in Weiss’s
own flat at legendary Fleminggatan 37 with himself and a female friend
as actors. The couple wake up in the morning, and the common rituals
of awakening and washing are repeated on and on, as well as shots of
the woman’s naked body. The film was awarded a prize at the Swedish annual competition for substandard film, Årets Smalfilm, in 1952.
The second short, Studie II/‘Study II’ (Peter Weiss, 1952), sometimes
entitled Hallucinationer/‘Hallucinations’, was as short as the first one,
six minutes, but much more complicated. Many friends helped him:
swedish film
some of the actors were to become important Swedish intellectuals later
on, for example the poet and playwright Lars Forssell (1928–2007),
and some belonged to the group around the workshop, like Gunnar
Hyllienmark (b. 1927), Jan Thomæus and, of course, Gunilla Palmstierna (b. 1928), who later married Weiss (and who during his period as
playwright produced almost all the stage designs). Arne Lindgren was
responsible for the cinematography, as in the following film as well.
Studie II is composed around a series of surrealistic tableaux with naked
bodies against a dark background. The intention, according to Weiss,
was to evoke the hallucinatory and dreamlike in a suite of images.8
Of Weiss’ss shorts, Studie II is screened most often, and has been so
since the 1950s. Still, several home movie filmmakers and amateurs
were critical, considering the film both incomprehensible and pornographic. Studie II is very close to the style of the paintings and collages
of Weiss, while the next film, Studie III/‘Study III’ (Peter Weiss, 1953),
is more connected to his works in prose in a thematic way. The film
works with repetition as a primary aesthetic device, and Weiss himself
plays the leading part as a young man, trying to carry a human body,
and visiting an old couple in a bourgeois setting – maybe a first visual
draft of the autobiographical novel Abschied von den Eltern.
The same
themes and techniques are repeated and developed in the other surrealistic shorts, Studie IV/‘Study IV’ (Peter Weiss, 1954), also entitled
Frigörelse/‘Liberation’, and Studie V/‘Study V’ (Peter Weiss, 1955),
also entitled Växelspel/‘Interplay’. It is obvious that Weiss’ss early film
style – as has been remarked by Spielmann – connected ‘visually to
the realm of static imagery’ where the ‘exposure of the human body
on display reminds us of surrealist painting’.10
The fact that Weiss during these years lived night and day with his
films is underlined by the artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd in his autobiography. He tells how he and his friend Öyvind Fahlström used to
visit Weiss in his home:
Peter was cutting one of his films, and sat there like a mummy, covered
with film strips, he was unable to greet us, he just nodded; over his
shoulders were rolls of film, 2 to 3 metres of them, filmstrips spilled
out of his jacket, showed up, on the chairs, yes, even on the lamps,
all over the place were metres of film, waiting for their right context!
Öyvind and I stood there in silence for a couple of minutes until
the mummy was released from his ‘story’.
Afterwards we had tea.11
iv. auteurs and art cinema
Together with the legendary Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm he turned to other subjects and made Ansikten i skugga /‘Faces in
Shadow’ (Peter Weiss & Christer Strömholm, 1956), a documentary
about some tramps in Stockholm’s Old Town ; and with Hans Nordenström, Weiss directed a short on the juvenile prison in Uppsala, Enligt
lag/‘According to the Law’ (Peter Weiss & Hans Nordenström, 1957)
which caused a debate concerning the fact that the Swedish censorship
board wanted to omit a scene showing a young prisoner masturbating.
These two documentaries are now part of an alternative documentary
canon. Ansikten i skugga is very modest in its approach, and seems to
simply register the old drunks and poor men of the Stockholm slum.
The images have their acoustic counterpart in the soundtrack, which
contains voices and laughter. The film was hailed by several Swedish
critics, and was distributed through the European festival circuit.
Enligt lag combines the documentary shots with dreamlike sequences
(and among the actual delinquents portrayed is also an actor, playing
a convict). The film has been seen as a forerunner for the politically
engaged documentaries by Stefan Jarl.12 Both films blend documentary
practice with fiction, and both are extraordinary works in the Swedish
film scene of the 1950s.
The Studie films were thus screened at festivals and competitions,
and Amos Vogel distributed them through his avant-garde ciné-club
Cinema 16. The most important outcome of the festival screenings of Weiss’ss films was that Edouard Laurot and Jonas Mekas
at Film Culture acknowledged his work and supported the feature
film project, Hägringen (Peter Weiss, 1959). This film derives from
prose sketches and poems that date back to the 1940s; the first more
lengthy treatment was the Kafkaesque novel Dokument I (1949).13
The plot is simple. A young man (Staffan Lamm, b. 1937), with no
name and no past, arrives in a big city – in fact Stockholm – where
he meets people and becomes involved in absurd conversations and
acts. During his walks through the city he meets a young woman
(Gunilla Palmstierna) and the two of them fall in love. Some parts of
the film are very documentary in style, for example scenes from the
old slums of Stockholm, while some sequences are dreamlike, almost
hallucinatory in their visual nature. The dialogues are often absurd,
mostly consisting of questions, and in their nature more literary than
actually depicting manners of speaking.
The production team faced a constant lack of money. The legendary
swedish film
support from Jonas Mekas was important, as well as minor funding
from individuals and film clubs; for example a small grant from the
Film Club of Helsingborg, which had an avant-garde profile.14 Gustaf
Mandal (b. 1929) was responsible for the cinematography and was duly
acknowledged for his contribution.
Hägringen is little discussed in the international literature on avantgarde and experimental cinema, but is mentioned by Parker Tyler in
his classic Underground Film: A Critical History (1969). He compares
it to Nicht mehr fliehen/No More Escaping (Herbert Vesely, 1955), by
Austrian director Herbert Vesely, and notes that both films ‘use fantasy
and both are basically allegories of modern life with social-protest
implications’.15 In his short analysis he traces some intertextual relations, both to Kafka and Chaplin: ‘Actually, Weiss’s hero is as much a
fugitive as a criminal would be.’ The plot of the film is seen as a ‘long
initiation rite turned inside out in conformance with the pessimistic
alienation mood of our times’. Tyler is, however, ambiguous about the
aesthetic value of the film. The style is not really sharp enough and the
supposed inventions are unoriginal: ‘Yet it has some excellent scenes, is
densely cinematic … and … states an authentic view of life.’ 16
Hägringen is in Tyler’s view a surrealistic work of art through its oneiric
logic; the dream fantasy is ‘the dominant imaginative rule’. Spielmann
discusses along the same lines in an essay on Weiss’s approaches to film:
‘Where Weiss cinematically unfolds multiple realities and emphasizes
visual thinking together with the assertion of inner vision, he reinforces
the essential concern in independent film making imposed by surrealist
style’.17 She continues:
The black-and-white images primarily support the strong contrast
between the human figure and the urban surroundings. As a result,
the film’s expressive power derives mainly from the visual style rather
than narrative elements. Devices such as contrast lighting, key lighting,
deep focus, and the preference for tableau images, including immobile
framing, shape a film form that corresponds on the level of content to
immobility and related motifs of distortion, isolation, and alienation.
The tableau character of the images mediates inner feelings of uncertainty rather than change. As a result, stasis rather than mobilization
is effected through the dynamics of the moving images.18
The Swedish reception of Hägringen was muted. Some positive aspects
of the film were noted, but as a whole it was rejected, mainly because
iv. auteurs and art cinema
of what was seen as an outdated use of surrealistic imagery. The poet
and critic Artur Lundkvist was solitary in his praise for the film. Later,
the film has been established as a part of the Swedish experimental film
canon, and it has been claimed that it is a work of ‘a true auteur’.19
When considered retrospectively, many things are noteworthy in the
film. The documentary traits are among the more important; many
images in Hägringen have less to do with Vigo or Buñuel than with a
documentary tradition; for example, all the views of Stockholm, the
inhabitants of the slum, as well as the construction of central Stockholm,
Stockholm city. These naked and uncommented images do, of course,
clash with the more traditional surrealistic imagery, but together they
form a mapping of something which is salient in Weiss’s work: the
urban situation. Here, in his view of the modern metropolis, he is back
in classic modernism, and the cityscape of Hägringen can be recognised
from some of his earlier shorts, but they also remind us of his early
paintings, such as ‘Menschen in der Strassenbahn I – II’ (1934), ‘Berlin
Friedrichstrasse’ (1935), and of course the Brueghelesque ‘Die Maschinen
greifen die Menschen an’ (1935).20 These depictions of urban conditions
return in the surrealistic shorts and the documentaries, and can be seen as
sketches for the city scenes in Die Ästhetik desWiderstands, where Berlin,
Paris and – again – Stockholm are described as veritable jungles; mazes
of streets and underground alleys, filled with horror – and with life. 21
Weiss directed some short films after Hägringen, and shot fragments
of what was conceived as a film about other artists and friends. Together
with Barbro Boman (1918–1980) he wrote a script and directed a feature film, Svenska flickor i Paris/The Flamboyant Sex, (Barbro Broman
and Peter Weiss, 1961), an impressionist view of some young Swedish
women in Paris. Svenska flickor i Paris has probably more to do with
Weiss than he himself acknowledged,22 and there are scenes that deserve
to be noted; for example, a parade through Paris with the sculptures
of Tinguely – which ties this film to the works of Hultén as well as to
Breer. This film was his exit as a film director; his next enterprise was
to reform European drama.
During the 1960s Weiss established himself as one of the most
influential playwrights in Europe with a long row of plays exploring
questions of repression and tyranny. Together with his wife, Palmstierna,
who was also the set designer for all his theatre productions, he travelled
the world, discussing his plays, and presenting a left- wing perspective
aligned with the political upheavals of this decade.
swedish film
In 1972 he began to work on what would become a novel in three
installments, Die Ästhetik des Widerstands/The Aesthetics of Resistance.
The novel is a Gesamtkunstwerk of sorts, blending political accounts,
historical descriptions, aesthetic interpretations and moral discussions in a story of the anti-fascist resistance, from the Spanish Civil
War to the horrendous executions in the Plötzensee prison of some of
the famous martyrs of Die rote Kapelle. There are also connections to
Weiss’s Swedish experiences, and images from Stockholm that we can
recognise from Hägringen and the workshop shorts. The narrative of
the novel might be labelled cinematic; instead of a linear account we
are introduced to a montage of impressions and facts, and several of
the crucial events in the novel are narrated with techniques inspired
by the cinema, and with several allusions to the avant-garde heritage.
The work with Ästhetik was exhausting for Weiss. He was able to finish
the novel, but, afflicted with a bad heart condition, he suffered several
heart attacks and died on 10 May 1982 in Stockholm.
Considered as a filmmaker Weiss had a short career, spanning over
a decade, and in biographies and international research he is primarily
discussed and seen as a playwright and novelist, but in many ways his
filmmaking is emblematic for his Å“uvre; important themes and devices
are prepared in the films. In a lecture, transmitted by the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation in 1952, Weiss spoke about the art of cinema and
compared it with ‘an unobtainable woman who continually gets away
in crucial moments’.23 Another metaphor he uses is ‘the underground’;
film seems to be his last hiding place, where he can deal with his dreams
in a cruel and grey world, based on political and economic facts. As he
put it in 1958: ‘If you want to work with film as an artistic means of
expression you have no choice: you have to go underground.’24 Both the
explicit connection to a classic heterosexual desire – with the cinema as
a desired woman – and the concept of the utopian underground points
to the conventional interpretation of the avant-garde artist as a romantic
and an outsider. But there is more to it. Understood in a Swedish context,
Weiss is bringing the imagery of the international avant-garde cinema to
post-war Sweden. He is the most important person in the belated Swedish
introduction of filmic modernism, and one of the driving forces behind
the discursive formation of a Swedish experimental cinema.
Weiss never distanced himself fully from surrealism, the modernist
avant-garde and the world of dreams. In his last novel he returns to
these topics through an argument made by the character Coppi:
iv. auteurs and art cinema
And just as our political decisions were based on fragments, dissonances,
hypotheses, resolutions, and slogans, all borne by a conviction deriving from our own life experiences, so too we could not conceptualise
art without including its ruptures, fluctuations, and oppositions. And
if it were deprived of its contradictions, then only a lifeless stump
would remain.25
These ‘ruptures, fluctuations, and oppositions’ were preserved and
researched in the filmmaking of Peter Weiss, especially in Hägringen,
the only feature film he would complete. Symbolically, this resembles
his fate in Swedish experimental film: like a mirage he was there, and
all of a sudden he disappeared.
1 Peter Weiss (1964), DieVerfolgung und ErmordungJean Paul Marats dargestellt durch
die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade,
Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag (The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul
Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of
The Marquis de Sade, transl. Geoffrey Skelton, Longegrove: Waveland Press 2002
(1965)); Peter Weiss (1965 ), Die Ermittlung, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag
(The Investigation, transl. Jon Swan & Ulu Grosbard, New York: Atheneum 1979);
Peter Weiss (1975, 1978, 1981), Die Ästhetik des Widerstands I–III, Frankfurt am
Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, (The Aesthetics of Resistance, vol I, transl. Joachim Neugroschel, Durham: Duke University Press, 2005).
2 Peter Weiss (1962), Fluchtpunkt, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, here cited
after Exile, transl. E. B. Garside, Alastair Hamilton & Christopher Levenson, New
York: Delacorte Press 1968, pp. 109 – 110.
3 Weiss (1968), pp. 141–142.
4 Peter Weiss (1956), Avantgardefilm, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand.
5 Yvonne Spielmann (2000), ‘Theory and Practice of the Avant-garde: Weiss’ss
Approaches to Film’, in Jost Hermand & Marx Silbermand, eds., Rethinking Peter
Weiss, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, p. 84.
6 Lars Gustaf Andersson, John Sundholm & Astrid Söderbergh Widding (2006), ‘I
skuggan av spelfilmen: svensk experimentell film’, in Astrid Söderbergh Widding,
ed., Konst som rörlig bild – från Diagonalsymfonin till Whiteout, p. 65.
7 Peter Weiss, Avantgardefilm, p. 88 (my translation).
8 Peter Weiss commenting his films in Nordisk Tidskrift för Fotografi 2 /1953, p. 14.
9 Peter Weiss (1961), Abschied von den Eltern, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag
(The Leavetaking, transl. Christopher Levenson, New York: Harcourt, Brace &
World, Inc. 1962).
10 Spielmann (2000), p. 80.
11 Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd (1996), Alias Charlie Lavendel, 1952–1961, Stockholm:
Gedins (my translation).
swedish film
12 Ingrid Esping (2007), Dokumentärfilmen som tidsresa: Modstrilogin, diss. Lund:
Lunds universitet, pp. 58–70.
13 Peter Weiss (1949), Dokument 1, Stockholm.
14 The Archive of the Film Club in Helsingborg.
15 Parker Tyler (1995), Underground Film. A Critical History, (1965), New York: Da
Capo Press, p. 186.
16 Tyler (1995), pp. 186–187.
17 Spielmann (2000), p. 78.
18 Spielmann (2000), p. 80.
19 Sverker Ek (1982), ‘Att vidga vår förmåga att uppfatta tillvaron’, Film & TV 4, p.
20 Raimund Hoffmann (1984), Peter Weiss. Malerei. Zeichnungen. Collagen, Berlin:
Henschelverlag; Ingo Bartsch, Per Drougge et al., Der Maler Peter Weiss, Berlin:
Verlag Frölich & Kaufmann 1982.
21 The city theme in Die Ästhetik has been analysed in a Swedish context by Magnus
Bergh (1991), ‘Via Herkulesgatan. Stockholmsvyer i Motståndets estetik’, in Gunilla Palmstierna-Weiss & Jürgen Schutte, eds., Peter Weiss. Målningar. Teckningar.
Collage. Filmer. Teater. Litteratur. Politik, Moderna Museet, pp. 206 – 212.
22 After a conflict with the producers he was later to renounce the film.
23 Peter Weiss (1952), ‘Inför den nya filmsäsongen’, 3 /8, quoted in Jan Christer Bengtsson 1989, p. 2.
24 Peter Weiss (1958), ‘Attgå under jorden’, Apropå Eggeling, Moderna Museet: Stockholm, p. 22.
25 Peter Weiss (2005), The Aesthetics of Resistance. Vol I, p. 63.
The New Generation
of the 1960s
chapter 28
Anders Marklund
The 1960s was an interesting decade in Swedish cinema – just as it
was in many other countries around the world – with a number of
developments going on simultaneously. Institutional changes included
the creation of Svenska filminstitutet (Swedish Film Institute) in 1963
with its influential financial support, the removal of the cinema tax, and
rapidly falling cinema attendance after the introduction of television in
Sweden in 1956. Among technological changes one should mention the
improved documentary-based 16 mm equipment, which would now
be used in a number of feature films. There were also other changes,
ranging from the influential inspiration of the French Nouvelle vague
(New Wave) to a heightened political awareness in society and among
many filmmakers.
The 1960s saw many filmmakers make their debut films. A few of
them were to be received as auteurs and would remain important for
several decades. Just to mention a few directors of this new generation along with their first films: Vilgot Sjöman, Älskarinnan/Mistress
(1962), Jörn Donner, En söndag i september/A Sunday in September
(1963), Bo Widerberg, Barnvagnen /‘The Pram’ (1963) and Kvarteret
Korpen/Raven’s End (1963), Mai Zetterling, Älskande par/Loving Couples
(1964), Jan Troell, Här har du ditt liv /Here is Your Life (1966), Stefan
Jarl and Jan Lindkvist Dom kallar oss mods/They Call Us Misfits (1968),
and one should also add Roy Andersson, whose En kärlekshistoria /A
Swedish Love Story (1970) was shot in 1969 but premiered in 1970.
Many of these directors lacked experience of the film industry when
swedish film
they made their first films. There were exceptions like Sjöman, who had
been an assistant to Ingmar Bergman, and Mai Zetterling who came
from a successful career as an actress, but otherwise their backgrounds
varied. Widerberg was a writer, Troell a teacher, and some came from
the newly opened Film School in Stockholm, like Jarl, Lindkvist,
and Andersson. Whatever they lacked in experience they sought to
compensate with enthusiasm and an urge to express their ideas, and
if their films sometimes lacked wide audience appeal and an ability to
recoup their costs at the box office, they might have the good fortune
of being supported by the Swedish Film Institute and its funds dedicated to quality films.
The quick and successful transformation from amateurs and cineastes
into celebrated filmmakers is notable, and also quite revealing of the film
climate at the time. A good example is Widerberg. In 1962 Widerberg
published a series of articles in the daily newspaper Expressen, later collected in the volume Visionen i Svensk film.
Here he adapts arguments
inspired by the critics and filmmakers associated with the Nouvelle vague
in order to pave the way for a new kind of filmmaking in Sweden too.
In one of the articles, ‘Den grumliga spegeln’ (‘The Diffuse Mirror’),
he suggests that there are only two filmmakers in Sweden who are
free to make the kind of films they want, Ingmar Bergman and Arne
Sucksdorff. This is problematic since both make ‘vertical films’ in a time
when ‘horizontal films’ are needed; that is to say, Bergman made films
about man’s relation to God (and demons/death), Sucksdorff about
man’s relation to animals and nature, but neither really made films
about man’s relationship to other people in today’s dynamic society.
And this was important to Widerberg: ‘There are today premises that
only Sweden can offer, observations that can only be made here. I feel
that it is important that someone is allowed to hold a mirror up to one
of the most interesting societies of the world today’.2
Other filmmakers,
according to Widerberg, were not able to make anything really personal
as they were only asked to repeat uninspiring genre formulas. The new
generation of filmmakers would have other possibilities allowing them
to make more personal films. Two important factors were: the use of new
technologies and new ways of filming allowing them to make cheaper
films, and the support from the Film Institute’s rather generous B and
C funds, dedicated to ‘quality’ films.
It is clear that Harry Schein – the architect of the film reform, and
the Film Institute’s first managing director – as well as other influential
iv. auteurs and art cinema
persons were partial to these filmmakers and the films they made. Still,
the instructions for evaluating quality are only vaguely formulated:
Crucial for the evaluation of quality can thus be several … factors, such
as renewal of the film’s modes of expression and style, the relevancy
of the film’s message, the intensity or freshness of its conception of
reality or social criticism, degree of psychological insight and spiritual
level, playful skilfulness in screenwriting, directing and acting as well
as other artistic components of films.3
Although this does not exclude a well-made genre film, the films of
the directors mentioned, as well as Bergman’s, were the ones regularly
considered to be quality films. These films would receive a higher
quality rating and thus also more support.
The period between 1967 and 1973 is often referred to as rekordåren
(‘the record years’) with its seemingly prosperous society and a steadily
expanding welfare state. Still, these filmmakers saw no reason to make
films celebrating Sweden as a perfect and harmonious society. Instead,
many of their films would cover topics that would allow fairly frank
comments on issues such as the class system, sexual freedom, feminism,
and so on. Many films would also communicate an idea of something
gone wrong in Sweden, not regarding material welfare but how people
felt about their lives in this new society. This can be sensed in films as
diverse as Att angöra en brygga /‘Docking the Boat’ (Tage Danielsson,
1965) and En kärlekshistoria.
Anders Wilhelm Åberg’s contribution is based on a detailed study of
the reception of Vilgot Sjöman’s interesting and extraordinarily successful
film project Jag är nyfiken – gul/I am Curious – Yellow (1967) and Jag
är nyfiken – blå /I am Curious – Blue (1968). The method of filming
is new but still rather typical of its time, combining a documentary
approach with different fictional levels. The reception suggests that the
films’ political message was not as relevant to viewers as intended, but
on the other hand the films’ sexual frankness proved more fascinating
to audiences both in Sweden and abroad. The actress Lena Nyman,
mentioned in Åberg’s text, was well-known even before these two films,
not least from Sjöman’s controversial 491 /491 (Vilgot Sjöman, 1964).
She received great attention with the Nyfiken films, and would remain
one of the most popular actresses in Sweden, working, for example,
with Hasse Alfredson and Tage Danielsson.
swedish film
The text by Madeliene Lilja and Johan Nilsson focuses on the very
beginnings of Jan Troell’s long and successful career, at a time when
he was still working as a teacher, made documentary films on his own,
and before he would make his first feature Här har du ditt liv in 1966.
The text details some of the new possibilities available at the time; for
example, demonstrating that television was not only a difficult competitor to cinema but could also be a natural step on a young filmmaker’s
way to making feature films. After the enormously successful Utvandrarna /The Emigrants (1971) and Nybyggarna /The New Land (1972),
Troell worked for a period in the US before he returned to Sweden and
realised a good number of projects well-received by critics, scholars and
a wide art-house audience. Among many reality-based films are biopics
on famous but not entirely successful men, for example Ingenjör Andrées
luftfärd /Flight of the Eagle (1982) and Hamsun/Hamsun (1996), but
also on women pioneers as in Så vit som en snö /As White as in Snow
(2001) and Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick /Everlasting Moments (2008).
Mariah Larsson concentrates on Flickorna /The Girls (1968), the
fourth feature Mai Zetterling made in the 1960s and the last she would
make in Sweden before her celebrated return with Amorosa /Amorosa
(1986). Larsson demonstrates how a detailed study of a few selected
elements – architecture for one – not only contributes to a better
understanding of the film and of Zetterling’s filmmaking, but also
clarifies the political dimensions of the film.
1 Bo Widerberg (1962), Visionen i svensk film. Stockholm: Bonniers.
2 Bo Widerberg (1962), Visionen i svensk film. Stockholm: Bonniers, p. 22.
3 Proposition 1963:101, p. 38.
chapter 29
The Reception of
Vilgot Sjöman’s Curious films
Anders Wilhelm Ã…berg
The Invisible Debate: their Reception in Sweden
In the popular narrative about Vilgot Sjöman’s relationship to Swedish society and the Swedish media, the public debate spurred by Jag är
nyfiken – gul/I Am Curious – Yellow (1967) and Jag är nyfiken – blå /I
Am Curious – Blue (1968) stands out as a battle on a par with the debate
about 491 (Vilgot Sjöman, 1964). Sjöman himself has been prone to
reiterate the impact that the discussions surrounding the première of
the Nyfiken films has had on his continued work as a director.1
However, this popular narrative is not really supported by available sources.
It is true that the Nyfiken films caused some controversy and were
discussed, and there were indeed attempts to debate them during
the autumn of 1967 and briefly at the time of the premiere of Jag är
nyfiken – blå in March 1968. It is also true that Jag är nyfiken – gul was
discussed in the Swedish parliament, as was also the case with 491.
Some members of the parliament questioned whether it was appropriate that the minister of education Olof Palme appeared ‘in a film that
has to be referred to as a veritable porn flick’.3
But in fact there was no
prolonged, polarised public debate in the press. The wider social issue
that the 491 debate revolved around – the question of film censorship
in Sweden – was never dramatically brought to the surface in the case
of Jag är nyfiken – gul. The film was partly perceived as a provocation
aimed at Statens Biografbyrå (the National Board of Film Censors), and
immediately after it was handed in for review in early September 1967
there were speculations in the press about a new controversial case of
A public inquiry on film censorship was in progress, and
while the film was under review it became known that the investigators
intended to recommend that censorship of films for adult audiences
swedish film
should be abolished.5
Perhaps Jag är nyfiken – gul would be yet another
touchstone, an important precedent? After all, it was rumoured that
Sjöman had opened the floodgates of sexual explicitness with this one.
However, after hearing filmgranskningsrådet (the Film Advisory Board),
a majority of the acting censors decided to allow the screening of this
film for adult audiences. The director of the National Board of Film
Censors, Erik Skoglund, made a formal reservation to the decision on
the grounds that he could not:
share their [the acting censors’] opinion, that the film in question
possessed such a degree of urgency, that it ought to be left intact, in
spite of the presence therein of obviously provocative scenes, which
in their voyeuristic representation of sexual intimacies transgresses the
liberal limit of tolerance regarding the rendering of the erotic that this
agency has hitherto accepted.6
In a later passage, Skoglund expressed his hope that the public inquiry
on film censorship would be enriched by the expressions of opinion
that were likely to be vented in ‘a public debate of the same intensity as
those concerning Tystnaden/The Silence (Ingmar Bergman, 1963) and
491’ when Jag är nyfiken – gul opened.7
But the ensuing debate was not
first and foremost a debate about censorship and the representation of
sexual acts. The call for decency and censorship did not find its way
from the editorial column of the Christian newspaper Dagen and the
letters-to-the-editor columns of provincial newspapers into the pages
of the national newspapers. When the sex scenes were discussed in
reviews and in contributions to the debate, they were treated calmly
and without any serious polemical edge.8
The question was raised
whether this was pornography or not. Those who found the sex scenes
pornographic questioned whether this was good or bad pornography,
meaning more or less sexually stimulating pornography. The desire
to ban or stigmatise the ‘pornographic’ material for being indecent
or obscene was hardly ever expressed. Writers who were averse to the
sex scenes for being pornographic usually took on an indulgent and
condescending attitude.9
Reviewers who wanted to praise Sjöman for
a refreshing, realistic and non-idealised image of sexuality showed the
most engaged involvement in the discussion of the sex scenes.10
The serious criticism against the sexual representations that did
indeed occur in the debate was not really about their pornographic
iv. auteurs and art cinema
nature or value. Rather, it was part of a critique of the films’ politics.
Many reviewers sensed that the sexual representations were the work
of a puritan trying to overcome his own inhibitions, making them a
purely private project for the filmmaker. This analysis was fuelled by
the coquettish exhibitionism in the Nyfiken films’ framing narrative,
commented on by many reviewers. Construed in this way, the sexual
representations became the most important point of attack in a discussion that challenged the Nyfiken films’ documentary ambitions and
political efficacy.
This was, on the whole, the issue that dominated the serious debate
in the press: Did the film reflect political consciousness? Did Sjöman’s
knowledge about politics and his artistic ability to treat political issues
suffice? Could he really present an analysis of the most trenchant problems in Sweden and the world in the year 1966? Was the girl Lena a
realistic portrayal of a contemporary, politically engaged young person?
Was Vilgot Sjöman’s self-portrait in the framing narrative of any interest whatsoever in this context? In spite of the fact that many reviewers
generally liked the film and commended Sjöman for his political initiative, the answer to these questions was – No! In a way, one may regard
every single review as a contribution to the debate. Because the film
itself worked and was perceived as a contribution to a debate, almost
all the reviewers reciprocated by taking up a stated position in their
reviews. But the content of the debate was not the specific questions
that the film wanted to raise – non-violence, the treachery of the social
democrats, the class society, the income gap, solidarity with the people
in Spain under Franco. The debate in the reviews was about the way
the film approached these questions, and about their relevance.
The reception of Jag är nyfiken – gul seems to have been prefigured
by Sjöman’s diary to a great extent.11 Many leading reviewers had access
to it before the premiere of the film. Referring to the diary is the rule in
the reviews in the national and big city newspapers. In the film reviews,
as well as in the reviews of the diary itself, it is obvious that the book
and the film are seen as two sides of a coin; parts of a unified project
that cannot be fully separated.
In Bo Strömstedt’s mostly appreciative essay ‘Sjöman & Nyman’,
Strömstedt’s criticisms are consistently rooted in Sjöman’s self-criticism
in the diary, which is quoted extensively. He highlights two parts of the
diary headlined: ‘Politically green’ and ‘The pitfalls of exhibitionism’.12
Arguing that the lack of proper knowledge is a common problem for
swedish film
those who ‘try to make a political-artistic effort in Sweden’, Strömstedt
states that this lack is also clearly noticeable in Sjöman’s work.13 He
accounts for the exhibitionism of the film as well as the diary in terms
of Sjöman’s (and Nyman’s) virtually compulsive anti-puritan and anticonventional stance. Moreover, Strömstedt clearly states that his criticism
is a version of Sjöman’s self-criticism. Not all reviewers were equally
open about the source of their critical arguments, but as a matter of
fact ‘Sjöman & Nyman’ may be regarded as a template for the reviews
of Jag är nyfiken – gul. Regardless of the assessment of the film, Sjöman’s political naïvité and exhibitionism appear in the reviews as two
fundamental themes with minute variations.14 Consequently, Sjöman
had anticipated the major criticism of his film. This fact emphasises
the Nyfiken project’s infallibility as a reflexive structure. The critics
are lured into a hall of mirrors, and their commentary turns out to
be nothing but an additional layer added to the director’s auto-fiction
in the films and the diary. Their reactions are manifestly grafted onto
the project as a whole. In the centre of this hall of mirrors there exits
(already) a powerful rendering of Sjöman’s exhibitionism, his ignorance,
cowardice and failures; his dreams of revenge and his puritanism, his
masturbatory voyeurism and lack of generosity. The reviewers who
actually commented on the mirroring function of the diary were left
to make the anticipated move of pointing out that it was a flagrant
example of Sjömanian exhibitionism.15 Their criticism became another
mirror placed right on the spot indicated by Sjöman himself.16
It would be erroneous to maintain that the Nyfiken project had a
decisive impact on the changes made in the Swedish legislation on
pornography in the early 1970s.17 In spite of the fact that Sjöman
went further with sexual representation than any Swedish filmmaker
before him outside the realm of illegal pornography, the sexually liberal
attitude of the Nyfiken films was very characteristic of the time. Jag är
nyfiken – gul pushed the limits, but so did pornographic magazines,
tabloids and weeklies, striptease clubs and mail-order firms supplying
a variety of ‘shady’ literature – everything from ostentatiously titled
books published anonymously to modern literary classics by Genet and
Miller. For all practical purposes, pornography was freely available and
appeared socially accepted to a high degree.18
Those who hoped or feared that Jag är nyfiken – gul could be the
straw breaking the back of the institution of film censorship in Sweden
may have been right, though. In spite of the fact that film censorship
iv. auteurs and art cinema
continued, at this point it surely looked as if it was outmoded, and
Sjöman’s film seemed to confirm this. But it was no breakthrough.
Even the most eager champions of film censorship adopted an air of
resignation when they debated the Nyfiken films. The aggressive gusto
of the 491 debate had been dulled. The quarrel about censorship had
all but settled, and the anti-censorship point of view prevailed, or so
everybody thought.
Sjöman has constantly reiterated the immense personal significance
of the Nyfiken debate. He has described it as the great trauma in his
work as a film director, an itching wound that will not heal. And this
in spite of the fact that Jag är nyfiken – gul was received in the manner
Sjöman had wished for in his diary. Approximately 20–30 per cent of
the reviewers really liked the film, and the criticism put forward was
aimed at weaknesses Sjöman was clearly aware of. The traumatic experience was the reaction of the left. In some venues it was quite scathing.
A brief Nyfiken debate unfolded in 1968 in the letters-to-the-editor
column of the journal Clarté. One of the first contributions read:
In Vilgot Sjöman’s set one has become oh-so-left. That happens once
you understand that ‘Sweden is a class society’. Vilgot’s people are smart
and idealistic. Ordinary people don’t understand that Sweden is a class
society. They aren’t left. They are no idealists. They are conservative,
materialistic, egotistical and stupid. They go off mindlessly to Spain
with nothing in their heads except sun and vacation. In Vilgot’s set
you fuck and engage in politics. You are unprejudiced and set goals for
yourself and understand Gyllensten [Lars Gyllensten was the author
of philosophical essays and experimental literary fiction]. In this way
Vilgot condemns the Swedish people!…Comrades, it is important to
expose Vilgot’s social democratic rubbish wherever it might pop up in
this country. Why, even in this day, many believe that we are against
ordinary people, and that all we want is a bit of levelling out of classes.
Vilgot Sjöman spreads lies about the politically engaged youth. We
must defend ourselves, fight back!19
The entry was signed: Crush the imperialism of the USA and its appendages: Olof [Palme] and Vilgot. This criticism is representative of the
tone of voice and content of the reaction from the left. Some writers,
like Svante Foerster in the newspaper Arbetet, were more conciliatory,
but insisted that not only were Sjöman’s films ignorant and politically
naïve, they were utterly counter-productive from a leftist point of view.20
swedish film
The objects of criticism were first and foremost the self-centredness,
the excessive preoccupation with sexuality and the sophisticated fictional construction. Sjöman, it was remarked, was not really a critic
of the bourgeoisie, capitalism and the social democratic party. He was
an unwitting lackey; a liberal aesthete who showed his contempt for
ordinary people by ‘turning politics into pornography, and the struggle
into straightforward commercialism’.21 Proponents of the revolutionary left regarded the concept of unifying class struggle with a radical
pacifist position as mere folly. Per-Olov Käll wrote, answering a statement where Sjöman had depicted the reaction from the left as myopic
and moralistic:
For he who chooses the principle of non-violence, he also chooses the
established order of things. He who shouts ‘struggle without arms!’
to the FNL, he should indeed shout ‘power to the imperialists!’. This
does not imply that (physical) violence is necessary at every stage of
the class struggle. But without some form of violence the ruling class
will not yield. The next thirty, forty, fifty years will, in all likelihood,
be the bloodiest in history. Especially in the Third World, but perhaps
also for us. After that the power of the capitalists will be crushed once
and for all.
Being the liberal he is, Sjöman is unable to separate himself from the
criticism. Criticism against Sjöman’s lack of political consciousness is
perceived as a manifestation of ‘moralism’. The social becomes personal,
and matters of principle become private. (To be sure, criticism against
ideas must be aimed at the proponent of these ideas – they don’t float
in the air – which is not the same thing as criticising a person – but
I don’t expect Sjöman to understand this.) Certainly it is not the case
that all ideas, or combinations of ideas, are equally good, or even
interesting. Bringing together class struggle and non-violence is no
‘innovation’; it is no more creative and original than a cook mixing
the main course with the dessert. Hence, there is nothing in Sjöman’s
argument to ‘seize upon’; nothing worthy of serious consideration.
Therefore people like Vilgot Sjöman must be opposed, their false
authority must be crushed to pieces. Thence the gentry may finally
However, criticism from a pronounced left-wing perspective was quite
rare in the Swedish press. The cases in point can easily be perceived as
esoteric and overly aggressive. A broader, more general reaction from
iv. auteurs and art cinema
the left is hard to find. One gets the impression expressed by the author
P. O. Enquist in November 1967: ‘On the left, one remains confusedly
silent about the newly found, bourgeois friend, that seems to be a wolf
in sheep’s clothing’.23 Sjöman has also related that he was confronted
with the reaction from the left first and foremost in face-to-face conversations with ‘left-wing friends’ at private screenings where the film
was the topic of discussion, at meetings, or simply at the pub.24
The reaction from the left, as far as it can be interpreted, severely
sharpened the criticism of political ignorance that was ubiquitous in the
reviews and had been prefigured in the published diary. The intensity of
this repudiation from the left was unexpected, and Sjöman had therefore
not been able to include it in the diary. In this respect, the reaction
from the left became a stone hurled into the carefully prepared hall of
mirrors, shattering the hermetic auto-fiction of the Nyfiken project.
This was the ‘trauma’. The left’s criticism was to determine the artistic
conception of most of Sjöman’s films up to Tabu /Taboo (1977), in
which Sjöman’s vengefulness towards the left united with self-portrayal
in a tense cinematic form that was (as it turned out) hard to digest.
In the final analysis, it is obvious that Sjöman’s recurrent reminiscences about the personal meaning of the Nyfiken debate, casting it as
a symptom of the ‘new puritanism’ of the Swedish political left, cannot
fully explain that the Nyfiken debate has come to be remembered as
more comprehensive than it actually was. The explanation must be
sought in the fact that Jag är nyfiken – gul and Jag är nyfiken – blå were
debated all over the world.
The Limits of Obscenity: the International Reception
A comprehensive inventory of the international reception of, above all,
Jag är nyfiken – gul would go beyond the limits of this account. Even
the most cursory inventory of the enormous amount of newspaper
clippings about the film and the reactions it has caused all over the
industrialized part of the world, from the US in the west to Japan in
the east, makes one thing perfectly clear: the discussion was primarily
about the representation of sex.25 Jag är nyfiken – gul was banned in
many countries, including Finland and Norway, and initially also in
the US. Only a few countries allowed public screenings of the original
version.26 Internationally, like in Sweden, it was discussed whether the
sexual representations were artistically and politically motivated in the
swedish film
film. The general impression, however, is that the film’s erotics were
more fascinating than its politics. It was treated as a sexual sensation
with a political angle. This treatment in the media is a reasonable
explanation for the film’s exceptional commercial success internationally, especially in the US.
It was in the US that the Nyfiken films – mainly Jag är nyfiken –
gul – had their greatest concrete political significance, as a touchstone
for the US obscenity laws and the issue of freedom of speech. US
legislation prohibited the import, transport and public exhibition of
material that could be classified as obscene. Obscenity had been the
key concept in this legislation since the institution of the so-called
Comstock laws in the 1870s. Several scholars have demonstrated
how the definition of this key concept was altered and specified in
a series of trials of notable literary works since the 1930s.27 The US
Supreme Court ruled in 1957 that the hard core of all more or less
obscene material was ‘utterly without redeeming social importance’.28
This hard core should be excepted from the general rule of freedom
of speech in the US, and could therefore be prosecuted and banned.
After this ruling there was a veritable wave of legal cases, where lawyers
and entrepreneurs in the publishing business acted to test the precise
content of the new definition. Barney Rosset and his publishing firm
the Grove Press appeared in this context in 1959, defending the right
to publish D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). Rosset won
the case, and moved on with more ‘obscene’ modern classics, such as
Henry Miller’s The Tropic of Cancer (1934) and William Burroughs’
The Naked Lunch (1959).
Film was not protected under the First Amendment until 1952,
when the US Supreme Court ruled that film, like literature, was a
medium for the communication of ideas.29 Taken together with the
ruling in 1957, this meant that obscenity in films should be balanced
against their possible ‘redeeming social value’. Films that showed, or
even implied, sexual acts were prosecuted on a regular basis in several
states, in spite of the fact that courts had stated, as a rule of thumb,
that sex and obscenity were not synonymous. Barney Rosset was on
a crusade against the obscenity laws, motivated by conviction as well
as by the substantial profits gained from the distribution of literary
avant-garde works with strong erotic content.30 He sensed that Jag är
nyfiken – gul was the kind of material that could do for film in the
US what Lady Chatterley’s Lover had done for literature. He offered to
iv. auteurs and art cinema
distribute the film in the US, and devised a detailed strategy to deal
with the legal repercussions.31
The film was seized, according to plan, by the US Customs and taken
to trial. From a legal point of view the case was important, because
Jag är nyfiken – gul contains representations of sexual acts that technically show everything except close-ups of aroused genital contact. If
this footage was not relegated to the hard core of manifestly obscene
material, it would be difficult to claim that any representation of sexual
acts should be (at least heterosexual acts). However, the defence could
rightly claim that Sjöman was a well-reputed, artistic director; a student of the great Ingmar Bergman. In its dominant psychological and
political themes, the film could be argued to possess a fair amount of
‘redeeming social value’. The question for the court was whether the
film as a whole was obscene.
The trial was held in New York on 20–23 May 1968. The defence
had called a number of expert witnesses, among them well-known film
critics and psychologists. One of the witnesses was the author and film
director Norman Mailer. The position of the prosecution was that the
film was obviously and manifestly obscene. A lengthy part of the court
record consists of an interrogation of Sjöman. He accounts for the
circumstances of the film’s production and his artistic considerations.
It is tempting to interpret this partly published hearing as yet another
venue for Sjöman’s self-portrayal, though he had not, of course, the
same level of control over the outcome of the hearing as he had had
over the diary and films.32
The jury in the New York trial found Jag är nyfiken – gul obscene.
The verdict was appealed and suspended by the court of appeal. The
film could be distributed, and Rosset and his lawyers prepared for local
injunctions against the film by forming a network of lawyers following
the film through the country, defending it against litigation. Several
trials followed, and when one of the cases reached the Supreme Court
there was a hung decision. Four judges voted to protect the film under
the First Amendment, four judges voted against. The film’s status on
the federal level thereby remained unclear.33
In spite of this, Jag är nyfiken – gul is often considered to be the
film breaking the taboo against scenes of sexual intercourse in films
in the US.34 The film’s American breakthrough was, of course, part
of a general development of sexual liberation in the US, but the fact
remains that the successful distribution of Jag är nyfiken – gul proved
swedish film
that it was not a lost cause to try to distribute a film with explicit sexual
content. The film was a stupendous commercial success in the US. It
is difficult to ascertain the exact number of viewers or the film’s total
gross. However, expectations were sky high after all the publicity, and
it is claimed that close to 6,000 people saw it in New York on the day
of the premiere, which was close to the all time high.35 By all accounts
it successfully toured the country, and according to some sources it had
grossed in the vicinity of 50 million crowns in 1970.36 It was by far the
most commercially successful foreign film in the US of all time. The
device of integrating sex scenes in a political context was plagiarised
by more or less serious American directors, among them Andy Warhol
with the film Blue Movie (1969).37
To sum up, the international reception of Jag är nyfiken – gul was all
about sex, although sex scenes take up only a few minutes of screen time.
The reason, of course, was that these scenes really broke sexual taboos.
Sjöman was moving in tandem with the European art cinema as
a whole. Starting off at the same time as the neo-realism of post-war
Italy was a pan-European, modernist aspiration for greater realism.
This included, centrally, aspirations for realism and artistic freedom in
dealing with sexual themes. As the art cinema strengthened its position
as one of the most vital intellectual and artistic fields during the 1950s
and 1960s, it became an erotic avant-garde that, because of its elevated
status, could cross the borders restricting ‘commercial’ cinema. It is
reasonable to hypothesise that the surprising commercial appeal of art
cinema can be explained by its erotic candour. The audience expected
new visual sensations from the art cinema. It had an aura of uncompromising aesthetics and scandal.38 And one of its most scandalous
representatives was, without doubt, Vilgot Sjöman; a perhaps dubious
honour, placing him alongside the great enfants terribles of European
cinema, Pasolini and Fassbinder.
Translated by Anders Wilhelm Ã…berg
Excerpt from Anders Åberg, Tabu: filmaren Vilgot Sjöman, Lund: Filmhäftet,
iv. auteurs and art cinema
1 For example Vilgot Sjöman, ‘Sverige är en slutstation’, Expressen, 4 May 1978, and
Vilgot Sjöman (1988), Oskuld förlorad: Ett motiv iVilgot Sjömans filmer, Stockholm:
Författarförlaget, pp. 49–53. See Erik Skoglund (1971), Filmcensuren, Stockholm:
Bokförlaget PAN/Norstedts, p. 180.
2 My argument in the above holds for the reception of both of the Nyfiken films, but
most of the quotes and discussions cited refer to Jag är nyfiken – gul. The Swedish
reception of Jag är nyfiken – blå consists almost exclusively of comparisons with
its predecessor, usually unfavourable, as well as some reasoning about the choice
to split the films in two. Most reviewers simply felt that Jag är nyfiken – blå did
not add anything of substance, and consequently the reception of the latter film
adds little to an account of the public reception of the project as a whole. It may be
interesting to note, though, that the demands for ideological consciousness seem to
have grown very rapidly during the autumn of 1967 and the winter of 1968. While
some critics doubted Sjöman’s political judgement in 1967, even more seemed ready
to dismiss him as a political idiot in 1968.
3 Riksdagens protokoll 1967, Andra kammaren, no. 42, p. 60.
4 Kerstin Matz, ‘En fräck film om Sverige’, Expressen Söndag, 1 October 1967, and
Kjell Petterson, ‘Premiären på Sjömanfilmen skjuts upp. Sexscener med kungen
censurproblem’, Expressen, 2 October 1967. These speculations appeared in ‘Gala
Peter’, Expressen, as early as 27 November 1966.
5 For example ‘Filmförmyndarna bort!’ (editorial), Kvällsposten, 7 October 1967.
6 Erik Skoglund, in a communiqué to the press from Statens Biografbyrå (photocopy,
undated), SBa dnr. 977 /67.
7 Ibid.
8 The exception to the rule was, apart from the Christian newspaper Dagen, a few
weekly journals, first and foremost Se. In Se there was a rather unsavoury debate
within the debate – initiated by the famous writer and soon-to-be member of the
Royal Swedish Academy Artur Lundkvist – concerning the spectacle of the actress
Lena Nyman’s naked body. Was it sexually stimulating or revolting?
9 For example Marianne Zetterström, in ‘Sjöman chockerar ej’, Vecko-Journalen,
no. 42 /1967, p. 64: ‘‘Eroticism is meaninglessly pushed into the foreground in
comparison with other aspects of existence, this is the nervousness of our time’, said
Johannes V. Jensen in 1935. Since then, we have been getting ever more nervous. I
hardly find Sjöman’s ‘love without covering sheets’ to be a particularly bold or open
gesture. On the opposite, it is as conventional, de-sensualised and tasteless as the
book and magazine covers nowadays found on every newsstand! It does not shock,
it does not incite, possibly it fridgidizes.’ Jurgen Schildt – ironically and with a flair
for catchphrases – dubbed Sjöman’s alloy of sex and politics ‘coitus communism’
in ‘Vilgot Sjöman rätade inte ut frågetecknet med “blå”’, Aftonbladet, 12 March
10 For example Jan Aghed, in ‘Sjöman genom sexvallen’, SydSvenska Dagbladet, 10
October 1967, and ‘En bredsida mot puritanismen’, SydSvenska Dagbladet, 17
October 1967.
11 The diary referred to is an account of the making of the Nyfiken films, published
at the time of the release of Jag är nyfiken – gul. This diary is very much a part of
the Nyfiken project as a whole. See Vilgot Sjöman (1967), Jag var nyfiken: Dagbok
swedish film
med mig själv, Stockholm: PAN/Norstedts.
12 Sjöman (1967), pp. 167 and 178.
13 Bo Strömstedt, ‘Sjöman & Nyman’, Expressen, 10 October 1967.
14 Two of the most interesting variations are P. O. Enquist, ‘Nyfiken gul – en valfilm’,
Expressen, 20 November 1967, and Kerstin Vinterhed, ‘Varför är hon inte karl?’,
Dagens Nyheter, 21 October 1967. Enquist argues that the most tangible political
effect of the film is that ‘[Sjöman] has, in a very precarious and unstable political
situation and at the prospect of an important election, intended to transfer the
malaise and irritation of large parts of the electorate towards extreme manifestations
of sexual liberation, to tranfer this malaise from liberalism to socialism. He is obviously succeeding.’ Vinterhed argues, against the grain, that Lena Nyman cannot
simply be interpreted as Sjöman’s mouthpiece. She happens to be a woman, and
most conventionally portrayed: ‘I find her politically shallow, sexually repressed,
and unhappy.’
15 For example Jurgen Schildt, ‘Vilgot Sjöman beskriver sig’, Aftonbladet, 18 November
1967, and Göran O. Eriksson (1968), ‘Ett barn i Sverige’, Bonniers litterära magasin,
no. 4, pp. 311 f.
16 Sjöman, characteristically, describes his wish to control the reception of Jag är nyfiken
– gul in the diary: ‘If this film comes out right, about 20–30 per cent should really
approve of it. The rest should think that it is “worth discussing”, fucking rubbish,
astoundingly inept, unnecessarily vulgar, the ultimate in speculation, whatever
happened to Sjöman? etc.’ Sjöman (1968), p. 169.
17 Although the film, according to Leif Silbersky, did in fact have a limited impact
on what kind of images one could legally publish in pornographic magazines. Leif
Silbersky and Carlösten Nordmark (1969), Såra tukt och sedlighet. En debattbok
om pornografin, Stockholm: Prisma, pp. 22–27.
18 Lena Lennerhed argues that one of the reasons that the debate on sex and pornography in Sweden lost its momentum after the mid 1960s was that society at large
was approaching a liberal consensus. See Lena Lennerhed (1994), Frihet att njuta.
Sexualdebatten i Sverige på 1960-talet, Stockholm: Norstedts, p. 248.
19 ‘Vilgot Sjöman – en smutsig provokation mot svenska folket’, Clarté, no. 1 /1968,
p. 7.
20 Svante Foerster, ‘Vilgot Sjöman, nyfiken – röd?’, Arbetet, 25 October 1967.
21 The quote is from Thomas Forser, summing up the attitudes towards Sjöman within
the radical left in the late 1960s. Forser was a part of this movement. Excerpt from
a talk recorded at the Gothenburg Film Festival in 1987.
22 Per-Olov Käll, ‘Falsk auktoritet’, Clarté, no. 3/1968, p. 75. Sjöman’s statement was
made in ‘…smitta folk i salongen’, interview by Jonas Sima, Expressen, 24 March
23 Enquist, Expressen, 20 November 1967. It is possible to pose serious questions about
Enquist’s (or ‘the left’s’?) characterization of Sjöman as a ‘bourgeois’. Certainly, this
does not do justice to Sjöman’s solid, working-class background. In a light topical
column, the author Lars Gustafsson wrote about the ‘silent’ debate about Jag är
nyfiken – gul: ‘When you read the newspapers, you find that all our reviewers consider Sjöman’s film to be brilliant, politically ground-breaking. If you move in the
literary salons, you find that all reviewers consider Sjöman’s film to be artistically
dubious, politically confused.’ Lars Gustafsson, ‘Osedligheten, t.ex.’, Expressen, 15
November 1967.
iv. auteurs and art cinema
24 Conversation with Vilgot Sjöman, recorded 16 February 1996.
25 A sample of international reviews and articles is available at the archives of the
Swedish Films Institute.
26 The existence of multiple versions of films often makes it difficult to establish which
version has been screened to a certain audience. In controversial censorship cases
it can be almost impossible, even if one has access to censorship records, since the
distributors frequently edit local screening copies to forestall legal action against the
film. In the case of Jag är nyfiken – gul, rumour has it that heavily edited versions
were circulated. It has not been possible to confirm this. Unanimous sources support that the original version was screened in Denmark, but there is contradictory
evidence that it may have been screened in the Netherlands.
27 See Norman St John-Stevas (1956), Obscenity and the Law, London: Secker and
Warburg, passim; Charles Rembar (1968), The End of Obscenity. The Trials of Lady
Chatterley,Tropic of Cancer and Fanny Hill, New York: Random House, pp. 15–44;
P. R. MacMillan (1983), Censorship and Public Morality, Aldershot: Gower, passim;
Walter Kendrick (1987), The Secret Museum. Pornography in Modern Culture, New
York: Viking Press, pp. 196–204; and Linda Williams (1989), Hard Core. Power,
Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible’, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of
California Press, pp. 85–91.
28 In the US Supreme Court ruling in the Roth case, see Rembar (1968), pp. 45–58.
The precise wording was later changed to ‘…redeeming social value’.
29 Edward De Grazia and Roger K. Newman (1982), Banned Films. Movies, Censors
& the First Amendment, New York & London: R. R. Bowker Company, pp. 78–83
and pp. 232f.
30 See Richard Ellis (1988), ‘Disseminating Desire: Grove Press and the End[s] of
Obscenity’, in Gary Day and Clive Bloom, eds., Perspectives on Pornography. Sexuality
in Film and Literature, Basingstoke: Macmillan, pp. 34f.
31 Sjöman has described his first meeting with Barney Rosset in ‘När jag var nyfiken.
Vilgot Sjöman berättar’, Upp & Ner, 11 /1990, pp. 8ff.
32 Parts of the interrogation of Sjöman are printed in I Am Curious (Yellow): A Film
by Vilgot Sjöman, New York: Grove Press, 1968.
33 De Grazia et al. (1982), pp. 298ff.
34 Ibid. p. 299.
35 According to the Swedish journalist covering the opening of the film in New York.
Ulf Nilsson, ‘Här står New York-borna i kö för att få se “Jag är nyfiken – gul”,
“Inget för kärringar’’’, Expressen, 11 March 1969.
36 Staffan Heimersson, ‘Vilgot Sjöman intellektuell och skygg’, Aftonbladet, 23 May
37 It is possible that Warhol used this device ironically in the film that has also been
distributed under the title Fuck. The success of Jag är nyfiken – gul inspired distributors of sheer exploitation films to suggest an affinity with the Swedish film,
for example Curious Yellow Bird (1969)
38 Janet Staiger also suggests this in her study of the US reception of European art
cinema. Janet Staiger (1992),‘With the Compliments of the Auteur: Art Cinema
and the Complexities of its Reading Strategies’, Interpreting Films: Studies in the
Historical Reception of American Cinema, pp. 178–195. See p. 191.
chapter 30
Poetry in Sound and Image
Jan Troell’s Early TV Films
Madeliene Lilja & Johan Nilsson
The films of Jan Troell have received widespread attention both nationally
and internationally. However, his relationship to television has seldom
been acknowledged. Consequently, this article illustrates the context
around Troell’s first encounter with television and Filmavdelningen
(the Film Section) of the Swedish public broadcasting system. It also
presents some of his own thoughts on his time as an amateur filmmaker
and on the Film Section’s head Lennart Ehrenborg’s cooperation with
freelance filmmakers.
In Sweden television had its breakthrough in 1956, and within a
period of seven years annual cinema visits declined from eighty million to forty million.1
Short films (newsreels), previously screened in
cinemas before the feature, left them for the new distribution channel
that television presented.2
At this time Troell worked as a teacher at Sorgenfriskolan in Malmö
and had just obtained an 8 mm camera. De falska, eller hvi suckar det
tungt uti kvarnen /‘The false, or the Heavy Sighs in the Mill’ (Jan
Troell, 1957) was a featurette of approximately twenty minutes that
told the story of some smugglers in a mill. After the film was already
made, Troell submitted a script containing enlarged stills from the
film to a script competition held by Swedish television. This is how
Troell himself describes his first encounter with Ehrenborg, the head
of the Film Section:
I didn’t meet him personally until much later; my first contact with
Ehrenborg was over the telephone. When I finally met him in person
I perceived him as vigorous and strong. At one time I sent in a script
that was based on an essay that a boy in my fourth-grade class had
iv. auteurs and art cinema
written – De falska. In order to be able to deliver images to the script
I copied frames from the film. There I actually made the film first and
wrote the script later. I didn’t win the award but it had made a certain
impression on Ehrenborg.3
In his dissertation, Jon Dunås has shown that Troell’s first films herald
certain stylistic features that characterise the imagery and the use of
sound in his later films. Despite the camera equipment’s shortcomings
as a not yet fully developed technical medium, there is continuity in
the imagery that can be traced back to his very first works. This can
perhaps partly be explained by the amateur filmmaker’s full control
over production.4
With Sommarhamn/‘Summer Harbour’ (Jan Troell, 1958) Troell was awarded first prize in a family-film competition
that had been advertised by the amateur-film journal Filmteknik. The
motivation was: ‘A charming film with atmospheric effect presented
with great technical skill and pronounced visual sense.’5
Stad/‘Town’ (Jan Troell, 1958) was a story about a boy’s search for a
missing turtle, and it was this short film that led to Troell’s first encounter
with television.6
The film was shown on television at the end of May 1960:
It is slightly unclear to me exactly when it happened but it began in
Malmö with Lasse Holmqvist. I had borrowed a 16 mm camera and
filmed a little story about a missing turtle. By chance Lasse Holmqvist
saw the film and wanted it to be shown. That was the initial step. The
next film, I am not entirely clear about the order, originated in a request
from Malmö and Gösta Åhlén, who was head of television in Malmö
at the time. Åhlén wanted me to make a film based on a poem from
Skåne, and I chose Nyårsafton på den skånska slätten by Albert Ulrik
Bååth. It was shown on New Year’s Eve 1961.7
Lasse Holmqvist was a television personality, active in Malmö, who
during the 1950s and 1960s belonged to those who, despite unfavourable technical conditions, travelled around Skåne (the southernmost
province of Sweden) and filmed portrayals of ordinary people’s lives
in the tradition of radio profiles Olof Forsén and Lars Madsén. He is,
however, better known for the television show Här är ditt liv /This Is
Your Life (1980–1991), a Swedish version of the format which was first
produced in the US in the 1950s. His earlier programmes are characteristic of the transition from radio to television and the genres that
were adapted to the new medium, in this case the portrait interview.
swedish film
The Swedish media landscape saw significant changes during the
1960s. During the 1950s and the early 1960s it was taken for granted
that the broadcasting media were not allowed to serve as a channel
for personal opinions, other than in an impartial and balanced form.
Likewise, anything unpleasant or shocking was only to be mentioned
in abstract ways and never to be shown or described. Such taboos began
to unravel during the 1960s and television was able to approach them
more openly. With this shift in perspective from the uncontroversial and
family-friendly to the more provoking, it is clear that Swedish television
went through a significant change in the early 1960s. In the press the
provocative development was mainly seen as a result of the independence of this medium, but it also caused controversy. One example of
this development is Troell’s film Trakom/‘Trachoma’ (1963/64), which
deals with poverty and disease in Algeria from a humanitarian perspective. The film had been commissioned by the charity organisation Save
the Children, which had just started mass treatment of the eye disease
Trachoma in Algeria. This was also what the press focused on. Troell
was credited as photographer but the film was largely seen as having
originated from the organisation.8
Troell was more interested in theatrical film, but saw television as a
possible gateway to a career as a feature film director. Ehrenborg’s idea
of using freelance filmmakers was based on his vision of television as an
alternative medium for screening; one characterised by diversity. The
production process was based on the idea that the filmmaker presented
an idea to Ehrenborg, who either rejected or approved it:
Of course I wanted to get a foot in the door to television, but I would
rather that my films were shown on the large screen. Den gamla kvarnen/‘The Old Mill’ (Jan Troell, 1963) was blown up to 35 mm thanks
to Artfilm and was shown as an opening short to Vilgot Sjöman’s film
Klänningen/  ‘The Dress’ (Vilgot Sjöman, 1964). That film was actually my ticket into making feature films. Bengt Forslund and Ingmar
Bergman had seen it in some context and got in touch with me. It
was the film Sommartåg/‘Summertrain’ (Jan Troell, 1961) that led to
my first contact with Lennart Ehrenborg. I received a contract and a
copy of the film, and television got the rights ‘for all time’. The sound
production was done at Swedish television and I remember thinking
that it was amazing to get a copy with optical sound.
iv. auteurs and art cinema
Here the technological development at this time underway is foregrounded. The new mobility in the interplay between camera and
sound recorder made it possible to shoot long, uninterrupted takes,
with visually varied images. Parallel to this development a countermovement emerged, one that wanted to dissociate itself from nonrealistic sound; a tendency to completely abstain from words and rely
only on the documentary power of the image. This seems to fall back
on a wish to refine television’s capacity as a photographic medium and
thereby attempt to steer clear of persuasion and suggestion.9
early films consist of his reflections on surroundings and people, rather
than narratives with distinct plots and characters. Dialogue is almost
non-existent and voice-over narration is hardly ever used. This visual
narration seems to have offered Troell significant opportunities for
stylistic experimentation. This shows how he has always viewed the
image as more important than the narrative. Or rather, the narration
is born through camera movements and the associative image transitions of montage. Moods and impressions are effectively mediated
through use of the subjective camera, and the relationship between
environmental sounds and the images is sometimes realistic, sometimes
abstract or imaginative.
As shown by Lars-Lennart Forsberg, the technological development during the 1960s was crucial for the TV film, as well as for the
documentary aesthetic in general.10 Apart from the Éclair camera and
the synchronous sound, zoom lenses also made it possible for Troell to
explore a new visual mobility. Of importance was also the improved
quality of the black-and-white film stock, with a greater light-sensitivity,
which made it possible to film without any artificial lighting.
Troell is known for his poetic imagery, for his energetic close-up
narration, and for emphatically showing what is seen and felt. New
projects often begin with an image, and Troell often makes statements
like, ‘it was Moberg’s description of a blue doll below the water of a well
that led to the filming of Utvandrarna’.11 For Troell every image is filled
with details, which could be one reason why he is sometimes criticised
for working slowly. Troell himself contends that the abundance, the
tempo, and the fast cutting reduce the significance of each image.12
It is obvious that Troell is influenced by the Swedish documentary
filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff’s tendency to play with fiction and fact;
something that Troell himself has acknowledged: ‘My method is to
make fiction film as documentary and documentary as fiction film.’13
swedish film
The Film Section and its freelance filmmakers continuously discussed
the international development in documentary filmmaking. Ehrenborg
arranged for many key films to be imported and shown on Swedish
television. At this time it was mainly Karel Reisz and Lindsey Anderson, representing the free cinema movement, who quickly influenced
Ehrenborg’s freelance filmmakers and stimulated their production. In
Troell’s films these influences are most clearly seen in the representation
of environments, the lack of voice-over narration, and the experimental
editing leading to a poetic play with sound and image.
In Båten and in Sommartåg, which were shown on television in 1962,
realistic settings are strikingly transformed into intense experiences
of time and space. Båten portrays a Copenhagen ferry’s last voyage to
the scrapyard in Ystad. The camera’s exploration of details meets the
sound’s suggestive mediation of the engine’s thumping, combined with
the imaginary sounds from previous voyages when the dining-hall was
filled with the buzz of conversation and the clattering of china. These
‘memories of sound’ have been noted by Dunås as a recurring theme in
several of Troell’s early films, and the post-synchronised sounds stand
out as a practical necessity that developed into an aesthetic virtue.14 The
result is at once melancholy and humorous. The desolation onboard is
effectively captured in an image from the restaurant, where a lonely fly
buzzes around and finally walks across the window between the camera
and the ocean view. In Sommartåg technology and machines are in
focus as well, but here the portrayal of the rushing train is contrasted
with nature through a small boy’s inquisitive gaze. The film presents
his experience of the train ride and the landscape outside the train’s
window. Sommartåg is a montage of sound and image on the theme
of summer landscapes and summer holidays, where contrasts between
bird song, silence, the sound of rails, and the train whistle become a
recurrent theme in the rhythmic editing of subjective impressions of
the scenery, the fellow passengers, the conductor, and peaceful reflections on the summer landscape.
In 1961, Troell och Bo Widerberg made Pojken och draken/‘The boy
and the kite’, a short film about the boy Arild who turns six years old:
It was Lasse Holmqvist who brought me and Bo Widerberg together.
Bo wrote the script and directed and I managed the camera, camerasettings, and the editing of the film. We worked very closely together,
we actually had a very good collaboration. When I was editing the film
iv. auteurs and art cinema
I remember that Bo was there and that he became fascinated with the
editing. At that time every short film was a special event since only one
television channel existed, but I remember that a critic in Gothenburg
concluded his completely scathing review of me and Widerberg by
writing that we had threatened to return.
However, not all the critique of Pojken och draken was negative. Newspapers were generally positive. Among other things, the film was seen
as a sensational work sample that looked like nothing else. Most of
all, the visual aspects and the imagery were noticed. Sound effects and
dialogue were mentioned as well, but only in terms of fastidiousness
and as supportive of the image. In the discussions of the film much
focus was on Widerberg. He was seen as the author and Troell as the
cameraman and editor.15 Accordingly, we can once again acknowledge
how the image is of central importance for Troell, and it can be added
that this directly relates to free cinema and its conviction that it is the
image that speaks while sound may enhance and comment.
Troell’s early film production for television is an example of the
freelance filmmaker’s autonomy in relation to programmatic content
and filmic execution under the leadership of Ehrenborg. It is also a
confirmation of television’s place in Swedish film history and of film’s
place during the early days of television. Even if Troell only had sporadic contact with Ehrenborg, his collaboration with the Film Section
gave him artistic and technical support, and a freedom that allowed
him to explore film’s expressive possibilities. Recognising Troell as a
celebrated auteur affects how we view his earliest films – one is inevitably tempted to trace his signature in the imagery and camerawork of
his earliest attempts. This seems to make sense. Even the very first TV
films were, with few exceptions, celebrated by the critics in the daily
press. And, when Troell’s feature film Här har du ditt liv /Here’sYour Life
premiered in 1966, it was decided that all his TV films would be aired
again – each one of them suggesting something of Troell’s particular
poetry in sound and image.
Translated by Madeliene Lilja and Johan Nilsson
Originally published as Madeliene Lilja and Johan Nilsson (2008), ‘Poesi i
ljud och bild: Jan Troell som tv-filmare’, in Tobias Janson & Malin Wahlberg,
eds., TV-pionjärer och fria filmare: En bok om Lennart Ehrenborg, Stockholm:
Statens ljud- och bildarkiv.
swedish film
1 Leif Furhammar (2003), Filmen i Sverige, Stockholm: Dialogos, p. 249.
2 Furhammar (2003), 262.
3 Telephone interview with Jan Troell, May 2008.
4 Jon Dunås (2001), Apparaturbetraktelser. Metafilmiska aspekter på Jan Troells Här
har du ditt liv, Stockholm: Aura förlag, pp. 44–45.
5 Signaturen D., ‘Sommarhamn’ blev segrarfilm’, Filmteknik 1959:4, 24.
6 Stad was first aired on TV on 31 May, 1960.
7 Nyårsafton på den skånska slätten was commissioned by Sveriges Radio (the Swedish state broadcasting company) and it premiered on 31 December, 1961. Svenska
Filminstitutets databas.
8 See Svenska Dagbladet, 2 February 1964; Dagens Nyheter, 2 February 1964; Expressen
2 February 1964; Aftonbladet, 2 February 1964.
9 An early example of this is Troell’s Johan Ekberg (1964), a film about an old man
who quietly cultivates his garden while changes in society gradually make themselves
10 Lars-Lennart Forsberg (2008), ‘På Ehrenborgs tid’ in Tobias Janson & Malin Wahlberg, eds., TV-pionjärer och fria filmare: En bok om Lennart Ehrenborg, Stockholm:
Statens ljud- och bildarkiv, pp. 95–126.
11 Britta Collberg (2001), ‘Jan Troell’, Kultur i Skåne,
12 Collberg (2001).
13 Jeanette Gentele, ‘Jan Troell satsar stort igen’, Svenska Dagbladet, 31 January 2007.
14 Dunås (2001), 80, 229.
15 Tore Borglund, ‘“Pojken och draken” i TV igår ett sensationellt arbetsprov’, Expressen,
14 March 1962; Gunnar Falk, ‘TV-rutan’, Svenska Dagbladet, 14 March 1962;
Dagens Nyheter, 13 March 1962; Hans Fridlund, ‘Filmkritikerns film i kvällens
TV med sexåring i huvudrollen’, Aftonbladet, 13 March 1962.
chapter 31
Modernity, Masculinity and
the Swedish Welfare State
Mai Zetterling’s Flickorna
Mariah Larsson
In 1968, former actress Mai Zetterling’s fourth film as a director,
Flickorna /The Girls, premiered. It told the story of three actresses who
tour Sweden with a stage production of Lystistrata. The three actresses
are played by the trio made famous through Ingmar Bergman’s films:
Bibi Andersson plays Liz, who plays Lysistrate in the play; Harriet
Andersson is Marianne, who in her turn plays Myrrhine; and Gunnel Lindblom has the part of Gunilla, whose character in the play is
Kalonike. All these women have problematic relations to the men in
their lives: Liz is married with no children, and her husband wants her
to leave acting in order to support him in his career; Gunilla has a lot of
children with her nice and helpful but dull husband; and Marianne has
a child with her married lover. Like all of Zetterling’s films, Flickorna
is characterised by a high degree of mental subjectivity. Inner visions
make up the majority of the film. The play, the women’s lives and their
surrealist fantasies and daydreams intertwine to form a complex and
sometimes paradoxical statement on war, the inequality between men
and women, and the welfare state.
Critics and reviewers were almost unanimous in their devastating
condemnation of the film.1
The overt feminism of Flickorna seemed
to be particularly provocative, and the film was deemed unoriginal,
outdated, too symbolic, and some reviewers complained that the men
in the film were caricatures.2
It would have been more interesting to
see an interpretation of Aristophanes’ play which placed the emphasis
on the men, a reviewer wrote in Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest
and most influential newspapers.3
swedish film
The negative reception of Flickorna – and the fact that the film
had almost no audience and was removed from the cinemas after
only three weeks – contributed to a long hiatus in Mai Zetterling’s
career. It would take eighteen years before Zetterling made another
feature film in Sweden. Furthermore, the feminist sentiments of the
film appear to have shaped Zetterling’s legacy. In all standard works
on Swedish cinema written between 1970 and 1997, Zetterling – if
mentioned at all – is described as a depicter of women, a feminist,
even a suffragette.4
Film historian Leif Furhammar describes Flickorna
as ‘blatantly feminist’.5
Although there definitely is a feminist, or rather, a gender perspective
in Zetterling’s films in general and in Flickorna particularly, a much
more pervasive characteristic of her films is an obsessive, modernist
critique of modern society’s alienation and loss of purpose. The gender
perspective tends to express itself in the recurring notion of a war-like
and aggressive relationship between the sexes. These two themes most
often seem to reflect and reinforce one another. In Flickorna, this
reflection and reinforcement is especially evident.
In studying the film and its reception, I cannot avoid the suspicion
that the fact that the modernist critique of modern society in Flickorna
is, in effect, a critique of the Swedish social democratic welfare state
influenced the judgement of the critics and reviewers. Above all, since
this critique did not come from a position further to the political left
of social democracy (which was the case with other Swedish welfarecritical films of that time), but rather from a position which could be
interpreted as actually quite conservative and essentialist.
The premiere of Flickorna coincided with a peak in the social democratic welfare project. For a period of thirty-six years, the social democratic party had been in a position of power as the government: following
the Second World War, a string of reforms had been implemented by
the party in order to improve material conditions for the lower classes.
Laws regulating working hours, sick leave, retirement plans, health
care and vacations were passed, and some time in the late 1950s/early
1960s the welfare project turned to other matters, placing education,
cultural policies and housing on the agenda. Housing had for a long time
been scarce, and many homes were deemed unhygienic, cramped and
unpractical. The government decided to build one million new homes
in the ten years between 1965 and 1975. ‘The Million Programme’,
as it was called, became a concrete manifestation of the ideals of the
iv. auteurs and art cinema
social democratic welfare project. Furthermore, construction had been
modernised so that it was comparatively cheap to mass-produce large
apartment complexes. While city centres were torn down in small as
well as large towns all around Sweden, the buildings of the Million
Programme shot up like mushrooms in suburbs surrounding the city
centres. The machinery utilised for construction needed space, so inbetween the buildings large areas were cleared and then asphalted or
replanted. Consequently, the suburbs of the Million Programme consisted of extensive apartment complexes with large and quite desolate
fields in-between. This development was not unique to Sweden in any
way. Similar areas were being built in, for instance, France (the banlieus) and in other European countries, most particularly perhaps in
the Soviet satellite states. The Million Programme was already during
its first phase severely criticised and has been ever since.6
As I mentioned, reform was additionally mirrored in the demolition of old city centres. Whereas the Million Programme was a mass
production of housing in accordance with modern ideals, the new
city centres were prestige projects, most famously of course in the
capital, Stockholm. For instance, for the new city centre of Stockholm,
architect Peter Celsing won a big competition for a large-scale centre
with a square and Kulturhuset (the House of Culture). Furthermore,
some of the buildings during this period were just ordinary housing
but located in such a place or contracted at such a time that municipal
governments found it strategic to use famous architects. One of these
was Ralph Erskine, an English architect who had moved to Sweden as
a young architect in 1939.7
Like Celsing, Erskine became one of the modernist welfare project’s
architectural visionaries. His notion that architecture should be adjusted
to the environment and the climate, along with his ideological affinity
with social democracy, and his eloquence in explaining his visions, were
useful qualities in post-Second World War Sweden. Until his death at
the age of ninety-one in 2005, he designed both public buildings and
housing, mostly in Sweden but also in England.
Two of his building complexes are featured in Mai Zetterling’s Flickorna. In contrast to Erskine, who was an English expatriate in Sweden,
Zetterling was a Swede who had emigrated to England. Although she
directed films in Sweden during the 1960s, she never moved back.
One critic – who actually, although with some reservation, defended
Flickorna – stated that the film ‘could only have been made by someone
swedish film
who has lived long enough outside of Sweden to have the distance and
strength to experience the lack of human contact and the hostility as
such an urgent and serious problem in society’.8
The first instance of Erskine’s architecture in Flickorna is very brief.
One of the high-rises in the block called ‘Ortdrivaren’ in the city of
Kiruna in Sweden’s far north is shown behind Liz, Bibi Andersson, as
she is on her way to the head of the tourist office who has invited her
to dinner. In the next shot we see the wife looking out from inside. The
scene of the dinner takes place inside the apartment. Desperately looking
for earnest communication, Liz keeps asking questions which the couple
answer conversationally. On the soundtrack we hear their thoughts,
which contradict their spoken words. The dinner scene seems almost
like an illustration of the old cliché of the stiff, cold and reserved Swedes.
The ‘Ortdrivaren’ block was designed and built in accordance with
Erskine’s ideals that architecture should be adjusted to the environment
and the climate. In order not to cast a long shadow, the roofs of the
high-rises are exceptionally slanted. Also, there are pockets on the roof
in which the snow remains to stop it from falling down on the pavement
below. There is an underground garage from which the elevators go,
and the balconies are, in typical Erskine style, hung on the sides of the
buildings rather than extending from inside the apartments. Although
the buildings are designed for the near-arctic climate of Kiruna, the
dinner scene gives the impression that the coldness between people
cannot be kept out.
The second occasion where an Erskine building is used arrives when
the troupe performs in Luleå; another northern town, though not as
far north as Kiruna. In the scene we see Gunilla (Gunnel Lindblom)
waiting in her dressing-room for her cue. She munches on a sandwich
and writes a postcard for her children. Gunilla’s family, which we have
seen earlier in the film, is large and bustling. Gunilla turns the postcard over and looks at the picture on its front. It depicts the shopping
centre of Luleå. Inaugurated in 1955, this was Sweden’s and Northern
Europe’s first shopping centre. Although inspired by American shopping
malls, the shopping centre in Luleå was designed by Ralph Erskine and
accordingly based on the notion that indoor shopping is a given solution
in the cold climate. It housed not only shops but also fine restaurants
and a cinema, thereby providing a space for social public life indoors.
When Gunilla looks at the postcard, the film changes to one of the
frequent inner visions that express some of the ideas in the film. It takes
iv. auteurs and art cinema
place inside the shopping centre, and connects Gunilla’s ambiguous
relationship to her children and family with the need and burden of
consumption. Furthermore, it reinforces one central theme in the film:
namely that although men have constructed the modern welfare society, women have comfortably settled in it and conserve it by enjoying
it. That the material comforts of modern society are at the same time
suffocating and paralysing the individual and his or her capacity to
challenge this way of life is evident in the labyrinthine environment
of the shopping centre. At first, Gunilla enjoys the commodities on
display, choosing cheese and other kinds of food. Then her husband
shows up as one of the cashiers. He says she can have anything she wants,
and she seems confused. The scene in the shopping centre then turns
into a nightmarish experience, when Gunilla is chased by a horde of
children and finally gets away by leaving the warm safety of the centre
and finding her way out into the cold snow.
The actual physical building of the shopping centre can be read as
a symbol of all the material comforts of the welfare state. Although
a temple of capitalism and consumerism, it still seems to echo social
democratic ideology since everything is well-organised and rationally
constructed. Moreover, one of the first concerns of social democracy
and the welfare system was to improve material conditions, promoting affluence and the ability to consume. Additionally, the reasonable
and obvious solution of shopping indoors in a cold climate mirrors
the rationality of the construction of the welfare state. In that sense,
the bomb shelter which is visited in a later scene, in Mariaberget in
Västerås, is also a symbol of the welfare state. It contains a microcosm
of the world above ground, with all material needs – and some spiritual
ones – taken care of. In much the same way as the shopping centre of
Luleå has a cinema, the bomb shelter has a small theatre. By rationally
trying to control and restrain the fear and the threat of war, the Swedish
model became extrapolated in the very structure of the bomb shelter.9
What is notable in the scene from the shopping centre is that Gunilla
cannot shake off the children pursuing her until she leaves the sheltered
environment of the building. It seems as if women – or, for that matter,
people – need to escape the confinement of rational, material comfort in
order to become free of whatever it is that haunts them. That Gunilla’s
husband is included in this inner vision should not be surprising; he is,
after all, a part of what constructed the welfare state – masculine rationality. In a later scene, also an inner vision, Gunilla discovers a child lying
swedish film
on the ground in an idyllic forest. The child has strange marks all over
his body and Gunilla rushes off to find her husband, who surrealistically sits by a fire in a chair in the middle of the forest. He comes with
her and when he sees the child explains that it is probably just measles,
nothing to worry about. His rationality is mocked by the film because
the child does not in any way look like he has measles, and neither does
measles explain why he is lying in the forest. The calming statement of
Gunilla’s husband is more absurd than anything.
In Zetterling’s productions of the 1960s, an absurd and cold rationality
is nearly always ascribed to men, embodied by Gunnar Björnstrand in
two memorable characters: one in Zetterling’s debut, Älskande par/Loving Couples (1964), where he plays an obstetrician, and the other one in
Flickorna, where he is one of the actors. In both cases one could argue
that Zetterling draws upon an intertextual reference to the way Ingmar
Bergman has used Björnstrand as a cold, logical scientist; but in Zetterling’s direction Björnstrand’s characters parody not only the kind of
character he has played in Bergman’s films, they parody in particular the
masculine element of these characters. In Zetterling’s films, Björnstrand’s
characters become stereotypical, almost caricature-like representatives of
the male gender. Furthermore, both in Älskande par and in Flickorna,
Björnstrand’s men are self-proclaimed experts on women – in Älskande
par because of his profession, in Flickorna because, as an actor, he purports
to be. This cold rationality combined with a cynical sense of humour
seems, in Zetterling’s world, to be a specific trait of masculinity.
I believe that one of the reasons for the harsh reception of Zetterling’s
film is her scathing depiction of men. That she depicts women in a no
more flattering light was perhaps not as obvious to the male reviewers
at the time. In Flickorna, the women are complicit in their own oppression because they are all too happy to stay within the comforts of the
welfare society. The men, however, are explicitly connected with war
and dictatorship in one scene, where the actresses are showing pictures
of their husbands/boyfriends to one another. The still photographs are
shown in a montage, in which the pictures of the husbands are followed
by pictures of politicians associated with oppressive regimes, war, and
violence. Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini are thus directly
linked with ordinary, middle-class Swedish men. The montage is the
prelude to an inner vision, in which footage of the evil politicians as
well as of Tage Erlander, the Swedish prime minister at the time, is
screened in front of an audience of angry women.
iv. auteurs and art cinema
In Flickorna, a struggle for emancipation is taking place. This struggle, however, is hampered by the women’s difficulty in articulating and
organising themselves, which is – in the film’s analysis – due to their
comfortable lifestyle and need for material consumption. Additionally,
they are reluctant to leave the comforts of social democratic patriarchy.
But in the analysis of Flickorna, the social democratic welfare project
– as epitomised in the buildings of Ralph Erskine – is linked with an
absurd rationality, which is linked with masculinity, which, finally, is
linked to war and destruction.
This article is based on an excerpt from Mariah Larsson (2006), Skenet som
bedrog: Mai Zetterling och det svenska sextiotalet, Lund: Sekel. It has been
revised and updated and was presented as a paper at the Society for Cinema
and Media Studies Conference in 2008.
1 See, for instance, Jan Aghed, ‘Ny Zetterling utan stil’, SydSvenska Dagbladet, 8
October, 1968, Hanserik Hjertén, ‘“Flickorna” når inte fram’, Svenska Dagbladet,
17 September, 1968, Jurgen Schildt, ‘Mai Zetterlings nya film ‘“Flickorna” ett
halvfabrikat’, Aftonbladet, 17 September, 1968, Lasse Bergström, ‘Osvensk kvickhet om tre kvinnor’, Expressen, 17 September, 1968, Mauritz Edström, ‘Verkliga
kvinnor och spöklika män’, Dagens Nyheter, 17 September, 1968.
2 Schildt, Aftonbladet, 17 September, 1968, Edström, Dagens Nyheter, 17 September,
3 Edström, Dagens Nyheter, 17 September, 1968.
4 See, for instance, Stig Björkman (1977), Film in Sweden:The New Directors, London:
The Tantivy Press, South Brunswick, NY: A.S. Barnes & Co.; Stig Björkman (1978),
Nya bilder och dagsljus:Tio svenska regissörsporträtt, Stockholm: Norstedts; Nils Petter
Sundgren (1970), The NewSwedishCinema, Stockholm: Svenska institutet; Peter Cowie
(1970), Sweden 2: A Comprehensive Assessment of the Themes, Trends, and Directors in
Swedish Cinema, London: A. Zwemmer Ltd., New York: A.S. Barnes & Co.
5 Leif Furhammar (1991), Filmen i Sverige. En historia i tio kapitel, Höganäs: Wiken,
p. 298.
6 Johan Rådberg (1997), Drömmen om Atlantångaren: Utopier och myter i 1900-talets
stadsbyggande, Stockholm: Atlantis, pp. 33–36. See also Per Svensson (1996),
Storstugan eller när förorten kom till byn, Stockholm: Bonnier Alba; and Karl-Olov
Arnstberg (2000), Miljonprogrammet, Stockholm: Carlsson.
7 For information on Ralph Erskine, see Peter Collymore (1994), The Architecture
of Ralph Erskine, London: Academy Group Ltd.
8 Sun Axelsson, review of Flickorna in Chaplin 85, no 8, 1968.
9 See Marie Cronqvist (2008), ‘Vi går under jorden: kalla kriget möter folkhemmet
i svensk civilförsvarsfilm’, in Erik Hedling & Mats Jönsson, eds., Välfärdsbilder:
svensk film utanför biografen, Stockholm: Statens Ljud- och Bildarkiv, pp. 166–181.
Changing Conditions
for Auteurs after 1970
chapter 32
Mariah Larsson
The film reform influenced Swedish film production in many ways
in the 1960s, perhaps especially in the number of first-time directors. Also, production in general increased, and it is quite likely that
producers gave freedom to projects which might be eligible for the
quality awards from the Swedish Film Institute. As the 1960s turned
into the 1970s, however, the fertility of the new film policy seemed to
diminish. Sweden, like the rest of world, felt the effects of the oil crisis.
High inflation and a slowing world economy, which had been going
on since the late 1960s, as well as the declining attendance numbers in
cinemas, had consequences for the subsidy system of the film reform.
Thus, the 1970s are often described as more problematic than the
1960s, for example by Leif Furhammar when he states that: ‘After the
crackling sixties came a time of cultural fatigue and anaemic recovery.’1
Popular genre films, particularly comedies and children’s films,
political documentaries and a few notable art films, seem to form the
bulk of Swedish film production in the 1970s. This is, of course, a
simplified image. For instance, the comedy team Hasseåtage (Hans
Alfredson and Tage Danielsson) made a string of popular films such as
Äppelkriget/The AppleWar (1971), Mannen som slutade röka /‘The Man
Who Quit Smoking’ (1972), Släpp fångarne loss – det är vår!/‘Release
the Prisoners – it’s Springtime!’ (1975) and Picassos äventyr/The Adventures of Picasso (1978). These films were produced by AB Svenska Ord
in collaboration with SF production. AB Svenska Ord was Alfredson
and Danielsson’s own production company which produced not only
iv. auteurs and art cinema
films but also their live performances such as revues. Appreciated by
serious critics and audiences alike, it can be argued that their films
should be placed within a genre of ‘art-comedy’ or even ‘political artcomedy’ since they most often were critical of capitalism and what
was perceived as a deteriorating social democracy. Äppelkriget not only
promoted a nationalist idea about the particularity of Swedish nature,
pitting it against capitalist foreigners (West Germans) exploiting the
landscape, it also carried a strong environmentalist message which was
embodied by the magical creatures that in the film inhabited the forests
and meadows. Släpp fångarne loss – det är vår! contained a critique of
the prison system.
One development during the 1970s and 1980s in which Sweden corresponds with other European national film industries is the increase of
the number of women directors. Marianne Ahrne, Marie-Louise Ekman,
Maj Wechselmann, Agneta Fagerström-Olsson, Christina Olofson,
Suzanne Osten, and well-known actresses such as Ingrid Thulin and
Gunnel Lindblom, all made feature-length debuts as directors during
the 1970s or early 1980s. Interestingly, as Tytti Soila argues in her part
on Swedish cinema in Nordic National Cinemas, it seems that the inception of the film school in 1964 (replacing the informal guild system of
earlier years), which introduced new directors into the Swedish film
industry, gave women opportunities for film directing.2
the women’s movement, growing strong during the 1970s, influenced
the careers of at least some of these women. Mainly, these new directors focused on documentary or art cinema, but like their European
colleagues they found difficulties in finding financing and continuing
to make films. In the case of Birgitta Svensson’s Mackan (1977), a
prolonged and aggressive debate followed the film’s release. After male
critics had generally unfavourably reviewed the film, members of the
women’s movement objected to their lack of understanding of female
coming-of-age narratives.
The generation of the 1960s and earlier also found the climate
problematic. Accused of tax evasion, Ingmar Bergman felt compelled
to leave Sweden in 1976, living in self-imposed exile in West Germany
until 1982. Bo Widerberg, one of the icons of the 1960s who had
rebelled against the Bergmanian hegemony in 1962 and was, in a sense,
regarded as a spokesperson for the new generation of film directors that
emerged, ventured into genre filmmaking by adapting the detective
novel Mannen på taket into a film with a spectacular action scene. Jan
swedish film
Troell made a couple of films abroad, and Vilgot Sjöman’s œuvre of the
1970s is generally regarded as forgettable. Some of the directors who had
struggled during the 1970s returned with renewed artistic strength in
the 1980s and 1990s, like Mai Zetterling, who after Flickorna /The Girls
in 1968 did not make a single feature film in Sweden until she directed
Amorosa (1986), by many regarded as her best film. Likewise, Troell
made Ingenjör Andrés luftfärd /Flight of the Eagle in 1982 and Bergman
returned to Sweden with Fanny och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander in
that same year. Kjell Grede, who had received a lot of attention with
his films Hugo och Josefin /Hugo and Josephine and Harry Munter in
1967 and 1969 respectively, had his next successes in the late 1980s
with Hip Hip Hurra! /Hip Hip Hurrah! (1987), portraying the Skagen
painters in the late 19th century, and God afton herr Wallenberg/Good
Evening, Mr Wallenberg (1990). All of these films were produced by
the Swedish Film Institute, which during the 1980s and 1990s was
an important player within national film production, producing or
co-producing more than 300 films in twenty years.
Another director returning with renewed artistic strength was Roy
Andersson. Praised for his 1970 debut, En kärlekshistoria /A Swedish
Love Story, his second film Giliap (1975) was a fiasco at the time with
critics as well as at the box office, and for some twenty-five years afterwards he directed commercials, many of which are fondly remembered
by cinema-goers (which until the 1980s, when satellite television was
introduced and challenged the television monopoly, was the only venue
for filmed commercials in Sweden) as quirky and irreverent. Working
from his own studio, Roy Andersson returned with a vengeance in
2000 with the lauded Sånger från andra våningen/Songs From the Second
Floor, followed in 2007 with Du levande/You, the Living.
The first excerpt included in this section is actually written by Roy
Andersson himself, in a book with the title Vår tids rädsla för allvar/‘The
Contemporary Fear of Seriousness’ from 1995. Here, he expounds on
the superficiality of our times and writes himself into a tradition of
modernity critics. Considering his own art an act of resistance, Andersson has continued to make statements against what he regards as the
dangerous insincerity and triviality of our times.
The second, brief excerpt is from Anders Marklund’s 2004 doctoral
thesis Upplevelser av svensk film/‘Experiences of Swedish Film’ and deals
with Suzanne Osten’s film Bröderna Mozart/The Mozart Brothers, 1986.
Being one of those women directors who emerged in the 1970s and
iv. auteurs and art cinema
1980s, Suzanne Osten is perhaps even more well-known for her work
within the theatre Unga Klara, where feminism as well as an interest
in avant-garde and political theatre have shaped her stage productions.
1 Leif Furhammar (1991), Filmen i Sverige: En historia i tio kapitel, Höganäs: Wiken,
p. 232.
2 Tytti Soila (1998), ‘Sweden’ in Tytti Soila, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, Gunnar
Iversen, eds., Nordic National Cinemas, London, New York: Routledge, pp. 142–232,
p. 216.
chapter 33
The Complex Image
Roy Andersson
Jacques Callot’s 350-year-old image La Pendaison (1633) has haunted
me throughout my life. When I begun my career as a filmmaker with
En kärlekshistoria /A Swedish Love Story (Roy Andersson, 1970) I still
used an aesthetics of close-ups. Over the years I have continuously
approached an aesthetics that has to do with the complex image. I
dare say that when I made my debut as a filmmaker, I was not mature
enough to handle such aesthetics. They demand that you present a
complete and fairly coherent conception of the world. There are more
components involved; it is another and more demanding artistic challenge. One has to communicate one’s attitude to life and that is far more
difficult. Technically, one can say that I have moved from using (and
I am now talking about 35 mm film) 75–50 mm lenses, and today I
find it almost impossible to work with closer angles than 16 mm. And
Callot’s image can be described as a typical 16 or possibly 24 mm image.
There exist ideas within film theory concerning what I call the
complex image. Above all there was a very well-known supporter of
this film language called André Bazin. I was not aware about his film
theoretical writings until about fifteen years ago. When I read Bazin I
understood that he reasoned in the same way as I did.
When two images are allowed to meet, a superstructure is created
which adds artistic value as well as information and insights. Among
the clearest examples that I would like to mention, and one of the most
effective that exists, is a photomontage of Emperor Selassie in Ethiopia. In one of its images he is feeding his dogs with pork chops – or
something similar – on a silver tray. He must have had four or five in
his imperial palace. In the other image one sees people starving. This
montage was distributed and it did not take many months before there
was a revolution in Ethiopia. It is a clear example of how effectively
the idea of montage can work.
iv. auteurs and art cinema
But Bazin meant that the same effect could be achieved within a
single image. Callot’s etching of the execution of the plunderers actually
also contains montage. The components of the image meet and create a
superstructure. But in a way this image does this more openly, because
the artist allows the viewer to decide for himself what is important
in the image. Bazin maintained, and I fully share his view, that this
stimulates the viewer’s emotions and intellect much more effectively.
I have not only worked on feature films, but also commercials, and
there too I have worked with the complex image. I would like to suggest that it is during this work with commercials that I have realised
the advantages, even superiority, of the complex image. I can find no
reason to communicate something in several images if it can be done in
one. I enjoy both watching and describing someone within a room – in
the widest meaning of this word. Many advocate that the close-up is
most suitable to describe a person’s mental state. It is even suggested
that the soul is reflected in the eye. On the contrary, I think that the
close-up is quite insufficient. According to me one gets less information about a person the closer you come to him or her. In the end
one can not even distinguish a human eye from that of a cow, or even
a dead cow, which is clearly illustrated in Luis Buñuel’s classic short
Un chien andalou /An Andalusian Dog (Luis Buñuel, 1929) in a scene
where a razor is raised towards a woman’s face and then in an extreme
close-up cuts through ‘her’ eye from a slaughtered cow. I believe that
room communicates much more than this about the persons in it.
This important component should therefore – preferably – not be cut
to pieces with the result that the relationship between a person and
the room and its contents is rendered unclear or unintelligible. Of
course, a certain style or aesthetics should not be allowed to become
an end in itself, a mannerism. To create a complex image and scene is
infinitely more difficult than telling the same thing using editing. But
when one is successful the result is much richer. One saves time and,
above all, achieves clarity – clarity of thought – which can sometimes
be painfully intense for the viewer.
The aesthetics and narration that, almost without exception, characterise today’s film and television industry are rarely deliberate and show
few signs of any clarity of thought. This style is above all founded on
makeshift solutions, lack of time, laziness, incompetence and avarice,
and bears many resemblances with the way our society – well, even the
whole world – is being analysed and governed.
swedish film
In order to illustrate my thoughts on, and my work with, the complex image I will use a scene from my contribution to the first part of
the project 90 minuter 90-tal/‘90 Minutes 90s’ (an episodic film made
by various directors, completed in 2000). The first scene of Härlig är
jorden /‘World of Glory’ (Roy Andersson, 1991), which my part is
called, is a very clear example of what I am talking about. This scene is
about something that has taken place in real life. It is a reconstruction
of events from the Second World War and of the total brutality that
characterised the ‘ethnic cleansings’. That expression did not exist at
the time: it was called the ‘final solution’, but meant the annihilation
of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and political opponents. People were
liquidated by, among other ways, gassing them in diesel vans. The
exhaust from the motor was led into the cargo space. These vans were
the forerunners of gas chambers.
These events, these actions, these rationally designed ways of liquidation, this coldness and insensitivity towards other people’s suffering, are
for me the ultimate embodiment of evil. How should we deal with this
knowledge of what humans are capable of? Is it possible to escape this
knowledge? Is it possible to prevent it happening again? How could it
even happen? Are we able to understand why? Why does history repeat
itself? These are some of the most important questions today.
When I was offered the opportunity to open 90 minuter 90-tal five
years ago, this was a topic I felt that I would have to confront and
include in my view of my time. I was born when the annihilation of
Jews reached its most intense stage. During the first two years of my life
millions of people were gassed in the most bestial way, in a neighbouring
country where people could read and with traditions that reminded us
much of our own. This has always haunted me, and still does. I would
like to say that I am ashamed of these crimes, on behalf of humanity.
I feel some kind of guilt even though I was not there.
Another important reason why I wanted to include this topic in
the film was that I had recently come across a work of an ethics philosopher named Martin Buber. I had never before known of anyone
who so clearly and tellingly could express these feelings of guilt that I
mention. In his book Schuld und Schuldgefühle (1958) he writes: ‘An
existential guilt arises, when someone violates a human norm, which
he himself in his nature recognises and acknowledges as a foundation
for his own and every other human’s existence.’
The formulation ‘existential guilt’ connotes something irrevocable.
iv. auteurs and art cinema
But Buber would not be the important philosopher that he is had he
not also suggested a possible way for us to find liberation and reconciliation. What, then, can we do?
Buber talks about the individual feeling of guilt, but I contend that
these thoughts are just as relevant to groups.
I also read another philosopher, György Lukács, who with astonishing clarity in his book Zerstörung der Vernunft (1962) analyses Nazi
ideology. His thoughts have also been an inspiration for the leitmotif
in my part of 90 minuter 90-tal. Lukács argues that such a period as
Hitler’s time can not be considered settled until our society ‘radically
has overcome the intellectual and moral attitude that characterised the
period, set it in motion and gave it a direction and a form.’ Is there
anyone who would maintain that we have even begun that process?
Hitler is dead, but what about the atmosphere that created him? Was
Hitler to blame for the applause he received?
In the concentration camp at Dachau outside Munich, one can read
that its gas chamber was never used. The text should say that there was
never any time to use it, just as there was no time to implement the
plans that existed for gigantic subterranean gas chambers into which
one could bring whole trains and have the carriages automatically
emptied. These engineers, as I understand, later lived normal bourgeois
lives and were occupied with other tasks. That should be considered a
great problem for humanity.
Once these questions are raised one must also ask what one can
and should do. How can these events be represented with dignity and
responsibility? For me it was inconceivable to use close-ups or to use the
suffering in an attempt to achieve effects. Just look at what Spielberg
did in Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)! It felt more natural than
ever to use the language of the complex image. The viewer must analyse
the image on her/his own, without any suggested interpretation. Many
have said that the beginning of Härlig är jorden is the darkest thing they
have seen and that this darkness is one reason why people dismiss the
issue. The complex image is always demanding and provoking. And
it is exactly this complexity that modern people seem to be afraid of:
the experience lingers, one cannot leave it behind. I believe that it is
easier for people to see Schindler’s List than to see this scene in my film.
Therefore it may be interesting to know how I made it. Creating the
complex image requires precision and much work.
The position of the man attaching the hose to the van was more or
swedish film
less clear to me in relation to the main character standing and looking into the camera. The camera is nothing less than time and history
watching. It is memory and knowledge. That is why the protagonist
looks into the camera: he is looking at history, at memory, at time and
at us. The work with this scene began with the positions between these
persons, between the bystander and the one connecting the gas. I was
initially not certain about the setting. I maintain that behind each
uniform there is always a civilian. That is why the persons in this scene
do not wear uniforms, but are dressed in normal, everyday clothes.
The first test was made in a green open space, the next on a large
gravel parking place, then on a concrete platform at an airport. The aim
was to find a bare, timeless setting. It is always a lot of work to figure
out the height and position of the camera, the distance to the scene and
the distances within the scene. I also wanted the viewers to sense the
relationship to the civic life of the city; to feel that the scene took place
on the outskirts of a civilian society. We tried the Ã…rsta airfield, but
finally decided to use a large sports ground in Sundbyberg, where two
gravel pits were stripped of everything suggestive of sport. The van could
not look modern. The height, the design of the cargo space, the width,
the placement of the ramp; everything is significant. Before we used
real children during the shoot, the woman held a puppet in her arms.
We tried a great number of framings. The woman standing in the
lower right-hand corner was asked to laugh at one point. History
actually tells us that onlookers sometimes found such awful procedures comical. But we skipped that because it would have made a too
stark impression, given the cruelty of the image. We tried the size of
the hoses. When we had finally found the sports ground we tried the
route with a modern bus. We did both colour tests and smoke tests.
In a staging such as this there are also moral considerations towards
the participants. The young girl who would be dragged to her death
was first allowed to respond to the scene fully dressed and in a calmer
setting. The children are naked in the filmed scene.
All this eventually contributed to what we felt was the exact formulation, the visual solution that seemed so correct that one could not
imagine another way of doing it.
Translated by Anders Marklund
Abridged excerpt from Roy Andersson (1995), Vår tids rädsla för allvar,
Gothenburg: Filmkonst.
chapter 34
Distinctive Films
in Mainstream Cinema
Suzanne Osten’s Bröderna Mozart
Anders Marklund
Suzanne Osten’s film Bröderna Mozart/The Mozart Brothers (Suzanne
Osten, 1986) about the opera director Walter’s work putting on Don
Giovanni at the Royal Opera in Stockholm brings up general themes
concerning creativity and respect for the truth in art. For viewers who not
only enjoy contemplating a completed work of art, but also its creation,
Bröderna Mozart offers a good possibility to gain new understanding of
the process of creativity, and insights into evaluating the quality of art.1
Although not very common, there are other films concerning artists.
Examples range from Zorn/‘Zorn’ (Gunnar Hellström, 1994) about
the painter with the same name, to Amorosa /Amorosa (Mai Zetterling,
1986) about the author Agnes von Krusenstjerna. However, Bröderna
Mozart is different from such works in a number of ways. It is about
entirely fictive characters and not, as the other films, about an existing
and well-known artist. It is set in contemporary society, and not in a
past, rather heritage-like, world. The artist in Bröderna Mozart, being
a director, works together with many others, and is not alone in his
creative project as many writers and artists often are in other films.
Each one of these differences may appear insignificant, but together
they contribute to making the film quite distinctive.
Bröderna Mozart is in many ways a film about relationships, however
rather unusual ones, since it does not focus on a romantic story or an
already existing couple.2
Instead of such relationships, the film focuses
on those relating to work and careers. This is characteristic of the film;
it shows a greater interest in individuals in their roles as professionals
than in their roles as fellow human beings. In fact, the entire film is
swedish film
set at the Royal Opera where Walter works. This clear focus on work,
workplace, and work-related problems is unusual and can only be
compared with work-centred genres such as crime and action films;
genres that, however, tend to include love or buddy relationships.
In his work and in his life, Walter appears to be self-sacrificing and
risk-taking. His work forces him to negotiate, not only with unwilling,
self-centred and stiff co-workers but also with a conservative institution
where he risks losing control of his artistic vision. He has to coax and
flatter persons expressing a deep disrespect for him and his intentions.
No one thanks him or encourages him, either during the production
process or after the opera has become a success. He leaves the opera
with a feeling of emptiness. The viewer, however, leaves the cinema with
an image of a man with a clear vision and the integrity and capability
necessary to realise it. By centring on Walter, the film asks viewers to
imagine Walter’s situation, share his point of view, enjoy his progress
during the production and the moments of artistic achievements characterised as successful. It also means sharing his setbacks. Initially the
setbacks are clearly manifest, which makes it less rewarding to identify
with Walter than it usually is to identify with other films’ protagonists.
The theme of Bröderna Mozart is about upsetting traditions, expectations and conventions, parting with established solutions, and instead
reaching for that which is true to oneself and to the thoughts and feelings
intrinsic to particular situations in life. Just how gargantuan this task is
becomes embarrassingly clear when the director asks his actors to ‘be
erotic’ but finds them captured in a multitude of traditional theatrical
poses, entirely unable to imitate eroticism as it appears in other places
than on stage. Walter dares to revise tradition. The film clearly takes sides
with him and with works of arts attempting to avoid ingrained ideas,
instead searching for new ways to make art alive, close and important
to the audience. This is worth the risk of failure. The alternative – not
having any ideas or visions – is far worse, something Walter points to
when he asks how he will be able to accomplish anything at all together
with an orchestra entirely devoid of desires.
Although Bröderna Mozart is not as committed to storytelling as
the majority of the other films are, it nevertheless shares with them a
clearly structured story with discernable stages. The formulation of a
goal: setting up an opera in a creative way. Constructing important
obstacles – for example, the conservatism of the institution – which
soon make the goal appear difficult to achieve. These obstacles are
iv. auteurs and art cinema
gradually overcome halfway through the film as the widespread dislike
for Walter and his work is transformed into cooperativeness. After this,
problems still remain to be resolved, but they are of another order, rather
concerning what the outcome will be like, and not whether there will
be an outcome at all.
Even though the director’s work is hindered by very concrete adversaries – for example, the union representative of the orchestra, a soprano’s
singing teacher and the stage manager – the most formidable adversary consists of the entire institution and its conservative, self-centred
mechanisms. Established interpretations and traditions are referred to,
just like conventional wisdom about Mozart’s intentions and audience
expectations. Arguments like ‘the purpose of theatre is not to…’, ‘we
never do it like this…’ and ‘Mozart would never…’ are of course difficult to support, but just as difficult to argue with.
The film also emphasises group dynamics in a way that seems relevant to many contexts, but here it is firmly anchored in the artistic
and creative world of the opera. One of the most important aspects
of the film is the director’s struggle to control this dynamic, to make
conflicting ideas and traditions work together in the way he finds
necessary. Each professional group within the opera has its own pride,
craftsmanship, traditions and ideas about how things are to be done.
There is an intrinsic conservatism and a stubborn defence of positions
The insightful representation of these themes in Bröderna
Mozart is quite specific, but at the same time also generally applicable;
and this is something rather few films can offer.
In a similar way, the film’s theses – that opera should be about life,
that there are similarities between life, art, and the process of creating
art – also point to something generally applicable.4
The film foregrounds, for example, similarities between Walter and Don Giovanni:
both have loved many women and both have many children. The film
also experiments with different levels of reality, something rarely done
at all in other films. There is an interior subjectivity related to Walter,
for example a vision of the finished opera production, and there is
a Mozart-looking person whose presence and emotions should be
interpreted as representing Mozart himself enjoying the work being
done. Taken together, such elements invite viewers to see similarities
between life and art, and more specifically between Walter, Mozart,
and, to some degree, also Don Giovanni.
Bröderna Mozart has a similar place within the Swedish cinema insti-
swedish film
tution as other portraits of artists presented in a serious tone. These are
films that are produced by smaller production companies (Crescendo
Film, in this case) with important support from the Swedish Film
Institute, have been given a modest distribution, and have been seen by
relatively few viewers – in spite of generally very encouraging reviews.
Translated by Anders Marklund
Revised and abridged excerpt from Anders Marklund (2004), Upplevelser av
svensk film: En kartläggning av genrer inom svensk film under åren 1985–2000,
Diss. Lund, Lund: Critica Litterarum Lundensis.
1 The film is characterised by a wish to make known the process of creativity and the
work of artists. Often in the film this is explained in a rather straightforward way,
sometimes to characters with the same outsider position as that of the audience.
One example is when a stagehand is told about an opera singer’s nervousness before
the premiere in such a way that he – and the audience – is more enthusiastic about
the achievements of scenic artists.
2 There are hints of an attraction between Walter and Susan (the documentary filmmaker), and also in occasional scenes with Walter and Flemming, and with Walter
and Mozart. Walter’s earlier relationships are mentioned on a few occasions.
3 These conflicts are very clearly displayed, for example when the different groupings
have gathered for a general meeting. Characters are quite often stereotyped in order
to clearly show how the institution works. The opera director appears to have no
interest in the production, mainly thinking instead about his contacts and being
mentioned in the context of good reviews. In contrast, the cleaners at the opera
display a great interest in Mozart and in the art of opera. They sing and play in a
lively and genuine way.
4 The director is of the opinion that in interpreting Mozart one will need to show
one’s own personality, and even the woman who makes a documentary about his
work as a director will end up making a film about herself. This is mentioned and
elaborated on a number of occasions.
before and after the new millenium
A Renewal of Swedish Film?
chapter 35
Mariah Larsson
For many years it seemed that Denmark held the upper hand in filmmaking compared to its larger neighbour Sweden. The Dogma 95
manifesto and subsequent films, maverick auteur Lars von Trier’s constantly provocative films, and a growing corpus of well-made dramas as
well as films that took place in the underworld, led to a renewal within
the Danish film industry and made Denmark into the most successful
filmmaking nation of the Nordic countries. That the two films about
Knight Templar Arn (2007 and 2008), as well as the first instalment
in the Millennium trilogy, Män som hatar kvinnor/The Girl with the
Dragon Tattoo (2009), were directed by Danes (Peter Flinth and Niels
Arden Oplev respectively) testifies to the strong position Denmark holds.
Nevertheless, since the development during the past ten to fifteen
years has been surprisingly affirmative of the national film industry,
one may talk about a renewal also in Swedish cinema. Regional film
production centres with alternative systems of film support – such as
Film i Väst (‘Trollywood’), Film i Skåne and Filmpool Nord – have
led the focus away from the capital Stockholm and contributed to an
increasing quantity of films made each year. Using bestselling literature
as a basis for film adaptations, producers have also tapped into an old
filmmaking tradition, which, used in a market-orientated economy,
helps advertise films by using so-called ‘pre-sold property’. Beginning,
perhaps, with the Sjöwall–Wahlöö films starring Gösta Ekman as
Martin Beck in the 1990s, Swedish film has continued with Henning
Mankell’s police novels and their protagonist Kurt Wallander, played by
renowned actors Rolf Lassgård and Krister Henriksson in two separate
production series, and a further production series based on Sjöwall–
v. before and after the new millenium
Wahlöö’s characters, Beck. Wallander has also been made into a British
TV series, produced by the BBC and with Kenneth Branagh in the title
role. Other such series are Irene Huss – based on the books by Helene
Tursten – and van Veeteren – based on the books by Håkan Nesser, as
well as the TV series about Erik Winter, based on Åke Edwardsson’s
detective novels. These series are made in collaboration with television.
Other police films may not be based on characters from novels but
are still made in the conceptual series format, such as Anders Nilsson’s
films about Gothenburg’s Johan Falk.
Using bestselling literature, and especially bestselling literature which
also has been successfully exported to other countries, has been a fruitful
strategy. The Wallander franchise, for instance, has a large audience in
Germany. The Millennium trilogy, based on Stieg Larsson’s bestselling
books about journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth
Salander, has reaped the benefits of being a pre-sold property in large
parts of the world. The crime novels by Larsson sold more copies than
any other author in Europe in 2009. The impact for Noomi Rapace,
who starred as Salander in the Millennium films, has been enormous –
not only did she (and the first film of the Trilogy) receive the Swedish
Guldbagge award, but she has also been awarded the daily newspaper
Dagens Nyheter’s culture prize as well as being appointed ‘hetero of the
year’ by the GLBTQ magazine QX.
Another bestselling genre novel that was adapted into a film which
focused less on the generic elements of the material, and thereby won
the critics – as well as an audience – over, was Låt den rätte komma
in /Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008), based on John
Ajvide Lindqvist’s vampire/horror/growing up story. Låt den rätte
komma in was directed by Tomas Alfredson, son of Hasse Alfredson
of the comedy couple Hasseåtage. Tomas Alfredson’s brother, Daniel Alfredson, is also a film director of films such as Tic Tac (1997),
Varg/Wolf (2008) and Flickan som lekte med elden /The GirlWho Played
with Fire (2009). Although nearly eighty years old (born in 1931),
Hasse Alfredson is still active as an actor, playing characteristically
eccentric or evil bit parts, like Evert Gullberg in the last instalment
of the Millennium trilogy.
These recent trends have played an important role in the development. Although not all of these film adaptations may be memorable,
most of them have at least a sufficient audience and a few of them, like
the Millennium films and Låt den rätte komma in, have large – although
swedish film
somewhat different – audiences as well as a favourable critical reception,
and will be remade as Hollywood productions.
Furthermore, Swedish film has had a number of small waves since the
first few years before and after the millennium. In 1998, Lukas Moodysson’s first feature film, lesbian small-town comedy /teenage drama
Fucking Åmål/Show Me Love, was released, and overnight a beloved
auteur was born. Although Moodysson continued his career with the
subsequent comedy Tillsammans/Together, 2000, he later moved on to
more difficult subjects: the trafficking of women for sexual purposes
in Lilja 4-ever/Lilya 4-ever (2002) and pornography, consumerism,
and the reification of human beings in Ett hål i mitt hjärta /A Hole in
My Heart (2004).
Perhaps related to the success of Fucking Åmål with its two young
female leads, an increase in the number of films with female protagonists, often but not always directed by women directors as well, can be
noted during the first ten years of the millennium. Films such as Hip
hip hora! /The Ketchup Effect (Teresa Fabik, 2004), Babylonsjukan /‘The
Babylon Disease’ (Daniel Espinosa, 2004), or Se upp för dårarna /Mind
the Gap (Helena Bergström, 2007) are examples of this development.
The first of the two texts in this part of the book is a brief excerpt
from Anders Marklund’s doctoral thesis. Charting new filmmakers
and rare examples of non-traditional storytelling in two films from the
1990s, Marklund discusses comedy team Lorry’s feature film Yrrol (Peter
Dalle, 1994), and Daniel Alfredson’s Short Cuts-inspired TicTac (1997).
Additionally, a small number of films swiftly dubbed ‘immigrant
films’ were produced during a couple of years between 2000 and 2002.
Being released during a brief period of time, they seemed to signify a
change in the Swedish cinematic landscape – not only moving the focus
away from the capital due to the regionalization of film production,
but also revising the blonde, blue-eyed, ethnic Swedes inhabiting the
landscape. Nevertheless, the notion of the ‘immigrant film’ is more
complex, as Rochelle Wright explains in her article, ‘Immigrant Film’
in Sweden at the Millennium’.
chapter 36
Distinctive Films
in Mainstream Cinema
Yrrol & Tic Tac
Anders Marklund
Yrrol – en kollosalt genomtänkt film
Episodic films have never been common in Swedish cinema and this
is true also for the period and films studied here. Yrrol – en kollosalt
genomtänkt film/‘Yrrol’ (Peter Dalle, 1994) is the only exception. The
film is a collection of more than thirty episodes, or sketches, loosely
united by the first and last scenes. These scenes present a seer in ancient
Greece, who has a vision of how failure to communicate will spread
across today’s Swedish society. His vision, then, includes all other scenes
in the film. These are mostly independent from one another, and even
if a detail that ends one scene may open the next, some episodes are
divided into separate parts, or a few characters may return later in the
film; these are only very superficial links.
Contrary to other films, the scenes do not fulfil any overall narrative purpose. Rather, they establish a multitude of situations that
come across as amusing, although they are often about serious and
thought-provoking topics. In fact, many of the sketches question
the conventions for what humour may deal with. Sometimes issues
are referred to that were heatedly discussed at the time, such as
paedophilia and xenophobia. Other times the contrary is true, and
the film uncovers areas rarely talked about openly, such as cancer,
wife-beating, or the abuse of people who are weak or handicapped.
On many occasions such serious matters are represented in a much
exaggerated manner or in a highly unusual context, in order to provoke
smiles and laughter. Nevertheless, comparing the imagined worlds
created by the film with the world that viewers consider to be real,
swedish film
it is not difficult for viewers to sense important truths beyond the
humorous and absurd surface.
Looking at the more important themes that the individual scenes
contribute to, one will find bullying, falsity, self-centredness, empty
words and gestures – all relating to the seer’s vision regarding the lack
of communication today. A few specific tendencies may be noted;
for example, that the authority of rich and decision-making people
is frequently undermined, that traditional roles and norms within
relationships tend to be upset, and that the situation of outsiders and
weak people are marked to a degree rarely found in other films. Altogether one will notice certain bitterness and a critique of the order of
today’s society.
The unusual construction of the film is just one of several features
revealing the filmmaker’s independent attitude towards traditional
feature films and their need to present a unified vision of the world.
Other features are the many pastiches, most importantly of commercials,
television news reporting and other television programmes, as well as
parodies of well-known works such as Det sjunde inseglet/The Seventh
Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957) and The Cosby Show (1984–1992). It is
quite unusual to find so many and so obvious intertextual references
to other media texts in Swedish cinema, and even comedies use them
only rarely.
It would have been a bit surprising if such an unusual film had been
created by people well-established within the cinema institution, and
this was also not the case. The group behind the film – writing, directing, and acting – has a background in television comedy, where it long
before its first feature film had reached fame and appreciation under
the name Lorry (a name, by the way, reflected in the film’s title). The
features of Yrrol – en kollosalt genomtänkt film that are so unusual in
Swedish cinema are quite familiar in television comedy, and not very
different from the kind of comedy that made the Lorry team wellknown to a wide audience. Indeed, the sketchy nature of the film is
very much in line with what the audience might have expected from it.
Establishing a new format for feature films – which is what this
film in many ways is doing – might seem quite risky. In this case,
however, one should rather consider the film to be a fairly safe way
to invite a large group of television viewers to the cinema. For some
film companies a common way to find new and commercially reliable
filmmakers is to see what may be found at the top of television ratings,
v. before and after the new millenium
or other places where popularity might have been established beforehand. This is often practised by the major Svensk Filmindustri, the
most significant examples during these years being the multi-talented
entertainment group ‘Galenskaparna och After Shave’, and the stage and
television character Kurt Olsson (Lasse Brandeby). However, Cinema
Art, the producer of Yrrol – en kollosaltgenomtänkt film, had also made
such films earlier, for example Drömkåken/‘The Dream House’ (Peter
Dalle, 1993), the debut film of the Lorry team and starring popular
singer/actor/entertainer Björn Skifs. Although one might consider
such an approach slightly uninspiring, it may, as in this case, lead to
a film that stands for much variation within an otherwise thoroughly
traditional Swedish genre output.
Tic Tac
Tic Tac/‘Tic Tac’ (Daniel Alfredson, 1997) stands out among Swedish
films at this time through its unusually constructed narration. The film
consists of a few eventful stories which the plot alternates between in
such a manner that the viewer only gradually is able to grasp causality
and motivation. The first scenes of the film show events close to the end
of the story,1
then the plot moves back in time, and begins alternating
between the stories as they are developed towards the events initially
shown. Once that point is reached the stories soon end.
This elaborated plot leads to an unusual experience; abruptly placing
the viewer in several ongoing stories means that there will be much
information to process immediately and simultaneously. It also means
that much relevant exposition will become known only later in the film.
For example, when a police officer in the very beginning of the film
hints at a person, saying ‘it’s him’, viewers will assume that this may be
an important person, but there is no way a viewer will know in which
context this information really makes sense. Another consequence of
this special plot construction is that it lets the viewer experience the
initial scenes a second time, with more knowledge about how characters
and events relate to one another. Re-experiencing events allows viewers
to notice how prejudices influence our understanding of people and
situations, and how differently we might understand things if we only
knew a little bit more about them. The plot opens up for these unusual
and interesting experiences, but viewers may still be unable to appreciate
them fully. It is, for example, difficult for a viewer to realise that the
swedish film
flat where the policeman argues with his wife is the same flat as in the
following scene, with other characters and at a later point in the story.
Few other films come close to offering viewers such demanding – but
also stimulating and rewarding – experiences.
To observe events at different times and with different degrees of
knowledge contributes to the very wide range of perspectives that is
characteristic of the film. This is also true for the intertwining of different stories with scenes where storylines meet and characters’ differing points of view are contrasted. This wealth of perspectives makes
events, characters, situations and values appear more nuanced than
they do in most other films. Regarding characters, the film appears to
remodel stereotypes that are well-established in films and everyday life,
and refine them into more real-seeming persons, acting pragmatically
rather than according to the type they belong to. The most obvious
example is the neo-Nazi skinhead who very tenderly talks about love,
worries about being subjected to violence and does not want to hit an
immigrant (not even for pay and without any risk of getting caught).
Asking viewers to reconsider stereotypes and characters like Tic Tac
does, is something few other films set out to do.
The film casts traditional images of different roles against their
opposites. This is not only, or even mainly, done as an attempt to
amuse. Instead, the film simultaneously touches upon several more or
less serious social matters, matters of importance for anyone attempting to live in this society: the impossibility of finding affordable and
attractive flats; racism, neo-Nazism and the violence associated with
these ideologies; the difficulty in perceiving people for what they are,
instead of being unable to see beyond preconceptions, established roles
and prejudices; and not least the difficulties in giving teenagers a good
start in life, something made impossible by bad parenting. The film
is able to place emphasis on these problems, but it is well beyond the
scope of the film to suggest a way out of them.2
Compared with other Swedish films, Tic Tac has a unique and
uniform style. Most notable is the subdued lighting and crude image
quality, as all images are characterised by darkness and reduced colours.
Interiors are generally palely lit with fluorescent lamps. Outdoor scenes
are dark, and only the film’s last scene lets a gloomy morning light greet
the two teenagers as they leave the school where they spent the night.
The emotional atmosphere is almost as gloomy as the cinematography,
with characters and settings emitting something sad and unpleasant.
v. before and after the new millenium
The tone is established in the initial scene with the boy carrying a
petrol can, cursing and muttering angrily. Later, many scenes contain
elements of aggression or coldness, lending them an unpleasant feeling even though they actually may be about attempts to reach for love
and closeness. However, there are also moments that make the viewers’
experience lighter to bear, and such moments are present right from
the beginning of the film. A good example is the character Kent who
is given a role with a clear comic dimension, which mitigates his bitterness, aggression and single-mindedness, and alleviates the unpleasant
situations he finds himself in.
TicTac was appreciated by critics and received several awards, among
them the Swedish Guldbagge for best film and best director. However,
the film clearly illustrates that critical praise is of little importance for
a film’s success at the box office, at least in comparison with bigger
productions and more ambitious launches. The film, which in so many
ways is different from most others during these years, was created by
a recently graduated screenwriter (Hans Renhäll), a young director
(Alfredson), together with a very experienced producer (Katinka Faragó)
with a background in projects with filmmakers such as Ingmar Bergman, Kjell Grede and Andrei Tarkovsky, projects that have supported
creativity rather than primarily aiming for great audience successes.
Translated by Anders Marklund
Revised and abridged excerpt from Anders Marklund (2004), Upplevelser av
svensk film: En kartläggning av genrer inom svensk film under åren 1985–2000,
Diss. Lund, Lund: Critica Litterarum Lundensis.
1 The exception is the story about the young man who intends to set fire to his
school. Here the initial scene is the beginning of the story.
2 The exception one might sense in a few of the film’s stories, and a possibility for a
better life, would be forming a family or a relationship based on openness.
chapter 37
‘Immigrant Film’ in Sweden
at the Millennium
Rochelle Wright
Around the millennium, the notion of ‘immigrant film’ received a
great deal of media attention in Sweden, prompted in particular by the
virtually simultaneous debuts in autumn 2000 of three directors with
roots in Lebanon or Iran: Josef Fares, with Jalla! Jalla! Reza Bagher, with
Vingar av glas/Wings of Glass and Reza Parsa, with Före stormen/Before
the Storm.
Since all three directors also scripted or co-scripted their
films, artistic control over the material resides primarily with these
individuals. Though the films themselves are quite dissimilar, ranging
from comedy to family drama to political thriller, they all delineate a
personal view of Swedish society that incorporates the experiences of
characters who, like their creators, are immigrants from the Middle East.
Jalla! Jalla! and Vingar av glas in particular highlight differing cultural
expectations with regard to gender roles and loyalty or solidarity within
the family. Another director born in Iran, Susan Taslimi, explores this
issue in greater depth and from several different perspectives in her first
feature, Hus i helvete/All Hell Let Loose, released two years later in 2002.
Despite the dramatic emergence of these directors with comparable
backgrounds and analogous thematic concerns, ‘immigrant film’ per
se is hardly a new phenomenon. Directors and scriptwriters with a
non-Swedish heritage are by no means unique to the current millennium, and minority groups have been portrayed in Swedish film since
at least the 1920s. This particular confluence of ‘ethnic’ subject matter
does nevertheless display certain distinctive features that emerge more
clearly when placed in historical context, with regard to both the film
medium itself and the ongoing evolution in Swedish society and social
attitudes that it reflects.
Before about 1950 the population of Sweden was largely homog-
v. before and after the new millenium
enous. Only a few ethnic minorities had significant numbers within
the country’s borders, most notably the Sami, the Finns, and the Jews.
In the post-war period this situation has undergone a radical transformation. Today at least one million individuals, more than one-eighth
of all residents, have a non-Swedish heritage; more than 150 different
nationalities are represented. In other words, during a relatively short
time, the last fifty years or so, Sweden has become a multiethnic and
multicultural nation.
This profound demographic shift has been studied extensively by
historians, sociologists, and ethnologists. With regard to cinematic
representations, two broad issues are of particular interest: first, the
manner in which films from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s provide insight
into contemporaneous perceptions of established minority groups, and
second, how the depiction of various immigrant subcultures in more
recent films mirrors and comments on social change.2
Until about 1960 ethnic stereotyping was extremely common in
Swedish film. The 1930s are associated with the so-called pilsnerfilm,
a genre that has its roots in the folklustspel of stage tradition, though
more sophisticated screen comedy also flourished. A common feature
is the conventionally ‘happy’ ending intended to please the audience
by rewarding virtuous characters and punishing villains – or indeed
anyone who threatens the status quo. With startling frequency the
designated outsider figure is a Jew, inevitably portrayed as a Shylock
out to take monetary advantage of ethnic Swedes.
In the 1940s and 1950s the most popular film genre, in several instances
attracting audiences of 1.5 to 2 million, was the rural melodrama,
which promoted nostalgic longing for a traditional culture that by
then had largely disappeared. A common menace to this agrarian idyll
comes from another negatively depicted outsider category, an indigenous pariah group, the tattare (or resande – travellers – as they called
Tattare are vilified to an even greater degree than Jewish
characters had been a decade or two earlier, depicted as utterly beyond
the pale of civilised society: the men are thieves, swindlers, and violent
drunkards, while women are sexually provocative. Structurally, however,
the narratives tend to follow a similar pattern: order is restored at the
film’s conclusion when tattare are removed from the scene, and the
obligatory stalwart young Swedish couple take over the family farm.
Two other ethnic groups are also represented with some frequency
swedish film
in Swedish films from the 1930s to the 1950s, the Sami and the Finns,
but here there is greater variation. Wilderness melodramas often focus
on conflict between the reindeer-herding Sami and Swedish settlers:
disputes over land ownership and access that resemble those between
Indians and ranchers in the American western. By no means are all
individual Sami characters portrayed negatively, but frequently the
group as a whole is depicted as primitive or opposed to technological
progress. Heathen Lapps (a derogatory term for Sami) practising black
magic are always condemned. Other, more ethnographically orientated
films employ a quasi-documentary style to draw attention to colourful, exotic Sami traditions and customs that set them apart from the
rest of the Swedish population. In the rural melodrama, particularly if
localised to so-called finnskogar (‘Finn forests’: areas settled centuries
earlier by immigrants from across the Baltic), Finnish characters, like
tattare, may be villains or social outcasts, but films set in Finland during
the Second World War reflect Swedish support for the Finnish cause.
Most stereotypical images of outsider figures or minority groups in
Swedish films before about 1960 convey an ‘us against them’ ideology.
Less-than-flattering clichés about ethnic subcultures are employed to
create a common sense of national or ethnic identity; the distinctive,
and of course positive, qualities of ‘Swedishness’ are highlighted when
their perceived opposite is manifest. This polarisation is clearly intended
to reinforce a positive self-image among members of the dominant
culture (and to attract large audiences to cinemas), but a viewer of
today is likely to construe it as promoting prejudice, complacency,
and smug self-satisfaction.
Positive counterbalances may nevertheless be found in a handful of
films that comment directly on contemporaneous reality or the recent
historical past. During the Second World War, for instance, anti-Semitic
caricatures disappear; instead, cinematic dramas such as Anders Henrikson’s Farliga vägar/Dangerous Ways (1942) and Gustaf Molander’s
Den osynliga muren/The Invisible Wall (1944) overtly encourage audience sympathy for refugees who are the victims of Nazi persecution.
The 1960s are a transitional period with regard to ethnic subject matter. Post-war immigrant groups do not yet appear, but we find the first
analytical consideration of Swedish anti-Semitism in Erland Josephson’s
television play Benjamin (1960), directed by Hans Abramson, as well
as two insightful, sympathetic, and psychologically convincing cin-
v. before and after the new millenium
ematic depictions of Jewish Holocaust survivors in Gunnar Höglund’s
Kungsleden /Obsession (1964) and Jörn Donner’s Tvärbalk /Rooftree
(1967). Johan Bergenstråhle’s documentary-style Baltutlämningen/A
BalticTragedy (1970), based on P. O. Enquist’s acclaimed novel Legionärerna /The Legionnaries, focuses on another would-be refugee group
attempting to flee to Sweden in the immediate aftermath of the Second
World War. In these examples Swedish filmmakers tackle difficult,
painful subject matter in a serious and artistically sophisticated manner.
But in contrast to the extraordinary popularity of certain earlier films,
these drew embarrassingly small crowds. It appears that the Swedish
audience, like the film-going public elsewhere, preferred being entertained to being challenged.
Two English-language films of Ingmar Bergman produced during the
1970s – The Touch (1971) and The Serpent’s Egg (1977) – have Jewish
protagonists. These films are not among Bergman’s most artistically
successful, but Fanny och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander (1982), his
last film, offers a far more nuanced consideration of issues of Jewish
identity and is widely acknowledged as a masterpiece.
The so-called new Swedes, post-war immigrants to Sweden, began
appearing in film narratives in the 1970s. In contrast to the negative
stereotyping so prevalent in earlier decades, films from the 1970s and
1980s examine the circumstances of various immigrant subgroups
largely from their own point of view, revealing both how they define
themselves vis-à-vis the dominant culture and how they perceive its
attitudes towards them. Authenticity and verisimilitude are promoted
by the use of actors (some of them non-professional) who belong
to the immigrant group under consideration and speak their native
language on camera.
A number of scriptwriters and /or directors of these films have
immigrant backgrounds or personal ties to those who do. Johan Bergenstråhle’s Jag heter Stelios/Foreigners (1972), focusing on Greek immigrants, was based on a partially autobiographical novel by Theodor
Kallifatides, who also wrote the script. Barbara Karabuda, director
of Svartskallen /Black-skull (1981), a television film about a Turkish
boy trying to adapt to life in Sweden, is married to the film’s Turkish
cinematographer, Günes Karabuda, and has lived in Turkey.4
Fagerström-Olsson, director and scriptwriter of Seppan (1986), grew
up in the multicultural environment portrayed in the film.5
swedish film
Barsotti, who came to Sweden from Italy as an adult, draws in part on
his own emotional responses to a different culture in Ett paradis utan
biljard /A Paradise without Billiards (1991).
The new ethnic minorities represented in Swedish film since 1970
include many groups that are numerically most prominent in the
Sweden of today. The emphasis in these narratives tends to be on
newcomers, the problems they encounter, and their attempts to adjust.
The us-against-them constellation of earlier decades is now reversed,
resulting in a generally sympathetic depiction of immigrants and their
situation, while ethnic Swedes are frequently construed as a negative
Other, and Swedish prejudice or ignorance may be castigated. There
is often an implicit didacticism with regard to the Swedish audience,
which is encouraged to reject ethnocentric attitudes and become more
sensitive to and accepting of diversity.
The films that in 2000 prompted so much media discussion of ‘immigrant film’ – Jalla! Jalla!, Vingar av glas, and Före stormen – represent,
along with Hus i helvete, yet another development in their foregrounding of immigrants from the Middle East. All except Före stormen also
examine gender issues, which previously had not been a major focus of
ethnic representations regardless of the group portrayed. Vingar av glas
and Hus i helvete, furthermore, do so from a largely female perspective
and feature female protagonists; a notable departure from the male bias
otherwise common in films about recent immigrants (and, for that
matter, in film generally).
Jalla! Jalla! directed and scripted by Josef Fares, is both a romantic
comedy that concludes with two pairings that cross ethnic barriers and
a buddy film in which ethnic background is irrelevant to friendship.
The two young men, Roro (played by Josef’s brother Fares Fares) – a
skinny, dark-haired Lebanese who speaks with an accent – and Måns
(Torkel Petersson) – a muscle-bound, fair-skinned Swede with a shaved
head – work together for the parks department of a small Swedish town.
They share an easy camaraderie and trust that belie the obvious visual
and aural markers, which would customarily identify MÃ¥ns as a Swedish
skinhead and Roro as the svartskalle who is his potential victim. But
such is not the case, and the film narrative undercuts this stereotype in
numerous ways by positioning Måns as naïve, vulnerable, and uninformed, whereas Roro in most respects is confident and self-assured.
Visiting Roro’s home, Måns encounters traditions and food with
v. before and after the new millenium
which he is not familiar. When he is at a loss, Roro intervenes to
explain; a reversal of the pattern seen in earlier films where immigrants
must turn to others to gain access to mainstream society. Måns’s shaved
head is mocked by Roro’s grandmother, who considers it a handicap
that makes the Swede less attractive on the marriage market. Though
Grandma is anything but physically imposing, she is forthcoming and
feisty, and MÃ¥ns, a soft-spoken mumbler under the best of circumstances, is at a further disadvantage because he does not understand
Arabic and must rely on Roro to translate. Similarly, at the flea market
where Roro’s father sells his wares, the young men watch his technique
as he works a Swedish customer, with Roro serving as liaison between
cultural spheres and codes of conduct.6
Throughout it is MÃ¥ns who is
uncertain, Roro who is capable of mediating and interpreting.
Måns’s self-image is also jeopardised because his masculinity is in question in more obvious ways as well. Much of the film narrative revolves
around his dysfunction and increasingly comical or bizarre attempts to
cure it, all of which cast him in a slightly ludicrous light. Furthermore,
contradicting the stereotype of the strong, silent male, MÃ¥ns not only
reveals his problems to Roro and turns to him for advice, he also confides in complete strangers: a family he encounters at an outdoor café
and, even more improbably, the policeman who interviews him after
his arrest. (That MÃ¥ns acts out his anger and frustration by smashing
his furniture only underscores his feelings of, well, impotence.) The
film also associates a particular style of testosterone-induced posturing
and aggression with certain breeds of dog and their owners. Tellingly,
when MÃ¥ns is unwittingly roped into dog-sitting, the animal escapes
and he suffers the consequences. In short, Måns’s hapless behaviour
gainsays his hypermasculine appearance in every way. Though the
narrative does not belabour the point, it thus suggests that stereotypes
may be unreliable or deceptive.
In contrast to Måns’s difficulties, Roro and his Swedish girlfriend,
Lisa (Tuva Novotny), have an emotionally and, it would seem, physically satisfying relationship. The obstacle to their match is not her
parents, whose idyllic house in the country is as iconographically
Swedish as a painting by Carl Larsson, but the well-intended effort of
Roro’s extended Lebanese family, unaware of Lisa’s existence, to marry
him off to Yasmin (Laleh Pourkarim), a member of their own group.
Predictably, after a series of complications, this effort is thwarted in the
end when Roro publicly declares his love for Lisa and elopes with his
swedish film
father’s blessing. The bride, in turn, escapes her controlling brother, the
cardboard villain of the piece, to find true happiness with MÃ¥ns. The
film’s message is that love and friendship trump cultural differences.
An undercurrent or subtext throughout the film hints at conflicts
that never develop or that simply do not exist. Lisa’s father pays no
attention to Roro’s ethnic heritage and facilitates the couple’s union.
Divergent backgrounds have no fundamental impact on the friendship between MÃ¥ns and Roro. The parks department work team also
includes a completely silent African, whose bemused expressions provide
unspoken commentary on the main action (and whose efforts to tame
and protect his giant Afro add gentle visual humour). The smoothly
functioning cooperation among the three young men serves as a striking emblem of an integrated, multicultural (and perhaps somewhat
idealised) society.
Through Yasmin, the film also touches on the difficult situation
of young women from Middle Eastern backgrounds whose options,
even in Sweden, are limited by family pressure and prevailing cultural
norms. This motif is not, however, central to the narrative, which
depicts romantic and sexual quandaries primarily from a male perspective. Interestingly, both Lisa and Yasmin are largely passive characters,
waiting to be rescued by their male counterparts rather than taking
action to achieve their goals. Thus although the narrative plays on ethnic
stereotypes to call into question conventional standards of masculinity,
overall it reveals a conventional perspective on appropriate male and
female roles.
In Vingar av glas, directed and co-scripted by Reza Bagher, the
romantic attachment between a Swede and a young woman of Iranian
heritage is less central to the narrative than the generational conflict
within her family and her own struggle for self-definition as she straddles two cultures. In the opening scene the Swedish-born protagonist,
Nasli Kasheni (Sara Sommerfeld), appears for a job interview after
having given her name as Sara Lundström over the phone. When
challenged, she claims this white lie was necessary if she hoped to be
granted an interview at all. But even among her Swedish friends Nasli
is known as Sara, and much of her energy is devoted to trying to fit in
among them by acting like any ordinary Swedish 18-year-old: smoking, drinking, staying out late, dressing provocatively, and getting a
tattoo. Yet she remains uncertain of her own identity. When her closest
girlfriend, a tall blonde, reacts with shock to the possibility that she
v. before and after the new millenium
might be Muslim, Nasli comments wryly, ‘Vete fan vad jag är’ (Who
the hell knows what I am).
Nasli’s widowed father, Abbas (Said Oveissi), feels obligated by a
long-ago promise to his wife to provide for Nasli and her older sister,
Mahin (Aminah Al Fakir), by arranging comfortable marriages for them.
Nasli reacts furiously to Abbas’s announcement that he has identified
potential suitors for his daughters, a response neither Abbas nor Mahin
understands. (It is later revealed that Abbas has chosen Mahin’s partner
knowing that she is already in love with him, a circumstance that places
both Abbas’s exercise of parental control and Mahin’s seeming passivity
in a somewhat different light.) Subsequently, though Nasli is happy to
work in her cousin Hamid’s video shop, she rejects his romantic attentions.7
Frustrated by what he perceives as Nasli’s indifference to him,
Hamid (Rafael Edholm) later tries to rape her. When Abbas, who is
economically dependent on Hamid, does not unhesitatingly support
Nasli, she angrily breaks with her father. After several violent arguments,
however, the two are tentatively reconciled. Abbas appears willing to
accept Nasli’s Swedish boyfriend, Johan (Alexander Skarsgård), who
has gone out of his way to win over the older man. With her father’s
support Nasli earns a motorcycle licence, symbol of her longing for
freedom. Encouraged by Johan, Nasli also begins coming to grips with
her culture of origin. She resumes her Iranian name among Swedish
friends and even utters a few words of her heritage language.
The film avoids obvious clichés and a simplistic view of the Muslim attitude towards women by making Abbas a largely sympathetic
figure. Though he is the product of a culture that asserts patriarchal
control over female members of the household, he genuinely loves
his daughters and wants to do well by them. He has made significant
sacrifices on their behalf, not least with regard to his career: in Iran
he was a famous actor performing on the national stage, whereas in
Sweden his only audience is a group of pre-schoolers who complain
loudly about his faulty Swedish and refuse to sit still for the show. As
a single parent Abbas has borne a double burden. Several scenes reveal
that within the home he has assumed the traditionally female role in
the absence of his deceased wife. A more culturally consistent pattern
would be for him to expect his daughters, who after all are adults,
to take over all the domestic chores, yet neither Nasli nor her more
compliant and traditional sister are assigned or have assumed primary
responsibility for such tasks. The fact that Abbas cooks, vacuums, and
swedish film
cuts out coupons makes it more difficult for the viewer to regard him
solely as a patriarchal tyrant.
Most significantly, despite the family’s dependency on and a personal
financial obligation to Hamid, Abbas eventually believes Nasli’s version
of events and does not protest when she informs him that she intends
to press charges against her would-be rapist. Whether or not Abbas’
reaction is believable in the context of this particular subculture, the
nuanced portrayal of both father and daughter makes it possible for
the Swedish audience to view Nasli’s rebellion, her struggle to achieve
autonomy, as typical for most teenagers’ rejection of parental authority
and search for a coherent identity rather than as motivated solely by
cultural and ethnic differences.
Both Jalla! Jalla! and Vingar av glas are clearly aimed at young people,
though they were popular with audiences of all ages. Jalla! Jalla! was
seen by more than 700,000 Swedes, a number that rivals the audience
size for the most popular films of the pre-television period.8
Both films
were also critically acclaimed; Vingar av glas won a Guldbagge as the
year’s best film. In both instances much of the credit goes to skilful
scripts and direction and engaging performances by all the principal
players, but the broad appeal of these films may also be correlated to
their upbeat message that integration is possible and ethnic differences
can be bridged in the multicultural Sweden of today. This premise may
be an oversimplification of contemporary reality, one that sidesteps very
real social, economic, and cultural gaps, but it provides a hopeful and
emotionally satisfying happy ending.
Like Vingar av glas, Susan Taslimi’s Hus i helvete, which she both
scripted and directed, focuses on an angry, rebellious daughter who
chafes under patriarchal restraints. In this family drama, however, the
conflict is far more volatile and lacks the optimistic resolution of either
Bagher’s film or Jalla! Jalla! As Hus i helvete opens, Minoo (Melinda
Kinnamon), a young woman in her twenties, is returning from America
to her Iranian family in Sweden to attend her sister’s wedding. It is
gradually revealed that several years earlier Minoo had been thrown out
by her father, Serbandi (Hassan Brijany), after having an abortion. Still
feeling himself disgraced by her behaviour, he does not welcome her
return. Unbeknownst to the family, while abroad Minoo has worked
as a stripper, perhaps appearing in low-budget pornographic films as
well. Whether she did so in desperation or in deliberate defiance is
not revealed.
v. before and after the new millenium
Now that Minoo is back, Serbandi tries desperately to re-establish
complete control by determining what she wears, where she goes,
and whom she sees; an effort that Minoo finds various strategies to
circumvent. Minoo is not, furthermore, the only woman in the family who resists patriarchal authority. Her sister, Gita (Melize Karlge),
maintains the pretence of playing by the household rules but is in fact
already sexually involved with her fiancé. Nana, their mother (Caroline
Rauf), is openly contemptuous of her husband and eager to act on her
attraction to a Swedish sewing machine repairman who makes house
calls. And Serbandi’s mother (Bibbi Azizi), who knows even less Swedish than the grandmother in Jalla! Jalla!, invokes the privilege of age to
speak her mind, often to quasi-scatological effect and not infrequently
directing the invective at her son.
The harder Serbandi strives to assert his dominance, the less actual
control he is able to seize and the more frantic he becomes. On Gita’s
wedding day, despite the protests of the bride and the efforts of Nana
to intervene, he punishes Minoo for disobedience by locking her in a
bedroom, but she manages to escape and exact her revenge. A traditional
Middle Eastern belly dancer is scheduled to perform at the wedding
festivities. Wearing a blonde wig and a black leather bikini, Minoo
steps in instead and does a striptease. Serbandi, very drunk, experiences
a complete meltdown, denouncing not only Minoo but also his wife
and the bride in such a way that it is he, rather than they, who is most
humiliated. As the guests depart in embarrassment, Grandma suggests
that since Minoo has finally arrived they can all sit down to eat.
The final scene of Jalla! Jalla! also shows the grandmother and other
family members surveying the remains of a ruined wedding feast, but
in that film the ‘correct’ pairings had been affirmed. In Hus i helvete,
though Gita and her new husband appear to be a love match, the
wedding itself is almost secondary and the physical devastation in its
aftermath represents emotional wreckage within the family. No one
wins. Serbandi’s authority will never recover, but by challenging him
publicly in such a provocative manner Minoo has also made her own
situation untenable.
Taslimi’s film was released in 2002, a year of widespread media attention in Sweden to the predicament of women from Muslim countries
whose male relatives expect unquestioning obedience and submission.
Most infamously in the case of Fadime Sahindal, differing standards of
acceptable female behaviour had led to murder within the immigrant
swedish film
community. Whereas Jalla! Jalla! and Vingar av glas offer the reassurance
that integration is possible and cultural differences can be resolved, Hus
i helvete suggests the potential for violence underlying such conflicts.
Though the film ultimately illustrates the breakdown of patriarchal
authority, it does so without providing a positive alternative.
Före stormen, directed and co-scripted by Reza Parsa, resembles Hus
i helvete in that it offers no easy solutions to the dilemmas it raises, but
in other respects it contrasts starkly with the other recent films under
discussion. The storylines of Jalla! Jalla! Vingar av glas and Hus i helvete
all highlight the intersection of immigrant subcultures with mainstream
or majority society, stressing in particular various ways the generation
now reaching adulthood negotiates cultural difference. Put another
way, though by and large they avoid ethnic stereotyping, all three films
overtly concern the immigrant experience per se. Före stormen does not.
The complex plot interweaves two narrative strands, one centring
on Ali (Per Graffman), a middle-aged man from a nameless land in
the Middle East, the other on Leo (Emil Odepark), a Swedish seventhgrader who is relentlessly bullied at school. Ali came to Sweden 18
years earlier and appears fully assimilated; he works as a taxi driver, has
married a Swede, and is a loving father to two adolescent daughters.
Unbeknownst to his family or anyone else, however, he was formerly an
anti-government guerrilla leader who fled the country when a mission
went tragically wrong. Now a courier from his homeland tracks him
down and blackmails him: unless he assassinates a Swedish industrialist who provides military aid to the repressive regime, the wife he left
behind and the son he never knew will be brutally murdered.
While facing this agonising moral dilemma, Ali befriends Leo, who
is in his younger daughter’s class, urging him not to give in to the
humiliating demands of his tormentor, Danne, but to assert himself.
Misunderstanding the advice, Leo surreptitiously borrows a pistol from
his mother, a police officer, lures Danne into the forest, and shoots him.
By establishing a tie between personal suffering and political oppression, the film challenges the audience to consider the underlying motivations for violence and to ask if there are circumstances in which it may
be justified. The ethical dilemmas posed are not black and white: the
decision to manufacture launching pads for missiles that will murder
innocent civilians may be reprehensible from a broader political or
human rights perspective, but it saves factory jobs in Sweden, including
that of Leo’s father, prompting a family celebration.
v. before and after the new millenium
At the last possible moment Ali spares the factory owner, extracting a promise from him to sell no more weapons abroad. Thanks to a
miscommunication, Ali’s family back home is released anyway. Danne
survives and the conscience-stricken Leo turns himself in. But the film’s
conclusion offers little hope or moral resolution: the final montage
reveals that the capitalist entrepreneur signs a contract after all and that
Ali’s first family is blown to bits in the continuing guerrilla warfare.
Throughout the narrative, Ali’s immigrant status, ethnic identity, and
position within Swedish society are of secondary importance. Neither
does the film focus on ethnic conflict in the international arena, but
rather on Ali’s moral quandary and the impossibility of erasing the past
or determining the course of future events.
Though powerful, gripping, and brilliantly acted, Före stormen did
not attain the broad popularity of Jalla! Jalla! or Vingar av glas. In
retrospect it also seems that critics, though mostly complimentary,
underestimated the film’s achievement. One who is better qualified than
most did not. Ingmar Bergman, who by his own account sees every
Swedish film produced, proclaimed Före stormen ‘the best Swedish film
of recent years’.9
Whether or not one agrees with that assessment, by
moving beyond specifically ethnic constellations Parsa further expands
the definition of ‘immigrant film,’ perhaps to the point of making such
a designation meaningless.
This brings us once again to the question of what differentiates these
works of the new millennium from their predecessors. As previously
noted, the fact that the directors are immigrants who depict members of
their own ethnic group is scarcely groundbreaking. To varying degrees,
Fares, Bagher, Parsa, and Taslimi also employ established genre conventions and narrative patterns.10 The appearance of their debut feature
films within a very short time frame nevertheless caused critics and
audiences to examine them collectively and take note of subject matter
and themes they had in common. Just as several films from the early
1990s that explore Jewish subject matter are the product of a particular
generation examining its roots, these more recent films represent the
coming-of-age of another group. Fares, born in Lebanon, and Bagher
and Parsa, native to Iran, came to Sweden as children or teenagers
in response to the volatile political situation in their homelands. All
received formal training in film at Scandinavian institutions and gained
experience making shorts before writing and directing full-length features. Taslimi, who immigrated as an adult, first established herself as
swedish film
an actor (she had a role in Parsa’s short, Gränsen/The Limit, 1995) and
then turned to directing. Summarising this movement into the cultural
mainstream, critic Helena Lindblad comments: ‘The generation of
storytellers from immigrant backgrounds that the literary world had
long yearned for ended up making films instead.’11
Most important, however, is that the films themselves present immigrants as a self-evident part of Swedish society. Fares, Bagher, Parsa,
and Taslimi hope to counteract stereotypes, not by moralising or by
casting members of minority groups as victims but by portraying the
Swedish reality they themselves know, where immigrants are individuals
rather than merely representatives of particular subcultures. All of them,
furthermore, forcefully resist being ghettoised as immigrant directors.
Their goal is simply to make good films, defined by Parsa as ‘artistically
significant, personal films that also can entertain and move the general
public.’12 This attempt to bridge the gap between art film and popular
entertainment suggests the true scope of their efforts.
This article is an abridgement of Rochelle Wright (2005), ‘’Immigrant Film’
in Sweden at the Millennium’ in Andrew Nestingen and Trevor G. Elkington,
eds., Transnational Cinema in a Global North: Nordic Cinema in Transition,
Detroit: Wayne State University Press. Reprinted by permission.
1 The title Jalla! Jalla! is a salutation or exhortation to get a move on.
2 For more detail on films that premiered between 1930 and 1995, see Rochelle
Wright (1998), The Visible Wall: Jews and Other Ethnic Outsiders in Swedish Film.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press; Uppsala: Centre for Multiethnic
3 Though they did not, in actuality, share a clearly defined ethnic heritage, tattare
were widely regarded as descended from gypsies and were often assigned traits
associated with that group.
4 Svartskalle is a widely used epithet for (dark-haired) immigrants or those of immigrant heritage.
5 The film’s title is the nickname of the area where the story is set.
6 Though Roro’s father – played by Jan Fares, the real-life father of the director
and lead actor – appears unassimilated, the film demonstrates repeatedly that he
uses this pose to his own advantage. Feigning gullibility and lack of technological
sophistication, the father sits back and watches while a Swedish vacuum cleaner
salesman cleans the entire apartment.
7 First cousins are not considered appropriate candidates for marriage by most present-
v. before and after the new millenium
day Swedes. Abbas’ preference for a close family member not only illustrates differing
cultural norms, it also underscores the sense of security he finds only within his
immediate circle.
8 Viewer statistics compiled by Svenska Filminstitutet.
9 Stig Björkman (2002), ‘“Jag ser allt”: Ingmar Bergman i samtal med Stig Björkman’, in Stig Björkman, Helena Lindblad, and Fredrik Sahlin, eds., Fucking film
Stockholm: Alfabeta, pp. 137–44, p. 139.
10 See in particular Maaret Koskinen (2002), ‘Konsten att förena gammalt och nytt:
Form och berättande i Jalla! Jalla! ’, in Stig Björkman, Helena Lindblad, and Fredrik
Sahlin, eds., Fucking film, Stockholm: Alfabeta, pp. 137–44.
11 Helena Lindblad (2002), ‘Det nya filmlandet’, in Stig Björkman, Helena Lindblad,
and Fredrik Sahlin, eds., Fuckingfilm, Stockholm: Alfabeta, pp. 137–44, pp. 32–33.
12 All four directors, along with Peter Birro, who scripted Hammarkullen and Det nya
landet, have been interviewed in print and on television on the topic of ‘immigrant
film’. The quotation is from Reza Parsa (2001), Interview in ‘Vem skapar bilden?’
Mosaik, SVT 2, 22 March. Parsa has also commented obliquely on the implicitly
discriminatory overtones of such ‘immigrant’ terminology by noting, ‘The day
people label Colin Nutley, for instance, an immigrant director, they’re quite welcome
to call me one, too.’ (Stig Björkman (2002), ‘Det enda man kan och ska gå efter
är sin hjärna och sitt hjärta. Mest hjärta.’ Reza Parsa i samtal med Stig Björkman
in Fucking film, pp. 121–36, p. 126). Nutley, an Englishman, has lived and made
films in Sweden for well over a decade and is frequently lauded for his insight into
Swedish mentality. As Parsa observes, he is never identified as an immigrant director.
Swedish Films
and Filmmakers Abroad
chapter 38
Anders Marklund
Transnational aspects of filmmaking can take many forms: co-productions, international distribution, creative personnel moving across borders are just a few of several interesting possibilities. However, national
cinemas are, as the concept accurately suggests, still fairly national.
With the exception of a few major film producing countries and multinational media conglomerates, only a very select part of any national
cinema will receive a notable distribution abroad. Nevertheless, in spite
of the very limited success Swedish films have had at the international
box office and although their influence on world cinema is marginal,
contacts with other filmmaking countries are part of Swedish cinema.
For films with international ambitions, their recognition at major
international film events is of fundamental importance. This is also
acknowledged by Svenska Filminstitutet (the Swedish Film Institute),
whose express ambition is that Swedish films should be represented each
year at the major film festivals at Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Toronto,
as well as the documentary festival in Amsterdam and the short film
festival at Clermont-Ferrand. Apart from festivals, being nominated
for important awards – not least the Academy Awards (Oscars) and
the British BAFTAs – will greatly enhance a film’s distribution and
marketability abroad – even if this distribution might be limited to art
cinemas, and later DVD and television – and will also prove useful for
filmmakers’ further films.
Regarding the most visible of these awards, the Oscars, Sweden has
not seen any major success since Ingmar Bergman’s family saga Fanny
v. before and after the new millenium
och Alexander/Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982) won
four Oscars in 1984. Since then four films have been nominated in
the category of best foreign language feature, and all of them – or their
filmmakers – have seen international success worth mentioning. Sven
Nykvist was already an internationally well-known cinematographer
when he made his debut as a feature film director with Oxen/The Ox
(Sven Nykvist, 1991). Nykvist had been the cameraman of most Bergman films since they first worked together on Gycklarnas afton/Sawdust
andTinsel aka Night of the Clown, (Ingmar Bergman, 1953) but has also
worked on a number of prestigious international films during the last
decades. Colin Nutley, the Englishman who has been making highly
successful films in Sweden since the 1980s, received some international
attention with Under Solen/Under the Sun (Colin Nutley, 1998) and
would later direct a feature film in England, using both British and
Swedish actors: The Queen of Sheba’s Pearls (Colin Nutley, 2004). The
efficiently narrated Ondskan /Evil (Mikael Håfström, 2003) gave its
young director Mikael Håfström an opportunity to work in Hollywood, making well-recieved thrillers like Derailed (Mikael Håfström,
2005) and 1408 (Mikael Håfström, 2007). Even if Kay Pollak will
never make it abroad himself, his feel-good countryside melodrama
SÃ¥ som i himmelen/As it is in Heaven (Kay Pollak, 2004) proved to be
the internationally most successful of these nominated films, not least
thanks to an extraordinarily large audience in Germany. The Academy
Awards jury has been rather partial to popular films, and it should
be noted that the three most recently nominated Swedish films were
extremely successful in Sweden.
Swedish films are rarely invited to important sections of major
festivals, and even fewer receive awards. Roy Andersson, who together
with Jan Troell is Sweden’s most well-known auteur today, was well
received in Cannes with his most recent films. Both Sånger från andra
våningen/Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000) and Du
levande/You, the Living(Roy Andersson, 2007) confirmed his reputation
as an artist with a unique style and a critical representation of society
that is only partly mitigated by a dark sense of humour. Andersson’s
films have access to international art house screens, and in 2009 he was
also celebrated at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Among
other filmmakers that have been recognised at festivals and whose films
have been screened internationally, Lukas Moodysson, most recently
with Mammoth (Lukas Moodysson, 2009), Ruben Östlund with De
swedish film
ofrivilliga /Involuntary (Ruben Östlund, 2008) and Tomas Alfredson
with Låt den rätte komma in/Let the Right One in (Tomas Alfredson,
2008) should be mentioned.
Apart from such films, usually confined to art house cinemas,
there are some that have been welcomed in mainstream cinemas as
well. This goes for a number of animated children’s films that have
been successfully released in both Scandinavia and Germany. Always
based on well-known literary works, these adaptations offer nostalgic
and moderately adventurous stories that contribute to an idyllic and
uneventful image of Sweden. Sven Nordqvist’s works about Pettson
and his cat Findus, Pettson & Findus – Kattonauten /‘Pettson & Findus
– the Catonaut’ (Albert Hanan Kaminski, 2000), Astrid Lindgren’s
about Pippi LÃ¥ngstrump /Pippi Longstocking (Clive Smith, 1997), and
Karlsson på taket/‘Karlsson on the Roof’ (Vibeke Idsøe, 2002) have
recently been followed by Inger and Lasse Sandberg’s about Lilla
Spöket Laban – Spökdags/‘Laban the Little Ghost: Spooky Time’ (Per
Åhlin, etc., 2007) and Jujja and Tomas Wieslander’s about Mamma
Mu & Kråkan /‘Mamma Moo & Crow’ (Igor Vejštagin, 2008). Each
of these internationally co-produced films have found television to be
their normal place within an international children’s culture. A truly
exceptional release has been Män som hatar kvinnor/The Girl with
the Dragon Tattoo (Niels Arden Oplev, 2009), with top ranking at
the box office in a number of countries. Just like the children’s films
mentioned, Män som hatar kvinnor follows the footsteps of bestselling
literature. It should be noted that such films are exceptions, and that
films produced in Sweden mostly remain there.
A particular way that some quality in successful Swedish films is
acknowledged are the offers from producers in other countries to buy
the rights for a remake; the main point is, of course, to get a good story
and make it more accessible to non-Swedish audiences by avoiding
Swedish settings, actors, language and the modest production budgets. This does not happen regularly, and often such acquisitions never
lead to a finished production, for example regarding the idea to turn
Änglagård /House of Angels (Colin Nutley, 1992) into a US Madonna
vehicle. A fairly successful remake was the German–Austrian adaptation
of the highly innovative romantic comedy Adam & Eva /‘Adam & Eva’
(MÃ¥ns Herngren & Hannes Holm, 1997), which was rather close to
the Swedish original (even reprising important camera movements).
Even films that have been screened outside Sweden may be remade,
v. before and after the new millenium
which is the case with the social vampire drama Låt den rätte komma
in – a film that was very successful at international festivals.
There is some mobility for filmworkers within Scandinavia. Apart
from Lars von Trier, whose films made in Trollhättan are not Swedish
in any significant way, the best-known director working in Sweden
is Danish Susanne Bier, who made her first films in Sweden before
reaching wide audiences and international recognition with her Danish films. Klaus Härö has also made films both in Sweden and in his
native Finland. His Den bästa av mödrar/Äidestä parhain/Mother of
Mine (Klaus Härö, 2005) – a film about a boy sent from his home in
Finland to foster parents in Sweden during the Second World War – was
mainly shot in Sweden but met its largest audience in Finland, where
its serious topic related to a reassessment of national history. The film
was submitted to the Academy Awards as a Finnish film.
Not only directors, films and stories may travel. Some actors have
been working more or less regularly in international productions, making such films somewhat more interesting to Swedish audiences (and
easier to market). Peter Stormare has appeared in films made by the
Coen brothers, Fargo (Joel & Ethan Coen 1996) and The Big Lebowski
(Joel & Ethan Coen, 1998); Dolph Lundgren in a good number of
action films such as Universal Soldier (Roland Emmerich, 1992); Marie
Richardson in Stanley Kubrick’s last film EyesWide Shut (1999); Pernilla
August in StarWars: Episodes I & II (George Lucas, 1999 & 2002), and
Lena Olin in productions ranging from The Unbearable Lightness of
Being (Philip Kaufman, 1988) to The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)
and the television series Alias (2002–2006). The most well-known
actor from Sweden today, however, is undoubtedly Stellan Skarsgård,
playing a wide range of characters in films of different genres and in
different countries: GoodWill Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997), Pirates of
the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Gore Verbinski, 2006), Goya’s Ghost
(Milos Forman, 2006) and Mamma Mia! (Phyllida Lloyd, 2008). Max
von Sydow has had a long international career, with early classics like
Three Days of the Condor (Sidney Pollack, 1975) and The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973) – a character played by Skarsgård thirty years later
in Exorcist: The Beginning (Renny Harlin, 2004) – but more recently
in films such as Intacto /‘Intact’ (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2001) and
Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010). A few models who have moved
into acting have appeared in some major roles in important international releases. Isabella Scorupco was the third Swedish actress to play
swedish film
a Bond girl (after Britt Ekland and Maud Adams) when she appeared
in Golden Eye (Martin Campbell, 1995) and would later appear in the
important Polish epic Ogniem i mieczem/With Fire and Sword (Jerzy
Hoffman, 1999), and Emma Sjöberg has played the female lead in Luc
Besson’s French Taxi franchise (1998–2007); enormously popular in
France but also elsewhere.
The text by Tomás Fernández Valentí is about Lasse Hallström,
undoubtedly the most successful Swedish filmmaker during the past
twenty-five years, especially in terms of reaching a global audience.
Hallström became well-known outside Sweden with the successful
Mitt liv som hund /My Life as a Dog(1985) and would soon be working
in Hollywood making a row of quite prestigious and successful films,
such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993) and The Cider House Rules
(1999). Valenti focuses on two central Hallströmian themes – family
and death – both carefully treated in Hallström’s sensitive and mildly
realistic way. A productive filmmaker, Hallström has made further
films after Valenti’s text was written; films where a continued interest
in these themes can be found, for example in Hachiko – A Dog’s Story
(2009) and Dear John (2010).
chapter 39
Lasse Hallström: Family Secrets
Tomás Fernández Valentí
A Swede in America
It is interesting to compare the career of Lasse Hallström with that
of the Czech Milos Forman. Although it was at different times and
during different circumstances, both of them are European filmmakers who moved to the US and became directors of projects with the
same brand of quality – understood, of course, within the particular
requirements of Hollywood filmmaking. Other parallels between the
filmmakers is that Lásky jedné plavovlásky/The Loves of a Blonde (Milos
Forman, 1965) and Horí, má panenko!/Firemen’s Ball (Milos Forman,
1967) presented Forman to the American cinema in the same way as
the unexpected success of Mitt liv som hund /My Life as a Dog (Lasse
Hallström, 1985) did for Hallström, and that Forman’s first portrayal
of American culture and way of life in Taking Off (Milos Forman,
1970) would later be followed by Hallström, beginning with Once
Around (Lasse Hallström, 1991). The subsequent films made by the
Swede in the US, never go far, in spirit, from what the Czech has been
doing during these last years. Thus What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (Lasse
Hallström, 1993), an interesting adaptation of Peter Hedge’s novel,
Something to Talk About (Lasse Hallström, 1995), The Cider House
Rules (Lasse Hallström, 1999), from the excellent book by John Irving, The Shipping News (Lasse Hallström, 2001), from the wonderful
story by E. Annie Proulx, An Unfinished Life (Lasse Hallström, 2005),
and The Hoax (Lasse Hallström, 2006), based on Clifford Irving’s
autobiographical work, represent Hallström’s way of working within
this American tradition, which to a certain degree is similar to what
Forman did with films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Milos
Forman, 1975), based on the well-known work by Ken Kesey, and the
theatrical adaptation of Dale Wasserman’s Hair (Milos Forman, 1979),
after the famous hippie musical by James Rado and Gerome Ragni (and
swedish film
with music by Galt MacDermot), Ragtime (1981), an adaptation of
the extraordinary work of E. L. Doctorow, The People vs. Larry Flynt
(Milos Forman, 1996), and Man on the Moon (Milos Forman, 1999).
In the same way, Hallström’s Casanova (Lasse Hallström, 2005) is a
costume film that is just as personal as those directed by Forman:
Amadeus (Milos Forman, 1984), Valmont (Milos Forman, 1989) and
Goya’s Ghosts (Milos Forman, 2006), which are less concerned with
historical detail than with artistic considerations.
Chocolat (Lasse Hallström, 2000) is the only one of Hallström’s
American films that does not really have an equivalent among Forman’s
films. Still, one may find certain similarities, such as the light and fresh
style that does not follow any trends, blending a reassuringly classic
mise-en-scène with a touch of irony and black humour, which can be
quite poignant – something which might be more evident in Forman’s
films, given his natural use of caricature. Hallström, on the other hand,
seems to feel more secure in stories that oscillate between sentimental
melodrama and bittersweet comedy. Another difference lies in Forman’s more down to earth way of depicting characters compared with
Hallström’s lighter touch. Forman is more prosaic and empirical, for
example when it comes to showing human weaknesses – what else than
portraits of human weakness are his particular way of approaching real
but entirely different personalities such as Mozart, Larry Flynt, Andy
Kaufman and Goya? Hallström is more spiritual. His characters tend
to be simple people, and sometimes from modest social backgrounds.
However, during the last few years there have been a few characters
in his films that belong to a more elevated social class, as is the case
with the protagonists of Casanova and The Hoax. But even in these
two films there is something sublime, lending them a higher level of
sensitivity, beyond their weaknesses.
The Family Universe
The most important theme that runs through Hallström’s filmmaking
is the family or, rather, conflicts within family relationships. This can
already be found in the films Hallström made between his early works
for television and Mitt liv som hund; in his first film for the big screen,
En kille och en tjej/‘A Guy and a Girl’ (Lasse Hallström, 1975), as well
as in the subsequent Jag är med barn/‘I am Pregnant’ ( Lasse Hallström,
1979), Tuppen/‘The Cock’ (Lasse Hallström, 1981) and Två killar och
v. before and after the new millenium
en tjej/‘Two Guys and a Girl’ (Lasse Hallström, 1983). It can also be
found in his first work that obtained some international recognition,
the documentary Abba –The Movie (Lasse Hallström, 1977), which to
some degree revolves around ‘families’ – those two real-life couples that
were the members of this famous Swedish rock band. The importance
of the theme is evident in all of his most well-known films.
Mitt liv som hund. Sweden in the 1950s. The young Ingemar lives
with his mother and his older brother Erik. The father is never there.
The mother’s weak health (physical and mental) forces her to send
Ingemar to his uncle in a small rural community. There he meets Saga,
a boyish girl of his age who plays football and trains boxing.
Once Around. Renata believes that she has lost her last chance to
get married when her boyfriend turns down the last of her numerous
suggestions of marriage. Depressed, she goes on a course in real estate
sales at a hotel in the Caribbean, where she gets to know Sam, a lively
and extrovert man with whom she falls in love and marries. Although
she is happy with Sam, his excessive personality causes conflicts within
Renata’s family. Her father Joe, mother Marilyn and sister Jan all find
Sam insupportable.
Something to Talk About. Grace belongs to a rich family that breeds
racing horses. She is married and has a daughter. When she discovers
that her husband Eddie is unfaithful her life falls apart, and she gets
through the crisis with the support of her sister Emma Rae, but is
treated with indifference by her father Wylie, whose only passion is to
win the annual horse race.
The Cider House Rules. Maine, 1943. Homer is an orphan who has
grown up at Saint Cloud’s orphanage, led by Dr Wilbur Larch, who
not only treats Homer as his own son, but also teaches him everything
he knows about being an obstetrician, including how to carry out
abortions. Since he wants to leave the orphanage and see the world,
Homer departs with Candy and her fiancé Wally, a couple he got to
know when they came to Dr Larch in order to have an abortion, and
who offered him employment as a farmhand harvesting apples for the
cider production of Wally’s family. While Wally is away, enlisted to
fight in the Pacific, Homer and Candy fall in love.
Chocolat. Late 1950s. Vianne Rocher arrives with her daughter
Anouk in the French town Lansquenet, and opens a chocolatier shop.
The Duke of Reynaud, the city mayor, is disturbed by Vianne because
she is a single mother and never goes to mass, and he only reluctantly
swedish film
tolerates her. Vianne finds a friend in the old Armande Voizin, a woman
who has not spoken with her daughter Caroline for many years, who, in
turn, does not let her see her grandson. Vianne also protects Josephine,
a woman beaten by her husband, Serge.
The Shipping News. Quoyle is a man whose childhood was marked
by the education his violent father Guy gave him. After the death of his
wife Petal – a woman with no scruples who almost sold their daughter
Bunny – Quoyle moves with his daughter and old aunt Agnis to the
house where he grew up, in a small fishing village in Newfoundland.
He finds work at the local newspaper and falls in love with Wavey, a
young widow, mother of a retarded son, who works as a teacher.
An Unfinished Life. No longer enduring the beatings of her violent boyfriend Gary, Jean decides to leave him together with her
11-year-old daughter Griff. Not knowing where to go, she travels to
Wyoming and asks her father-in-law, the farmer Einar Gilkynson, if
he can let them stay for a while. Einar lets them stay but only very
reluctantly, because he considers Jean to be responsible for the death
of his son Griffin, the father of Griff, the granddaughter he did not
even know he had.
Casanova. Venice, 18th century. As a child, Giacomo Casanova is
abandoned by his mother, who leaves with one of her lovers but still
promises that they will meet again in the future. Many years later
Casanova has become the most famous seducer in the city. However,
his many amorous adventures have caused him many problems with
the law and he has to settle down in a marriage of convenience with
Victoria, daughter of a rich gentleman. However, Casanova is in love
with Francesca, the daughter of the widow Andrea Bruni, who in her
turn is engaged to be married to a rich tradesman she has never met.
The Hoax. In the early 1970s Clifford Irving is so desperately trying to make it as a writer that he sets up an insane plan: he intends to
write the memoirs of the multimillionaire Howard Hughes, based on a
series of interviews Hughes is supposed to have given him. Everything,
however, is a fraud planned by Irving, his wife Edith and his friend
Dick Suskind.
These stories reveal that Hallström does not use only one kind of
family in his films, but there is variation from film to film. It may be
a traditional family as in Once Around and Something to Talk About,
a grotesque one as in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, single mothers as
in Chocolat and An Unfinished Life, the broken families of Mitt liv
v. before and after the new millenium
som hund and The Shipping News, or the unpredictable developments
of The Hoax. In each film, however, the study of the family remains
central. The family appears to be an institution that imprisons its
members with torturing ties of both love and hate; ties that the
characters try to escape from but that gradually reveal themselves as
difficult or even impossible to resist. In Once Around, for example,
two symmetrical scenes mark Renata’s road to becoming an adult: as
a young girl, early in the story, she goes to sleep in her parents’ bed
after her boyfriend has left her, whereas later, when she is a widow
and a mother, she turns down her father’s offer and prefers to sleep
alone. In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? the protagonist literally feels
crushed by the burden of his responsibilities towards his family, but
at the same time he remains unable to break free from them. One
character who really is able to break free is Grace, the protagonist
of Something to Talk About, who manages to turn her life around,
resuming the veterinary education she left when she got married.
Something very similar happens to Einar, the farmer in An Unfinished
Life, who initially refuses to accept the company of his stepdaughter
and granddaughter but ends up welcoming them as part of his family.
Similarly, in The Hoax, Edith Irving supports her husband, whom she
continues loving in spite of his unfaithfulness, and she even serves
time in prison for him.
There are also non-conventional families – or perhaps not families
at all – such as those in The Cider House Rules, Chocolat, The Shipping News, Casanova and, again, The Hoax. In the first, Homer, Dr
Larch and the orphans in Saint Cloud’s Orphanage form a more
‘authentic’ family (affectionate, spontaneous, with no obligations)
than Mr Rose and his daughter Rose Rose. Mr Rose violates her,
making her pregnant, and she stabs him in order to escape from him:
a less ‘normal’ family relationship is hard to imagine. In Chocolat,
Vianne, her daughter Anouk, Mrs Armande and Josephine come to
form a symbolic matriarchal ‘family’, into which only one man will
be accepted: the bohemian Roux, who is the only tolerant man in
a conservative and repressive masculine environment. The Shipping
News looks upon conventional family relations with considerable
scepticism; each time they are contrasted with the relationships
of non-conventional families or non-families they are the weaker
alternative. Quoyle’s parents and his ‘legal’ wife Petal are mean and
egoistic persons: the former ruin his childhood, the latter destroys
swedish film
his marriage. As a contrast, real love comes to Quoyle thanks to his
relationships with two unusual women: Wavey and aunt Agnis. Both
had earlier found themselves forced to pretend to be what they were
not: the former, a married woman who pretends to be a widow so
that she will not have to reveal publicly that her husband left her for
a teenager; the second, a lesbian who earlier in her life was violated
by her own brother, Quoyle’s father.
Even in the light-hearted Casanova there is a notable scepticism
towards the traditional family. On the one hand, the characters
find themselves in circumstances where they are forced to appear
as ‘normal’ families: Casanova has to find himself a respectable wife
in order to avoid legal troubles; Francesca has to marry Paprizzio,
even though she does not love him, in order to solve the financial
problems of her family. However, in the moment of truth, everyone
rebels against the demands placed upon them: Casanova really loves
Francesca; Francesca is, in turn, a woman who is ahead of her time,
and on a few occasions she dresses as a man (in order to duel with
Casanova, and in order to defend him at his trial); Paprizzio falls in
love with Andrea, his future sister-in-law; Casanova ends up being
saved from execution by his own mother; and Francesca’s brother,
Giovanni, discovers that what he always longed for was to be a libertine, becoming the new Casanova. Finally, the non-conventional
family relations appear even more unclear in The Hoax: Clifford Irving
confides more in his associate Dick Suskind than in his wife Edith,
whom he betrays. Perhaps Irving is the first character in Hallström’s
films who deliberately gambles with the values that people around
him impose on the family, and he manipulates them for his own
benefit: he involves Edith in the fraud he has set up, and makes sure
that Dick is loyal to him by keeping him trapped with the help of
alcohol and a prostitute he has paid to seduce his friend.
The Death, the Life
It would not be right to end an introduction to the films of Hallström
without drawing attention to another important feature: his mode of
depicting death. These days, when death in films has been reduced to
a sensationalist spectacle, it is a welcome surprise to see the natural,
decidedly solemn and even poetic way in which this filmmaker depicts
the end of a human’s existence. Hallström’s use of ellipsis and a slightly
v. before and after the new millenium
distant perspective mitigates the overwhelming effect of such moments.
A few examples deserve to be studied.
Instead of depicting the actual death of the young protagonist’s mother
in Mitt liv som hund, what Hallström does is to linger on the early signs
of death and, once it has occurred, point to its ongoing effects on her
young son’s mind. Ingemar and his brother Erik visit their mother in
the hospital; later Ingemar decides to buy his mother a present, a new
toaster, and in the next sequence we see him patiently selecting and
buying this appliance, although Erik remarks that such a gift will be
of little use to someone who, most likely, will never receive it alive.
Ingemar returns home with the toaster, where his uncle is waiting for
him in order to give him the sad news. Hallström cuts and continues
with a sequence where we see Ingemar on a train, returning to his
uncle, passing a sad snow-covered landscape, and we hear his voice-off
recounting a strange anecdote about a man who, because of an unpredictable destiny, died pierced by an athlete’s javelin. The filmmaker is
merely implying, leaving what actually happened to the mother to the
viewer’s own imagination.
Sam’s death in Once Around is one of the most memorable scenes
of the auteur. Sam, sitting in a wheelchair because of his weak heart,
holding his newborn baby girl, watches the pirouettes that Renata is
drawing on the frozen lake’s surface as she skates across it. Encouraged
by Sam, Renata goes further and further away, tracing bigger and
bigger circles on the ice, with an ice yacht crossing the other side of
the landscape. A wide shot tilts over Renata, skating, and Sam in his
wheelchair: the latter happily watching his wife. A cut to the ice yacht,
crossing the immobile frame and leaving it empty. The camera follows
Renata as she returns to Sam: in the background of the image we see
Sam, immobile and with his head down: he is dead.
The death of Bonnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? The
retarded Arnie goes up to his mother’s bedroom and, thinking she is
asleep, shakes her shoulder in order to wake her; noting that she is
not moving, and sensing something bad, Arnie runs away to tell his
brother. The painful reaction of the deceased woman’s children when
they enter the house is captured in a long take, where a long shot keeps
a certain distance to the characters and, at the same time, tactfully
respects their sadness.
The Cider House Rules. Here we can look at three examples. The first
is the ellipsis used to imply the death of Fuzzy: Dr Larch screens the
swedish film
only film they have at the orphanage, King Kong (Ernest B. Schoedsack
and Merian C. Cooper, 1933); the film always breaks when the big
gorilla is undressing Fay Wray. The last time that happened Homer
had a brief discussion with Dr Larch about why Homer declined to
perform abortions. Larch repairs the film, and when he turns back
again Fuzzy has died: the boy’s death overlaps the pain Larch feels
because he misses Homer. The second example is the death of Mr Rose:
Homer and the other farmhands find Mr Rose severely wounded in
the stomach; Mr Rose explains that his daughter Rose Rose (whom,
as we already know, he sexually abused) stabbed him when he tried
to stop her from leaving him, but that he himself used his own knife
to make the wound bigger and, thus, kill himself. The third and best
example is the death of Dr Larch: lying on his bed the doctor is going
through his usual habit of inhaling ether, but this time he takes too
large a dose; almost in a close-up we see the head of Dr Larch lying on
the side on his pillow, and how he with the bottle of ether in his hand
smashes it on the windowsill. Hallström keeps the frame immobile so
that we can notice how blood starts to run from the doctor’s injured
hand; obviously, what killed Larch was too much ether and not the
injury, but here the slowly growing stain of blood functions as a graphic
expression of him losing his life.
The Shipping News. In this film there are four deaths on a transcendental level in the story: the suicides of Quoyle’s parents, and
the accidental deaths of his wife Petal and Jack Buggit, the editor of
Killick-Claw’s newspaper. The first two of these deaths are given great
intensity, at the same time both ironic and dramatic: together with his
colleagues Quoyle hears a recorded message with the last words of his
father, announcing that he and his wife have decided to ‘leave together’;
Hallström edits together images from this scene with images of the
ambulance leaving with the lifeless bodies of Quoyle’s parents. The car
accident that kills Petal is as sudden as her earlier entry into Quoyle’s
life: an image of a policeman giving him the news of the accident, a
long take of the bridge from which the car fell into the river and a
crane lifting the car and its passengers (Petal and her new lover) from
the water. The depiction of Jack Buggit’s death is even more concise:
during the sequence of the storm that one night torments Killick-Claw,
Hallström only inserts an image of a rope that accidentally coils around
the foot of Jack Buggit as he is fishing far off the coast, as he usually
does. The following sequence only implies his death: Dennis, Jack’s
v. before and after the new millenium
son, receives a call; Hallström cuts to an image of Jack’s boat floating
upside down in the water; and after that, not wasting any time, moves
on to the sequence of Jack’s funeral.
In the more recent works of Hallström, death seems to play a less
important role, and is given a more abstract form. In Casanova death is
systematically negated, as we have seen, with the protagonist constantly
escaping death penalties; also, thanks to the enthusiastic Giovanni, who
takes his place, the man Casanova turns into a myth. But it is with
An Unfinished Life and The Hoax it becomes clear that, to Hallström,
death, after all, will always be a natural part of life and, in a certain
sense, its culmination. This is true even if, as above all in An Unfinished Life, the shadow of death and deadly threats play an important
part in the development of the story: the mild light flowing from an
open refrigerator shows us the bruise on Jean’s mouth, resulting from
Gary’s violence; Einar lovingly nurses his friend Mitch’s scarred body,
remorsefully because he knows that Mitch was severely injured by a bear
because he himself had not been careful; the protagonist daily visits the
grave of his son Griffin and talks to him, an image that seems to evoke
John Ford’s Young Mr Lincoln (John Ford, 1939) and SheWore a Yellow
Ribbon (John Ford, 1949). It is not a coincidence that An Unfinished
Life ends with a wonderful panorama of Einar’s farm, moving across
the field and circling over the grave of Griffin, the images overlapping
Mitch’s final beautiful words regarding the possibility that those who
are dead can observe the ones living from above, and in this way will
have another view of human weakness.
No one dies, physically, in The Hoax, but in a way the film’s protagonist is slowly dying as the story goes on. Irving is continuously
lying and also makes his living on a lie: he wrote a book about Elmyr
de Hory, the painter in Orson Welles’ film F for Fake (Orson Welles,
1974), in which the real Irving and Nina Van Pallandt appeared; and
he is not only creating a gigantic lie, conjuring up a non-existent memoir by Howard Hughes, but sometimes even imagines himself being
Hughes. In the end Irving ‘dies’ as a husband (he cheats on his wife),
as a friend (manipulating Dick), as a writer (writing a false book), and
even as ‘Clifford Irving’, ending up turning into his own lie: ‘Howard
Hughes’. The ironic tragedy of The Hoax’s protagonist reminds us, in
an abstract way, of something that is always present in a concrete way
in the films of Hallström: that death not only ends a human’s existence,
but also everything that was false and deceiving in it. Hallström’s films
swedish film
are, without any doubt, films created by a filmmaker who is constantly
affirming life.
Translated by Anders Marklund
This text is a revised, abridged and updated version of a longer article originally published as Tomás Fernández Valentí (2002), ‘Secretos de familia. Lasse
Hallstrom’, Dirigido por…: Revista de cine, no. 310, 2002, pp. 48–67.
Production and Producers
chapter 40
Anders Marklund
There have been a number of important changes in the Swedish film
industry during the last ten to fifteen years. Some of these are not unique
to Sweden, but are part of global changes in the medial landscape: from
the construction of multiplex cinemas and increased saturation booking
becoming more notable in the early 1990s, to the new digital production and distribution technologies gaining in strength and changing
production and viewing practices in the new millennium.
Of great importance in Sweden has been the establishment of a
monopoly-like situation in the exhibition sector. In 2005 Sandrew
Metronome decided to sell its cinema chain to leading exhibitor SF
Bio (Svensk Filmindustri’s exhibition arm), a deal that was completed
two years later – the Swedish Competition Authority first ruled against
this monopoly, but saw no other alternative when three independent
producers and distributors quickly failed to run the chain. SF Bio
now owns almost all commercially significant cinemas in major cities, and has a fifty per cent share in Svenska Bio (owning cinemas in
smaller-sized markets).1
The monopoly has been much criticised since
distributors are left with only one possibility to reach an audience of any
significance. The fear is that this bottleneck will also affect production
decisions. Jan Troell and his producer Thomas Stendrup, for example,
wrote a critical article when Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick /Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell, 2008) could only get a very limited release,
and concluded: ‘It makes sense from a business perspective to grant
commercial American films most screens. But is it acceptable, from a
cultural policy perspective, not to offer any real alternatives? Should
the exhibition monopoly be allowed to nip Swedish films in the bud?’2
swedish film
Svensk Filmindustri would also consolidate its position in the production sector. In 2007, Svensk Filmindustri’s only competitor remaining
from the good decades between 1930 and 1960, Sandrew Metronome
(until 1996 Sandrews), announced that it would also discontinue its
film production, in order to focus on distribution only.3
ironically, the decision came when they had just released a fairly fresh
and quite successful thriller, Solstorm/‘Sunstorm’ (Leif Lindblom,
2007), based on a novel by Ã…sa Larsson. Later the same year Svensk
Filmindustri bought Sonet Film, one of the most interesting and active
production companies with a strong genre output. Sonet had also been
the distributor of a large number of successful Swedish films during the
previous ten years, releasing, for example, the films of Memfis Film.
Today Svensk Filmindustri remains the only vertically integrated film
company in Sweden and it dominates the film industry. It is part of
the largest Scandinavian media conglomerate, Bonniers, with very
strong positions in television, publishing, home entertainment and
all other media sectors.
Since the 1993 renewal of the Film Agreement, when Sveriges
Television (SVT) – Sweden’s public broadcaster – as well as the commercial television station TV4 committed to help finance Swedish film
production, television has turned into a very important co-production
partner. Each station, of course, supports films that suit their own
interests. For example, SVT’s early success Sunes sommar/‘Sune’s
Summer’ (Stephan Apelgren, 1993) centred on a character/family that SVT had established two years earlier in Sunes jul/‘Sune’s
Christmas’ (Stephan Apelgren, 1991), their very popular television
Advent calendar programmes. Television co-production is by now a
well-established strategy, and it certainly makes sense for companies
to create films suitable for television. The three largest Swedish film
projects of the last decade – Wallander (produced by Yellow Bird),
Arn (produced by Svensk Filmindustri), and the Millennium trilogy
(produced by Yellow Bird /Zodiak Entertainment) – have all been
designed as multi-platform projects: based on best-selling novels,
the productions have combined feature films for cinema release with
the simultaneous production of mini-series or free-standing episodes
designed for DVD and television. Financing for such projects has
come from television companies in Sweden, Germany and Scandinavia
(indicating where the major audience would come from), as well as
from the Scandinavian film institutes.
v. before and after the new millenium
The arrival of large projects (by Swedish standards) based on pre-sold
material has, interestingly enough, been paralleled by the establishment
of a number of independent production companies where the commitment to personal vision is much greater than the films’ budgets or the
size of the audience. Well-known is Studio 24, where Roy Andersson
makes his feature films and television commercials. A younger company is the Gothenburg-based Plattform Produktion, which started
their feature film production with a mobile phone-filmed project and
later produced Ruben Östlund’s Cannes-released art film De ofrivilliga /Involuntary (Ruben Östlund, 2008). Just like Östlund is (part-)
owner of Plattform, and Roy Andersson of Studio 24, the somewhat
larger Stockholm-based Atmo is also a filmmaker-run company. Atmo’s
self-presentation is characteristic of this kind of filmmaking: ‘We’ve
been working hard to always be on that cutting edge, looking for new
methods and styles. From the very beginning the company has been
focusing on productions that in different ways comment on our time
and society – always with a twist of humour, often addressing a global
The global audience is significant for films that are not
(primarily) intended for a wide mainstream audience. Consequently,
the two films that Atmo released at the Venice Film Festival in 2009,
the animated dystopian film Metropia /‘Metropia’ (Tarik Saleh, 2009)
and the documentary Videocracy (Erik Gandini, 2009), were in English
and both were clearly targeting an international audience.
Anna Westerståhl Stenport focuses on the production company Memfis
Film, the Stockholm-based producer of a number of successful Swedish
films made during the last ten to fifteen years; for example, the enthusiastically received debut films of Lukas Moodysson, Fucking Åmål/Show
Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998), Josef Fares, Jalla! Jalla!/Jalla! Jalla!
(Josef Fares, 2000), and Maria Blom, Masjävlar/Dalecarlians (Maria
Blom, 2004). The production processes, as well as the finished films,
indicate that Memfis Film and its owner Lars Jönsson have an approach
to filmmaking that is a bit different from standard practices.
The text by Olof Hedling outlines the much-discussed regionalisation
of Swedish filmmaking, where regional initiatives supported by public
money – coming from regional, national and international sources –
have led to a clear shift in the cinematic landscape, with a large share
of Swedish film production now being filmed outside Stockholm.
Hedling assesses this development and also notes how this is part of
an international trend in film production.
swedish film
1 Here one should also note that Svenska Bio is the name both of the most important
production company of the 1910s, and of the large chain of cinemas existing today.
2 ‘Seriös svensk film chanslös’, Dagens Nyheter, 17 October, 2008, /serios-svensk-film-chanslos-1.755008.
3 At this moment (April 2010) the distribution arm is also for sale.
4 (accessed 26 April 2010).
chapter 41
Local and Global
Lukas Moodysson and Memfis
Anna Westerståhl Stenport
A Model Relationship
In 2009, Memfis Film released a collection of twenty-three DVDs.
This boxed set contains such well-known feature films as Colin Nutley’s Änglagård /House of Angels (1992), Josef Fares’s Jalla! Jalla! (2000),
Lukas Moodysson’s Tillsammans/Together (2000), Maria Blom’s Masjävlar/Dalecarlians (2004), and the documentary Tranceformer/Tranceformer: A Portrait of Lars von Trier (Stig Björkman 1997). These films
represent a significant component of modern Swedish film history, and
this DVD set is remarkable for several reasons.
First, it makes concrete and visible Memfis’s contribution not only
to Swedish but to contemporary world cinema. A set like this assumes
the status of a collector’s item and suggests that the films produced by
this production company will remain a part of the cinematic canon
for a significant length of time. All the films offer English subtitles
(most are also subtitled into other Nordic languages), which indicates
that Memfis is aware that its contribution to cinema history extends
beyond the borders of Sweden. Assembled as a collection, this set
also suggests that Memfis films form a cohesive whole and have their
own iconicity; this seems modelled on the practice of re-releasing the
films of major directors and auteurs as DVD collections. In fact, few
contemporary Swedish production companies could have re-released
twenty-three films. With the exception of the traditional behemoths
Svensk Filmindustri (founded in 1919) and its competitor Sandrews
(founded in the 1920s), Memfis is one of few quality film production
companies that have remained in business and capable of producing a
steady stream of films meriting re-release. Lastly, the DVD set indicates
Memfis’ savvy marketing and positioning strategies – one of its strengths
swedish film
has always been its close attention to the packaging and marketing of
its films. This essay outlines some of the background and context for
Memfis’s contributions to contemporary Swedish film and to one of its
best-known filmmakers, Lukas Moodysson. It is based on interviews
with Memfis’s founder and managing director Lars Jönsson, Memfisaffiliated directors (including Moodysson) and actors, Sweden-based
film scholars and journalists, and other representatives of the Swedish
film industry.
Memfis has played a significant role in the Swedish film community
and for the Swedish film industry since its inception in 1989. Several
of its films make up the core of what is usually labelled as a golden era
of Swedish film at the millennium.1
The company’s production history
also helps illustrate significant changes in the Swedish and European
film industry since the early 1990s. These include a rise in international
co-productions following the European co-production agreement in
the inauguration of the Nordic Film & TV Fund (NFTF) in
the establishment of regional film funds and European Unionsponsored film centres in Sweden from the late 1990s onward;4
the increasing significance of television funding for the production
of film for cinema release.5
Memfis is also known for its unusual, if
not unique, approaches to working with a limited and select group of
directors and industry professionals with whom it has established close
relationships, such as Josef Fares, Maria Blom and Lukas Moodysson,
as well as significant collaborations with figures such as Lars von Trier
and Zentropa Productions. Its first major successful collaboration was
with UK-born Colin Nutley.
Nutley’s Änglagård provides a prototype for many of Memfis’s most
successful later productions – it was a blockbuster in Sweden and
screened all over the world, including the United States, where it was
distributed by Sony Classics. The film is set in a small rural village in
the province of Västergötland, far from the social and cultural context
of contemporary Stockholm. This film was one of the first modern
Swedish films to portray the contemporary countryside as a location
for a well-developed relationship drama. Though the manuscript builds
on a traditional plot line of the outsider coming to an isolated community and shaking things up, Änglagård appears genuinely interested
in the character development not only of its big-city visitors but also its
rural characters.6 Änglagård, like other Memfis films such as Moodysson’s Fucking Åmål/Show Me Love (1998) or Josef Fares’ Jalla! Jalla!,
v. before and after the new millenium
combines the conventional with the innovative, the latter including a
homosexual perspective on provincial society (Zac in Änglagård is gay;
a lesbian love story between the young women Elin and Agnes is the
plot motivator of Fucking Åmål ). The conventionality of Jalla! Jalla! ’s
romantic comedy story may only allow limited character complexity,
but this is still the first Swedish blockbuster to focus on contemporary
multi-ethnic Sweden.7
Änglagård’s formidable success provided Memfis with significant
economic and cultural capital to channel into other projects and for
attracting quality talent. The film’s success also helped institute a longterm collaborative relationship with Peter Aalbeck Jensen and Lars von
Trier, founders of what has become contemporary Scandinavia’s most
important production company – Zentropa. Jönsson was the executive
producer of von Trier’s first major international production, the critically
acclaimed BreakingtheWaves (1996). This initial collaboration between
Jönsson and Zentropa on Breaking the Waves laid the foundation for
one of the most successful film-funding models in Nordic film history,
subsequently used for the majority of Memfis films, including those
of Moodysson. This co-production model combines a transnational,
national, and regional funding model. Memfis, moreover, has invested
its own capital in a majority of its films, which, as Jönsson states, has
significance on a number of levels. ‘Providing a chunk of the financing
ourselves’, Jönsson states, ‘gives us credibility and a clear stake in the
process and allows us to keep full control over any given project. Of
twenty-five Memfis films, ten have made such significant profit that it
has allowed us to reinvest in other films.’ This combination of funding
sources has become such a stable model for Memfis that it has given
the company the freedom to pursue unknown and emerging directors
and to some extent unconventional film topics. It has also allowed for
concrete and hands-on involvement in all stages of the film production
process, including close collaboration with directors who write their
own manuscripts.
Memfis, in contrast to many other contemporary Swedish production companies, has never pursued the model of adapting bestsellers
into films.8
Some of its most successful collaborations and productions have instead been based on a model of from scratch concept
development, mentorship, and collaboration. Manuscript originality,
including story and characterization, are central to Memfis productions, Jönsson affirms. ‘I want Memfis to be different, to be a small
swedish film
company with one or two productions a year’, Jönsson explained in
an interview, ‘but with the ambition to seek out original and independent storytellers that also I as a person could relate to.’ Beginning
in the mid 1990s, Jönsson started scouting for promising film-school
students and other talented artists and writers. Though Moodysson
had graduated from the prestigious Dramatiska Institutet’s film director course in 1996, Jönsson knew him better from his background as
a poet and as affiliated with the experimental group of poets called
Moodysson and Jönsson also share an outsider position
with respect to the Stockholm film establishment, both having their
roots in the southern province of Skåne and having lived and worked
in Gothenburg at the beginning of their careers. The two connected
on the level of storytelling – as Jönsson and Moodysson both affirm,
the director was initially not entirely comfortable with the technical
apparatus of filmmaking. Having seen Moodysson’s final project film
for Dramatiska Institutet, En uppgörelse i den undre världen /‘Settlement
in the Underworld’ (1995), Jönsson offered to let Moodysson make
a first short pilot film for Memfis. After multiple manuscript drafts,
Moodysson shot the film Bara prata lite/Talk (1997) in Trollhättan
(the base of regional co-producer Film i Väst) with film photographer
Ulf Brantås, who was to be instrumental for the distinctive look of
Moodysson’s first three feature films: Fucking Åmål, Tillsammans,
and Lilja 4-ever/Lilya 4-ever (2002). The cinematography of these
films includes distinctive crash-zooms, close framing and blocking of
characters within a frame, the use of existing light sources rather than
three-point lighting, and a general avoidance, especially in Fucking
Åmål, of establishing location or landscape tracking shots that remove
attention from the characters.
A continuing distinguishing feature in the relationship between
Moodysson and Jönsson has been manuscript development, with a
film like Fucking Åmål going through ten revisions, and the much later
Mammoth (2009) over twenty. Tillsammans, one of Moodysson’s most
successful films abroad, started with a fifty-page narrative with scattered thoughts that then went through multiple revisions to become
a complete manuscript. Moodysson confirms that this collaborative
relationship with Jönsson has been critical to his development as a
filmmaker: ‘Having just graduated from film school, I sent manuscripts to Lars [Jönsson] all the time, and he kept refusing to accept
them. But he encouraged me to continue. And I felt strengthened by
v. before and after the new millenium
the fact that he wanted to read what I wrote. This attitude is unusual
for a producer, and for most people, I think, who want very rapid
The Memfis approach to film production is unusual if not unique in
the contemporary Swedish film industry, as multiple experts, journalists, and professionals affirm.10 Memfis has adopted similar approaches
for the first projects of two of its best-known directors, Fares and
Blom, who both made pilot films financed by Memfis before moving on to their first feature films intended for cinema release. ‘This
process’, Jönsson continues, ‘allows me as a producer to get to know
the strengths and weaknesses of an individual director, and whether a
continuing collaboration is right for Memfis.’ This process establishes
a strong relationship and has arguably also allowed Memfis to hold
on to its successful directors and other film professionals. Jönsson’s
Memfis colleague Anna Anthony works in similar ways and has produced films by Fares and Mikael Håfström (who subsequently went
on to a Hollywood career). The Memfis mentality seems also to have
influenced several emerging individualistic players in the Swedish
film industry, including young producer Jesper Kurlandsky, director
Alexandra Dahlström, and Garagefilm producers Rebecka Lafrenz
and Mimmi Spång. Kurlandsky, for example, has worked for Memfis,
including research and production for all of Moodysson’s films since
Tillsammans. He has since produced Jesper Ganslandt’s internationally
well-received Apan/The Ape (2009). Alexandra Dahlström, who played
Elin in Fucking Åmål, won the Stockholm Film Festival’s 2008 prize
for emerging directors and has recently released her third short film as
a director, Because the Night (2009).
An International Context
from the Perspective of the Margin
A distinguishing feature of Moodysson’s career has been its diversity
in terms of film topics and genres. The close relationship with Memfis
has been a critical aspect of this – from the first short film, through the
early public and critical successes of Moodysson’s career (Fucking Åmål
and Tillsammans), to the experimental films Ett hål i mitt hjärta /A
Hole in My Heart (2004)11 and Container (2006; also an art installation)12 and the major international production Mammoth – the most
expensive Memfis film ever made, and one of the more expensive in
swedish film
recent Swedish film history as a whole. There is no other film director
in recent Swedish film history who has had this kind of support from a
production company in which he or she has no ownership stake. This
has allowed Moodysson to explore widely divergent projects: he would
most likely not have been able to receive funding for such a major
endeavour as Mammoth after having made the two small art films Ett
hål i mitt hjärta and Container. Memfis received, however, an unusually
large sum of production support from the Swedish Film Institute for
Mammoth (twelve million crowns), which shows the support the Swedish
film establishment is willing to give the Memfis/Moodysson collaboration.13 Moodysson is clearly an original filmmaker and a sophisticated
storyteller, but part of his success is also based on the concrete support
given to him by Memfis and its production infrastructure, particularly
in terms of funding.
Though divergent in scope, approach and marketing niche, there are
strong recurring features in Moodysson’s films. These include a focus
on youth, an interest in exploring constructions of and limitations to
sexuality, and the realistic portrayal of what is otherwise marginalized in
contemporary, everyday life. Moodysson’s sources of inspiration include
the films of Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Stefan Jarl (especially the Mods
documentary trilogy), Bo Widerberg, and Uli Edel (Christiane F. –Wir
Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo /The Children of Bahnhof Zoo, 1981). Lilja
4-ever is the film most explicitly indebted to this tradition. It is based
on the true story of a young Lithuanian victim of human trafficking,
who jumped to her death from a motorway bridge in Malmö after
having been held captive and sexually abused. Lilja 4-ever has also been
used as an educational film around the world, its viewers ranging from
UN peace-keeping troops to young women in Moldova.14 Abandoned
by her mother who seeks a new life in the US, Lilja’s story projects a
deconstruction of the Soviet state into one of dissolution, despair, and
ruin. In their explicit criticism of neo-liberalism, several of Moodysson’s
films actually maintain a cultural construction of Sweden as somehow
sheltered from global late-capitalist consumerism. Though a film like
Tillsammans incorporates gentle criticism of tenets of the Swedish
welfare state, it embraces a much-cherished national perception of the
merits of collectivism and consensus. Mammoth, a sweeping epic set
in New York City, the Philippines and Thailand, is critical of wealthy
Westerners whose sense of entitlement is put into sharp relief against
the plight of non-Western women working as prostitutes or domestic
v. before and after the new millenium
servants. Though Moodysson’s films are unusually international in scope
(he is one of few filmmakers of his generation who chooses not to focus
exclusively on a Swedish context), they also play into a 20th-century
cultural construction of Swedes as the world’s conscience.
This interest in an international context from the perspective of
the margin is, in fact, a point that links Memfis as a production
company with Moodysson as a filmmaker. Both were initially seen as
outsiders to a film industry traditionally centred in Stockholm; both
were able to work within a dynamic film production context as it
developed during the mid 1990s and during the first part of the 21st
century. An international interest thus links the two on matters both
material and metaphorical, both in terms of how to get productions
funded and shot, and the questions raised and topics addressed by
the films. Memfis has also had a significant importance for the reach
of Swedish and Scandinavian film outside the borders of the Nordic
region. International distribution of films from small countries and
small language areas is complicated, yet one of the ways in which a
film becomes canonised within national and international contexts
derives from its exposure outside the nation in which it was conceived.
But for this to occur there must be reliable channels of distribution.
Trust Film Sales, one of the most important international distributors of Swedish and Danish film during the last decade, was indeed
jointly founded by Jönsson /Memfis and Aalbeck Jensen /Zentropa in
the mid 1990s.15 Fucking Åmål was one of the first films distributed
internationally by Trust Film Sales.
As this company grew and needed more resources, Jönsson sold his
shares in order to focus on feature film production by Memfis. Trust Film
Sales is today owned by Zentropa and Nordisk Film and has changed
its name to TrustNordisk. ‘In hindsight this may not have been a financially wise decision,’ Jönsson remarks, ‘but it says something about how
very different Memfis and Zentropa are as companies. I have wanted to
keep Memfis small, but Zentropa wants to be an industry. They have
many employees and subsidiaries in almost every European country.
But this may be one of the most important reasons [for how] we have
been able to maintain our collaborations and remain friends.’ Other
international and EU contexts have also been significant for Memfis’s
evolution as a production company. ‘In the mid 1990s, I attended
international courses and benefited from networking opportunities
organized by the EU MEDIA programme; these gave opportunities for
swedish film
meeting with a range of European producers and other film industry
professionals, which allowed me to build a network to draw upon for
co-productions. These also taught me how to operate a big international
co-production like Breaking the Waves and to find good collaborators
across Europe.’ Jönsson’s skill as a producer has been highly significant for the development of Swedish film during the last decades and
especially for a director like Moodysson. Memfis thus combines, like
Moodysson’s films, strategies that form a bridge between the national
and the international, the regional and the global. Taken together, they
provide one model for how Sweden and Swedish film contribute to
world culture. The recently issued Memfis DVD boxed set is a material
way in which this legacy is made manifest; the number of films in the
Memfis pipeline is likely to keep this legacy strong.
1 See, for example, Roger Wilson, ‘Sista Föreställningen’, Fokus, vol. 35, 27 October–
3 November 2006, pp. 24–29.
2 On the 1992 European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production, see,
for example, Luisa Rivi (2007), European Cinema After 1989, New York: Palgrave
Macmillan and Anne Jäckel (2003), European Film Industries, London: British Film
3 On the significance of NFTF, see, for example, Mette Hjort (2005), ‘From Epiphanic Culture to Circulation: The Dynamics of Globalization in Nordic Cinema,’ in
Trevor Elkington and Andrew Nestingen, eds., Transnational Cinema in a Global
North: Nordic Cinema in Transition, Detroit: Wayne State UP, pp. 191–218.
4 See Olof Hedling’s essay in this volume and Olof Hedling (2006), ‘Sveriges mest
kända korvkiosk’: Om regionaliseringen av svensk film,’ in Erik Hedling and
Ann-Kristin Wallengren, eds., Solskenslandet: Svensk film på 2000-talet, Stockholm:
Atlantis, pp. 19–49.
5 Sveriges Television Drama, as led by Gunnar Carlsson, a former director of the
Gothenburg International Film Festival, has been particularly significant for this
development; few feature films are made in Sweden today without SVT co-production
6 See, for example, Annika Lindskog (2005), ‘Sweden in the Eye of the Beholder:
Colin Nutley’s House of Angels and Swedish Identity,’ Scandinavica, vol. 44, no. 2,
pp. 162–82.
7 See Rochelle Wright (2005), ‘’Immigrant Film’ in Sweden at the Millennium,’ in
Trevor Elkington and Andrew Nestingen, eds., Transnational Cinema in a Global
North: Nordic Cinema in Transition, Detroit: Wayne State UP, pp. 55–72.
8 As a point of contrast, Yellowbird Productions (based on a partnership formed in
2002 by Danish producer Ole Søndberg and Swedish writer Henning Mankell)
seeks explicitly to capitalise on bestseller literature. Their company slogan is ‘We
v. before and after the new millenium
turn bestsellers into blockbusters.’, accessed 13 November
9 Moodysson’s poetry collections include Evangelium enligt Lukas Moodysson (1989);
Mellan sexton och tjugosex (2001), and Apo kryp hos (2006).
10 See also Per Andersson, ‘Memfis, Stockholm’, TM, June 2005, pp. 8–9.
11 See Mariah Larsson (2006), ‘Om kön, sexualitet och moral i Ett hål i mitt hjärta’,
in Erik Hedling and Ann-Kristin Wallengren, eds., Solskenslandet: Svensk film på
2000-talet, Stockholm: Atlantis, pp. 245–266.
12 The art installation opened at the renowned Stockholm gallery Färgfabriken in
March 2006,
mgnr=3; a modified version was shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in
London in October 2006, then called ‘Inside the head of Lukas Moodysson: The
Container Crypt.’ ( /Inside%20the%20Head%20of%20
Lukas%20Moodysson%3A%20The%20Container%20Crypt+12073.twl); both
accessed 11 November 2009.
13, accessed 14 January 2010.
14 See Olof Hedling (2004), ‘Om ‘Lilja 4-ever’ – en svensk film’, in Från Eden till
Damavdelningen: studier om kvinnan i litteraturen: en vänbok till Christina Sjöblad,
pp. 323–334, and Ola Florin, Daniel Lundquist, Eva Stenstam and Klas Viklund,
eds. (2004), Vad har mitt liv med Lilja att göra? Stockholm: Svenska filminstitutet.
15 See also Andrew Nestingen (2008), Crime and Fantasy in Scandinavia: Fiction,
Film, and Social Change, Seattle: University of Washington Press, pp. 76–77.
chapter 42
The Regional Turn
Developments in
Scandinavian Film Production
Olof Hedling
A fundamental change in Swedish film during the last decade and a
half is that feature films are shot, in the majority of instances, on location and in studios in small, provincial towns like Luleå in the north,
Trollhättan in the southwest and Ystad, near the southernmost tip of
Sweden. Correspondingly, and as a reporter of the Swedish newspaper
Dagens Nyheter suggested during the winter of 2005, the capital Stockholm has ‘almost been wiped from the map of Swedish film’.1
After this
was observed, however, one may perhaps speak of a small move back as
regards film production in the capital, most notably exemplified by the
three extremely successful features made from bestselling crime writer
Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy released in 2009. Nevertheless, the
general picture of a systematic regional turn in Swedish film production
during the last decade or so still holds true.
As a point of reference, data from Svenska Filminstitutet, the Swedish Film Institute, states that twenty-nine of forty-five features, or 64.4
per cent of the 2005 output, were co-produced by one of the regional
production centres and shot in their studios and/or their surroundings.
Moreover, and indicating the comparative strength and size of the three
different centres, of these twenty-nine films, nineteen were co-produced
by the company at Trollhättan, Film i Väst (‘Film in the West’), while
Luleå and Ystad contributed five each. In a supplementary category,
‘foreign films with a Swedish co-producer’, and containing eight additional works with sizeable Swedish participation, a further two were
filmed at and co-produced by one of the regional production centres.2
To appreciate the radical implications of the Swedish example, one
must first have in mind the circumstance that for more than eight
v. before and after the new millenium
decades – from the mid 1910s and well into the 1990s – Stockholm
was the undisputed hub for film production and distribution, and
the site of the most prestigious cinemas in the country. Second, the
Swedish Film Institute was set up there in 1963 and quickly became,
arguably, the most important force in national film culture, and, as
further consolidation, added its own studios in 1969.
The process leading to the present situation started during the late
1980s when ideas about regional centres for film were first introduced,
about the same time, in fact, as a first wave of such ideas swept across
At this point, the activities of these Swedish centres were
planned as being directed towards children and adolescents, providing
a platform for contact with the medium.
On 1 January 1995, however, Sweden joined the European Union
(EU). At the time, the two regions around Trollhättan and Luleå, acting
independently of each other, had prepared applications intended for
the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The goal
was to initiate professional film and media production as a way to
revitalise the two areas. At the time both areas were severely marred by
unemployment and post-industrial decline. This, in turn, was partly
caused by the fact that Sweden had radically altered its monetary
policy during the early 1990s – deciding to fight inflation after more
than a decade of near stagflation – with the immediate result being
the closest thing to a nationwide economic depression since the 1930s.
The applications were granted in 1996. Supplemented by local funds
from the regional authorities as well as from a dutiful but somewhat
unprepared Swedish Film Institute, other sources of film investment
and production capital were subsequently attracted to the two areas.
As an aside, it may be said that although the regional network was
nationally planned at the beginning, the later, full impact of it was not.
The principle of operation involves the centres stepping in as coproducers, thus financing fifteen to thirty per cent of a particular film’s
cost. In return, the production is required to be located in the area, the
producer must have an office there, half of the employees on a given
production must be locals, and more than 150 per cent of the region’s
investment should be spent in the vicinities by the production company. Activity at the centres is thus guaranteed through the use of the
swedish film
sometimes contested practice referred to as a ‘territorialisation clause’.4
This form of set-up appears to be quite a common practice and similar
conditions are used by, for example, Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen
in Germany and Filmfonds Wien (formerly Wiener Förderungsfond) in
Looking back, moreover, the application of territorialisation
clauses appears to have been quite firm at the beginning while becoming
somewhat less strict later on. In effect, these regional companies have
increasingly started to act more as traditional film financiers, although
with their own particular agendas. Film i Väst, accordingly, contributed
as a co-producer to both Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) and to the
above-mentioned filming of the Millennium trilogy, even though the
films were made elsewhere and the main producers had other centres
and funds as their main regional partners. Reportedly, this was done not
as a result of a prediction that the investment would generate revenues
but rather since it was important that the organisation was visible in
connection with these kinds of ‘prestige’ projects.6
Nevertheless, these centres, as a result, have come to inhabit a crucial
role on the margin, as suppliers of ‘the last million’.7
By contributing a
modest amount to the production budget, one is able to get producers
from outside to spend money in the local economy – on accommodation, meals, employing locals and so on – in order to encourage the
growth of different forms of both qualified and unqualified service
production as well as tourism.
In economic terms one may perhaps compare the set-up to a sort
of Keynesian interventionist agenda applied to the local or regional
level, with film and media production thought of as becoming a kind
of engine for greater money-making activity. Consequently, the objectives of these regional centres on one hand tend to be mostly economic.
On the other, one may argue, they have retained some of their artistic
values, like a high regard for art cinema and auteurs, long associated
with official Swedish film policy.8
Some Outcomes
Overall, the strategy appears to have been perceived as successful and
mostly so in Trollhättan, perhaps because the company here has received
the most resources by far from both the structural funds and its regional
authority, thus being able to co-fund most productions.
Nevertheless, a decade after young Swedish filmmaker Lukas
v. before and after the new millenium
Moodysson put Trollhättan on the map with his first feature film
Fucking Åmål /Show Me Love in 1998 and the operation began in
earnest, some 250 features, together with television productions,
documentaries and a large number of shorts, have been wholly or
partly filmed and produced at ‘Trollywood’. A few of them have been
comparatively large international co-productions, like Lars von Trier’s
Dancer in the Dark (2000), starring Björk and Catherine Deneuve,
the same director’s Manderley (2005), starring Bryce Dallas Howard,
Phillippe Ramos’ Capitaine Achab /Captain Ahab (2007), starring
Denis Lavant, and Moodysson’s Mammoth (2009), starring Gael
García Bernal and Michelle Williams.
As a result of the regional development, a new confidence and
eagerness could be widely detected among filmmakers, film workers
and critics in Sweden already around the turn of the millennium. At
least one critic ascribed this new optimism to the liberating effects of
Swedish film finally having been able to shake off what she labelled
its former ‘Stockholm-ethnocentric provincialism’.9
Similarly, considerable enthusiasm was heard from regional and local politicians and
decision-makers, near the geographical sites of production. Here, a
pride, unmistakably associated with the newly found local trade, could
be detected in speeches and statements, often mentioning economic
and marketing effects as well as benefits in terms of image and tourism
as observed facts.10
Furthermore, this expectant outlook is still evident. The last but
one version of the film agreement, of 2006, between the state, the film
industry, and the public and private network television companies, consequently mentioned that film production should ‘evolve into a dynamic
new growth industry’.11 This may sound like nothing but a cliché, but
is actually something unheard of in previous agreements and reflected
national expectations which simply did not exist for decades. In short,
the regional set-up that has developed within Swedish cinema during
the last decade has had quite a drastic impact while, at the same time,
creating ‘a radical change in the filmic infrastructure’.12 Simultaneously,
some new inroads for international co-production have been created.
This, however, does not mean that critical views are unheard of. In
the summer of 2007 a spokesperson for a newly established organisation
with the ambition of attracting production back to Stockholm stated:
‘Today, ninety per cent of all actors and film companies are based in this
region while only ten per cent of the films are made here. We want to
swedish film
change that’.13 Correspondingly, film workers in Stockholm, as well as
certain producers actually, have complained about the ‘territorialisation
clause’ and its condition that a proportion of the cast and crew must
be employed on the basis of where they live, and not only because of
their expertise or suitability.14 Notwithstanding such surges of regional
tension, the regional turn has, as noted, been received in a pragmatic
and generally positive way by insiders and in extremely optimistic ways
by certain commentators.15 Besides what has already been mentioned,
some of the additional effects of the regional move have been:
• An influx of new talent due to new decision-makers and a more
decentralised national set-up.
• A larger number of films produced annually as a result of greater
availability of money, mostly from different public entities. These
include such sources as the national government and the regional
authorities but also supra-national bodies like Eurimages and the
Nordisk Film & TV Fond (the Nordic Film & TV Fund), and,
because of membership in the EU, the structural funds. Money has
also arrived from television. Ever since the broadcasting monopolies
were deregulated in Scandinavia around 1990, television companies,
at least in Sweden, have been eager to finance feature films so as
to guarantee exclusive and attractive programming. Additionally,
regionally based private capital has, to a limited extent, come to be
a source of investment for locally produced films as well.
• More co-productions, mostly between Scandinavian countries,
due to more liberal regulations regarding what subsidy agencies
can support and because of fewer dominant individual companies
and agencies in the production field.16
• A gradual transferral of power from the central Swedish Film
Institute to the regional centres, regarding the initiative in the
filmmaking community.
• A slightly growing share for local fare at the national box office,
coming close to twenty-five per cent and occasionally even more in
certain years during the last decade. These improvements, in comparison to earlier decades, may, however, in part have been caused
by more films being premiered annually than before. However,
this is difficult to determine from existing data.
v. before and after the new millenium
More generally, film has come to be embraced by a kind of sympathy
and anticipation which simply lacks a counterpart during the medium’s
first ten decades of existence in the country. An explanation for this
is the enthusiasm that emanated in the late 1990s and was linked
to what, using a peculiar Swedish and Scandinavian expression, has
come to be called upplevelseindustrin, the ‘experience industry’.17 This
framework, encompassing activities like tourism, events, filmmaking,
and the production of different kinds of media and experiences, was,
and still in a way is, seen as a tool for economic and strategic renewal.
Consequently, these activities can be seen as means to realise what
has been labelled ‘the New Economy’, partly based on urban studies
theorist Richard Florida’s influential concepts regarding a ‘creative class’
and ‘creative cities’.18
In a sense, film – festivals and other events, as well as actual production – has become a key means to the ambition of transforming certain
Swedish cities and regions into something that resembles what the The
Economist in 2001 referred to as a ‘Bridget Jones Economy’. In film
scholar Thomas Elsaesser’s interpretation this means ‘the sense of being
a site of permanent, ongoing events’, while at the same time ‘attracting
both the local population and visitors from outside, and helping develop
an infrastructure of sociability as well as facilities appreciated by the
so-called ‘creative class’ that function all the year around’.19
To summarise, it may be proposed that in some ways Swedish cinema, at least for the time being, appears to have avoided parts of the
downward tendencies that have afflicted European cinema during the
last decades; tendencies which in Elsaesser’s verdict have been stated
as follows:
European cinema has been the big loser. For what has become undeniable is that European cinema … suffers an identity crisis and
has an image problem. With very few exceptions, films from Europe
have little direct appeal to audiences, neither as exports on a world
scale nor when competing against Hollywood films within their own
markets, be these markets national or inter-European…. The decades
of state subsidy and the various partnerships with television have not
been able to make European cinema an internationally competitive
creative industry.20
swedish film
In what follows I would like to contextualise some of the Swedish
developments from a few perspectives which take the structure of
European cinema, Elsaesser’s assessment of it, but to some extent also
global film production, into consideration.
Regions in Competition
As of 2004, in the more than thirty countries linked to the Council
of Europe’s European Audiovisual Observatory, there were 118 bodies – besides the national ones – that were based in a community, a
region or on the local level, and which all provided forms of funding,
support and/or co-production services for audio-visual production.21
Moreover, on a global level, the number 250 has been mentioned in
connection with the amount of ‘jurisdictions’ that vie for ‘runaways’;
in short, to be hubs of film production.22 Furthermore, there is an
increasing number of countries such as Germany, Iceland, the UK and
Hungary offering tax incentives – and not necessarily just for foreign
productions – to production companies.
Just as the direct support organisations, these tax incentives are all
aimed at encouraging investment, promoting national and regional
production, strengthening service infrastructures and the creation of
spin-off jobs. There are, additionally, an escalating number of national,
regional and local film commissions that struggle to tempt production
to their designated areas, essentially looking for the same benefits. In
short, competition between the many places and regions aiming to
establish themselves as production centres for either runaways or for
national projects with the occasional co-production is growing fierce.
Nevertheless, since the aggregate film production in a small European
country like Sweden probably does not generate profits on its own –
taking subsidies into account – but is currently and partly supported
because of the supposed ‘secondary’ effects on the regions where it takes
place, the situation seems much more precarious and competitive than
at first inspection. Since there are regional plans for expansion and the
Swedish authorities have not announced any intentions to introduce
tax incentives to boost the value of Swedish locations as production
sites, it may be hoped that those in charge are fully aware that it is an
area surrounded by escalating global controversy and competition that
one has absorbed oneself in.
v. before and after the new millenium
The Situation Among Film Workers
In Europe, the film production market is characterised by the prevalence
of small independent production companies. These companies are
distinguished by their low level of capitalisation and, therefore, their
restricted access to the benefits and credits of the financial market. This
is due to films rightly being perceived as a high-risk activity.23 Scandinavia and Sweden are no exception to this, with nearly all companies
contributing to the output of a given year by making just one film.
In fact, and even if the present situation, including the last decade
or so, may be described as something of a comparative upswing, the
larger, integrated players seem to have become fewer. In Sweden, one
of the two remaining vertically integrated companies, Sandrews Metronome, first sold its cinema chain in 2006 and then, eighteen months
later, proclaimed that it had decided to finally cease feature production
after some seven decades. In effect, Sandrews Metronome transformed
itself into a distributor only.
Recently, two Swedish social and economic geographers undertook a
large survey on film workers – including everything from A-functionaries
such as directors to C-functionaries, meaning semi-skilled workers of
different kinds – and how ‘flows’ of people within the sector could be
studied following the present regionalised set-up. Although intriguing
structures and movements emerged, the overall results were somewhat
downbeat, rarely indicating an especially glamorous existence for those
Only twenty-five per cent of the film workers in the survey received
seventy-five per cent or more of their income from film work.24 Most of
them worked as freelancers. With respect to how difficult it is for this
category to receive unemployment benefits in Sweden, it is noteworthy
that at the three regional production centres an average of more than
twenty-five per cent had been recipients of support during the year
of observation. As a result, many longed for more opportunities for
doing film-related work.
Furthermore, most people had to display a high degree of functional
and task flexibility, working in several capacities and in occupations at
various hierarchical levels on projects, while many also worked simultaneously outside the film sector to support themselves. In all, one of
the results of the study was that ‘the project form of film production
means that film work is temporary and that workers have limited terms
swedish film
of employment, frequently as freelancers’. It was also observed that the
actual work was not rewarded by large financial compensation, leading
the investigating scholars to conclude that the film sector is ‘a tight and
difficult sector for regular incomes’.25
In addition to this, it does not seem as if a skilled workforce has
developed around the regional centres to a large enough extent. Neither
have skilled workers or artistic talent relocated there in a substantial way,
or as the authors note (and others have before them): ‘The net flow of
film workers between regions in Sweden means that film workers from
Stockholm dominate film production in Norrbotten [around Luleå]
and make up a substantial proportion of those in Västra Götaland
[around Trollhättan].’26
To Conclude
As stated, the regional turn has been received with enthusiasm within
the Swedish film community, by industry insiders, domestic observers,
and even by onlookers from abroad.27 It is also worth repeating that its
impact has been significant. Seen as an experiment within the larger context of global and European film and cultural production – some recent
tendencies of which were briefly suggested above – it still seems reasonable to conclude that structural difficulties surround the development.
• Even if more funds have become available, few if any large, ‘soundly’
capitalised private companies have emerged. Accordingly, the fractured structure, with the industry consisting of small, individually
fragile, independent companies, typical of European cinema in
general, remains. To some extent, one may argue, this trend has
even increased.
• The observed trend among film workers, doing increasingly varied
work, does not suggest a progress towards the highly specialised
practices emblematic of a cutting-edge industry.
• The idea of regional production centres as sites for national runaways, co-productions and perhaps even Hollywood runaways
may have become more problematic than when the idea was first
conceived in the late 1980s. This, of course, is due to growing
competition, possible ‘incentive wars’, exchange rate variations,
but also because of the increasing global controversy regarding
trade rules and such that surrounds the activity.
part v – before and after the new millenium
• Since most of the funding that supports the regional movement
has been public in character, one may speak of how filmmaking
in Sweden has become even more of a mixed economy during
this period. Accordingly, and if one equates public money for film
production with support and subsidies, the regional turn has not
meant a move away from one of the features which in Elsaesser’s
view has possibly delayed European film from becoming ‘an internationally competitive creative industry’.
• As represented by the Swedish film workers in the cited survey,
one may perhaps suggest that the European ‘creative class’ is too
underprivileged and under-compensated – and too reluctant to
leave their metropolitan and urban backgrounds, one might add
– to be able to fully elevate the particular filmmaking regions into
‘creative cities’, bringing about ‘the New Economy’.
The controversial but also highly influential economist Milton Friedman famously concluded that all of the Keynesian-styled government
intervention associated with the American New Deal in the 1930s
was ‘the wrong cure for the wrong disease’.28 Having suggested how
the idea of regional film centres may be perceived as Keynesian and
interventionist in inspiration, I will not prolong the analogy by suggesting that regional production has not effected certain gains for the
regions where it takes place. Furthermore, it appears as if it has become
even harder to contest such measures in the wake of the 2008 global
financial meltdown, when Keynesian ideas have experienced a huge
revival. Nonetheless, it seems that work on the European and Swedish
film industry’s structural difficulties still has some way to go before
they are really solved.
This article is a revised, abridged and updated text previously published as
Olof Hedling (2008), ‘A New Deal in European Film? Notes on the Swedish
Regional Production Turn’, Film International, no. 5.
1 Thord Eriksson, ‘Filmbranschen överger storstan’, Dagens Nyheter, 27 January 2005.
2 Svenska filminstitutets verksamhetsberättelse 2005, Stockholm: Svenska filminstitutet,
pp. 48, 56 & 58.
swedish film
3 André Lange & Tim Westcott (2004), Public Funding for Film and Audiovisual
Works in Europe – A Comparative Approach, Strasbourg: European Audiovisual
Laboratory, p. 17.
4 Lange & Westcott (2004), p. 82.
5 Catherine Bizern & Anne-Marie Autissier (1999), Public Aid Mechanisms for the
Film and Audiovisual Industry in Europe Vol. I, Strasbourg: European Audiovisual
Observatory, p. 11.
6 Author’s public discussion with Swedish film producers Martin Persson (Anagram
Production) and Daniel Ahlquist (Yellowbird Production), June 2009, both of
whom have worked extensively within the Swedish regional production set-up.
7 Margareta Dahlström & Brita Hermelin (2007), ‘Creative Industries, Spatiality
and Flexibility: The example of film production’, Norwegian Journal of Geography
Vol. 61, No. 3, p. 114.
8 Olof Hedling (2006), ‘’Sveriges mest kända korvkiosk’ – om regionaliseringen av
svensk film’ in Erik Hedling & Ann-Kristin Wallengren, eds., Solskenslandet – svensk
film på 2000-talet, Stockholm: Atlantis, p. 44f.
9 Maaret Koskinen, (2002), ‘Konsten att förena gammalt med nytt. Form och
berättande i Jalla! Jalla! ’ in Stig Björkman, Helena Lindblad & Fredrik Sahlin,
eds. Fucking Film – Den nya svenska filmen, Stockholm: AlfaBeta, p. 105.
10 In one of few attempts at evaluating the effects of regional filmmaking, an economist at Luleå Technical University in northern Sweden came to the conclusion
that regional filmmaking in the north of Sweden represented a cost rather than a
revenue for the region. He readily admitted, though, that the difficulty of separating
different costs, effects and results was almost insurmountable. Staffan Johansson
(2004), Filmindustrin i Norrbotten: Framväxt, nuläge och ekonomisk betydelse, Luleå:
Luleå tekniska universitet.
11 Susanne Roger, ‘Filmavtalet 2006–2010’, Teknik & Människa, no. 5, (2005), p.
4. The Swedish film support agency, the Swedish Film Institute, was founded as a
result of an agreement between the government, the industry and, later on, television companies. The agreement form has been kept and has since been renegotiated
several times, most recently in 2006, and continues to be the foundation of the
Swedish support and subsidy system.
12 Leif Furhammar (2003), Filmen i Sverige: en historia i tio kapitel och en fortsättning,
Stockholm: Dialogos, p. 372.
13 Anders Ekegren quoted in Unsigned, ‘Stockholm-Mälardalsregionen satsar på
filmproduktion’, FilmNyheterna, 18 June, 2007. /70281 /, accessed 15 April 2008.
14 Author’s discussion with Danish film producer Peter Bose, Copenhagen, August
15 See Furhammar (2003), p. 374. See also Tom De Castella (2004), ‘Way Out West’,
Sight and Sound 1, January, pp. 8–9.
16 See Lange & Westcott (2004), p. 97.
17 See Roger Blomgren (2007), Den onda, den goda och den nyttiga: kulturindustrin,
filmen och regionerna, Trollhättan: Högskolan Väst, p. 90.
18 Orvar Löfgren & Robert Willim (2005), ‘Introduction: The Mandrake Mode’, in
Löfgren & Willim, eds., Magic, Culture and the New Economy, New York: Berg,
pp. 1 & 7.
part v – before and after the new millenium
19 Thomas Elsaesser (2005), European Cinema: Face to face with Hollywood, Amsterdam:
Amsterdam University Press, p. 86.
20 Elsaesser (2005), pp. 495 & 499.
21 Lange & Westcott (2004), p. 46.
22 Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, Richard Maxwell and Ting Wang (2005),
Global Hollywood 2, London: British Film Institute, p. 138.
23 Lange & Westcott (2004), p. 158.
24 Dahlström & Hermelin (2007), p. 120.
25 Dahlström & Hermelin (2007), p. 117.
26 Dahlström & Hermelin (2007), p. 117.
27 De Castella (2004), pp. 8–9.
28 Lanny Ebenstein (2007), Milton Friedman: A Biography, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 121.
Lars Gustaf Andersson is an Associate Professor of Film Studies at Lund University,
and associate editor of Journal of Aesthetics & Culture. He has published Änglarnas
barn: en studie i Pier Paolo Pasolinis filmer (1992), Skolan och de kulturella förändringarna (1999 with Magnus Persson and Jan Thavenius), as well as a number
of articles on the avant-garde and experimental film in Sweden.
Roy Andersson is a filmmaker. He debuted with En kärlekshistoria (1970) and
his most recent films were both screened at the Cannes film festival: Sånger från
andra våningen (2000) and Du levande (2007). He has published Vår tids rädsla
för allvar (1995) and, together with Kalle Boman and István Borbás, Lyckad
nedfrysning av herr Moro (1992).
Bengt Bengtsson, holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies from Stockholm University. He
wrote his dissertation on teenagers in Swedish films, Ungdom i fara: Ungdomsproblem i svensk spelfilm 1942-1962 (1998). He has done research and published
on several areas, for example Swedish television, film debates and criticism, as
well as on regional film.
Daniel Brodén holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies, and his dissertation on the history
of the Swedish crime genre in film and television, Folkhemmets skuggbilder (2008),
was nominated for the Golden Dragon Award by Gothenburg International Film
Festival. Brodén currently holds a postdoctoral position in Literature Studies, and
is working on a book on contemporary Scandinavian fiction.
Tomás Fernández Valentí, Barcelona, is a regular contributor to the film journals
Dirigido por…, Imágenes de Actualidad, Nosferatu, Quatermass and Scifiworld Magazine. He has written books on David Lean: la emoción y el espectáculo (2000), Paul
Verhoeven: carne y sangre (2001) and Martin Scorsese: un infiltrado en Hollywood
(2008). He has co-authored Frankenstein: el mito de la vida artificial (2000) and
collaborated with Festival de Sitges – the film festival of Catalonia.
Bo Florin was awarded his Ph.D. by Stockholm University in 1997 with Den
nationella stilen: Studier i den svenska filmens guldålder. His research interests
include questions of reception and style as well as interart studies, with a focus
on Swedish silent cinema. Publications include Moderna motiv: Mauritz Stiller i
retrospektiv (ed. 2001) and Regi:Victor Sjöström/Directed byVictor Sjöström (2003),
and he has contributed several articles to international journals such as Film History and Montage A/V.
Bengt Forslund is a Swedish film producer. Five of his films have been nominated for Academy Awards for best foreign language film; films by Sven Nykvist,
Jan Troell and Bo Widerberg. His dissertation was the first major biography of
Victor Sjöström and was published in English as Victor Sjöström: His Life and
His Work (1988). Since then he has written many other books and articles on
Swedish film and theatre.
Kjell Furberg is a cinema theatre historian, photographer and journalist. Among
other works, he has produced the exhibition Biografen:The Picture Palace in Sweden
for the Swedish Museum of Architecture in Stockholm (1989), and the volume on
cinemas in Sweden: Svenska biografer (2000), also available in an English edition:
Cinema Theatres in Sweden (2000).
Leif Furhammar was the second Professor of Film Studies at the University of
Stockholm. He has written extensively on Swedish film and television as well as on
other areas. He is a regular contributor to the daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter and
has made various television documentaries on Swedish film history, for example
En underbar uppfinning (1996).
Tommy Gustafsson has a Ph.D. in History and is currently a Research Fellow
at Linnæus University of Kalmar/Växjö. In 2008 he published his dissertation,
En fiende till civilisationen, on masculinity, gender relations, sexuality, and racial
stereotyping in Swedish film culture in the 1920s. He has also published articles
in Cinema Journal and Film International.
Erik Hedling is Professor of Comparative Literature at Lund University. He is the
author of Lindsay Anderson: Maverick Film-Maker (1998) and Brittiska fiktioner:
intermediala studier i film, TV, drama, prosa och poesi (2001). He is the editor and
co-editor of several books in both Swedish and English, among them Cultural
Functions of Intermedial Exploration (2002), Solskenslandet: svensk film på 2000-talet
(2006) and Regional Aesthetics: Locating Swedish Media (2010).
Olof Hedling is an Associate Professor at Lund University. He is the author of
Robin Wood: brittisk filmkritiker (2001), as well as a number of journal articles
and book chapters on the phenomenon of contemporary regional film production
in Europe and Sweden. He is also the co-editor of Regional Aesthetics: Locating
Swedish Media (2010).
Jan Holmberg holds a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from Stockholm University. A
former head programmer of the Swedish Cinematheque, he is now Executive
Manager of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation and Curator of the Ingmar Bergman
Archive. His publications include Förtätade bilder: filmens närbilder i historisk och
teoretisk belysning (2000).
Chris Holmlund is Professor at the Department of Film, University of Western
Ontario. She is the author of Impossible Bodies (2002), editor of American Cinema of the 1990s (2008), co-editor (with Justin Wyatt) of Contemporary American
swedish film
Independent Film (2005) and (with Cynthia Fuchs) of Between the Sheets, In the
Streets: Queer, Lesbian, Gay Documentary (1997). She is currently working on a
number of book projects, among them The Ultimate Stallone Reader: Sylvester
Stallone as Star, Icon, Auteur.
Ã…sa Jernudd is an Associate Professor in Media and Communication Studies/Film
at Örebro University. She has published on early Swedish film exhibition and
culture, early travelogues as part of a wider context of visual culture and on how
cinema and cinema memory is important to local identity in rural areas.
Mats Jönsson holds a Ph.D. in Film Studies from Lund University. He is the author
of Film och historia: Historisk hollywoodfilm 1960–2000 (2004) and the co-editor
of Välfärdsbilder: Svensk film utanför biografen (2008), Media and Monarchy in
Sweden (2009), and Regional Aesthetics: Locating Swedish Media (2010).
Mia Krokstäde has a background as a researcher in both film and gender studies.
One of her interests has been Swedish film, interpreted through feminist and
queer theory. A current project is problematising the concept of body /machine
and gender in mainstream science fiction films.
Mariah Larsson is currently a Research Fellow at Malmö University, researching
the local exhibition of pornographic films in the 1970s. She received her Ph.D.
in film studies at Lund University. Since then, she has taught film studies and a
number of other subjects at Lund, Växjö and Malmö Universities. She has published Skenet som bedrog: Mai Zetterling och det svenska sextiotalet (2006) as well
as several book chapters and journal articles.
Madeliene Lilja is a Ph.D. student at the department of Media and Communication at Örebro University, where she also teaches film and media studies. Her
research focuses on Svenska Biografteatern’s news journals in 1914.
Anders Marklund’s research interests relate to Swedish, Scandinavian and European
cinema, especially with a focus on popular film. He is founder and principal editor
of Journal of Scandinavian Cinema and has previously published Upplevelser av
svensk film: en kartläggning av genrer inom svensk film under åren 1985–2000 (2004)
as well as a number of articles. He has taught film studies at the Universities of
Gothenburg, Lund, Malmö and Växjö.
Johan Nilsson is a Ph.D. student at the department of Media and Communication
at Örebro University, where he also teaches film studies. His Ph.D. project covers
satire in American cinema during the 1990s, especially in relation to historical
events and persons.
Astrid Söderbergh Widding is Professor of Cinema Studies at Stockholm University.
Her research relates to general issues of film aesthetics, theories and technologies,
with specific emphasis on Scandinavian cinema. She is editor-in-chief of Journal
of Aesthetics & Culture. Publications include Nordic National Cinemas (with Tytti
Soila and Gunnar Iversen, 1998), Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam
(co-edited with John Fullerton, 2000), Konst som rörlig bild (ed. 2006). She is
Chair of the Ingmar Bergman foundation and a regular contributor on film and
television to Svenska Dagbladet and several journals.
Bjørn Sørenssen is Professor of Film and Media at the department of Art and
Media Studies, Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
His principal research interests are documentary and new media technology. He
has published on these and other areas both internationally and in Norwegian.
Per Olov Qvist, Ph.D., has published widely on Swedish cinema, for example
Folkhemmets bilder: modernisering, motstånd och mentalitet i den svenska 30-talsfilmen (1995). Together with Peter von Bagh he has written Guide to the Cinema of
Sweden and Finland (2000), and, with Lars Ã…hlander, edited the two volumes on
Swedish film and television actors Svenska skådespelare i film och TV 1897–2000.
Bd 1–2, (2002).
Ann-Kristin Wallengren is an Associate Professor in Film Studies, Lund University. Currently, she is working on a study of film and Swedish-Americans. She has
published on film music, En afton på Röda Kvarn: Svensk stumfilm som musikdrama
(1998), on the aesthetics and ideology in educational programming in television,
UR-bilder: Utbildningsprogram som TV-genre (2005), as well as an anthology and
a number of articles on Swedish film.
Anna Westerståhl Stenport, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Scandinavian
Studies at the University of Illinois, where she also lectures on several other areas.
She has written extensively about Lukas Moodysson and contemporary Swedish film. She is also the author of Locating August Strindberg’s Prose: Modernism,
Transnationalism, Setting (2010).
Rochelle Wright is Professor Emerita of Scandinavian Studies at the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has published works on Swedish literature as
well as on film, for example The Visible Wall: Jews and Other Ethnic Outsiders in
Swedish Film (1998). She is managing editor of Journal of Scandinavian Cinema.
Anders Wilhelm Åberg is an Associate Professor in Film studies at Linnæus
University of Kalmar/Växjö. He has published a book on the Swedish filmmaker Vilgot Sjöman, and articles on televised fiction, film criticism, and, more
recently, on Swedish children’s film. Presently he is working on a research project
on Film and the Swedish Welfare State, a collaboration between Växjö and Lund
Universities. The focus of Åberg’s research within this project is children’s cinema
as national cinema.
1408 307
491 241, 243–44, 247
65, 66 och jag/‘65, 66 and I’ 119, 130
90 minuter 90-tal 276–7
Aalbeck Jensen, Peter 327, 331
ABBA – The Movie 183, 313
Abel, Richard 67, 70
Ã…berg, Anders Wilhelm 218, 241, 243
Ã…berg, Lasse 132, 184
Abramson, Hans 199, 294
Ã…dalen 31 /Adalen 31 200
Adam & Eva 308
Adams, Maud 310
Adolf Armstarke/‘Adolf Strongarm’ 119
Adolf klarar skivan /‘Adolf Saves the Day’
Adorno, T. W. 207
Aghed, Jan 40, 253, 269
Ã…hlander, Lars 103, 196, 197
Ahlberg, Mac (aka Bert Torn) 183
Åhlen, Gösta 257
Ã…hlin, Per 308
Ahlquist, Daniel 344
Ahrne, Marianne 271
Ã…kerhielm, Helge 158, 160
Al Fakir, Aminah 299
Alandh, Tom 172
Alfe, Thure 124–5
Alfredson, Daniel 285–6, 289, 291
Alfredson, Hans (Hasse) 11, 183, 204,
241, 270, 285
Alfredson, Tomas 285, 308
Alias 309
All Hell Let Loose/Hus i helvete 292, 296,
Allberg, Ragnar 108
Alm, Martin 143
Almqvist, Stig 130, 133
Almroth, Greta 88
Älskande par/Loving Couples 239, 268
Älskarinnan /Mistress 239
Alsterlund, Liv 193
Ålund, Aleksandra 196–97
Amorosa 242, 272, 279
Amuletten aka Emigrant /‘ The Amulet’ 135
Anderson, Lindsay 260
Andersson, Bibi 263, 266
Andersson, Harriet 216, 226–7, 263
Andersson, Kjell 197
Andersson, Lars Gustaf 218, 229, 237
Andersson, Olof 118
Andersson, Per 333
Andersson, Philip J. 143
Andersson, Roy 239–40, 272, 274, 276,
278, 307, 323
Änglagård /House of Angels 308, 325–7
Anita – ur en tonårsflickas dagbok /Anita –
Swedish Nymphet 185, 205–209
Anna Stina i Stockholm /‘Anna Stina in
Stockholm’ 48
Annonsera /‘Advertise!’ 119, 129
Ansikten i skugga /‘Faces with Shadows’
Ansiktet /The Magician 220, 223
Anstey, Edgar 175
Anthony, Anna 329
Antonioni, Michelangelo 40
Apan /The Ape 329
Apelgren, Stephan 322
Äppelkriget /The Apple War 270–71
Argento, Dario 38
Aristophanes 263
Arnold, Eric 196
Arnstberg, Karl-Olov 269
Arrbäck, Gunnel 22, 39
Arvedson, Ragnar 119, 129
As it is in Heaven /SÃ¥ som i himmelen 307
Asplund, Erik Gunnar 28
Åström, Ted 192
Atmo 323
Atonement of Gosta Berling, The /Gösta
Berlings Saga 81, 90
Att angöra en brygga /‘Docking the Boat’
August, Pernilla 309
Augustas lilla felsteg/‘Augusta’s little Misstep’ 124, 133
Aus dem Leben der Marionetten /From the
Life of the Marionettes 223
Autissier, Anne-Marie 344
Axelsson, Sun 269
Azizi, Bibbi 301
Bååth, Albert Ulrick 257
Babylonsjukan /‘ The Babylon Disease’ 286
Bacall, Lauren 37
Bäddat för lusta /‘The Bed Made for Lust’
205, 213
Bagh, Peter von 16
Bagher, Reza 292, 298, 300, 303–4
Bailey, Fenton 208
Baltutlämningen /A Baltic Tragedy 295
Bara en mor/Only a Mother 216
Bara prata lite/Talk 328
Barbato, Randy 208
Barnvagnen /‘The Pram’ 239
Barsotti, Carlo 295
Barton, Arnold H. 143
BÃ¥ten 260
Bauman, Schamyl 119, 121, 126, 127, 147
Bazin, André 274–5
Because the Night 329
Beck 285
Beethoven, Ludwig van 225
Before the Storm /Före stormen 292, 296,
Beijer, Harald 150
Bengtsson, Bengt 145, 147, 159
Bengtsson, Bengt-Ã…ke 188
Bengtsson, Gustaf 99
Bengtsson, Jan Christer 238
Benjamin 294
Benrath, Martin 223
Beredskapspojkar/‘Mobilization Boys’ 107
Berg, Gustaf 78–9
Bergdahl, Gunnar 75
Bergdahl, Victor 73–4
Bergenstråhle, Johan 172
Bergh, Magnus 238
Bergius, Harald 196
Berglund, Erik, ‘Bullen’ 111, 151
Bergman, Bo (B B-n) 79, 81
Bergman, Hjalmar 111
Bergman, Ingmar 9, 12, 16, 63, 66, 70,
72, 74–5, 89, 107, 117, 144–7, 153,
155–7, 162, 216–8, 219–28, 240–1,
244, 251, 258, 263, 268, 271–2, 288,
291, 295, 303, 305–7, 347, 349
Bergman, Ingrid 107–13, 115
Bergman, Stina 113
Bergom Larsson, Maria 219, 228
Bergström, Helena 286
Bergström, Lasse 269
Bernadotte, Wilhelm (Prince Wilhelm)
Bernal, Gael García 337
Berthels, Theodor 97
Besson, Luc 310
Bier, Susanne 309
Big Lebowski, The 309
Birkvad, Søren 181
Birro, Peter 305
Bizern, Catherine 344
Björk 337
Björkman, Carl (C B–n) 131, 133
Björkman, Gustaf 44
Björkman, Stig 221, 228, 269, 305, 325,
Björkstén, Ingmar 200, 204
Björnberg, Carl (Jens Flik) 103
Bjørnson, Bjørnstjerne 73
Björnstrand, Gunnar 220, 223, 268
Bläckstadius 133
Blanck, Dag 143
Bleka greven /‘The Pale Count’ 120
Blom, Maria 323, 325–6, 329
Blomgren, Roger 75, 344
Blomkvist, MÃ¥rten 197
Bogart, Humphrey 37
Bolander, Hugo 153
Boman, Barbro 218, 235
Bordwell, David 11, 15, 61, 66, 67, 70
Borglund, Harry (Hb) 133
Borglund, Tore 262
Borgström, Hilda 78
Början /Beginning 230
Börjild, Sten (Grip) 133
Bornebusch, Arne 127–8, 133
Bose, Peter 344
Bosse, Harriet 89
Bouveng, Nils 81–2
Branagh, Kenneth 285
Brandeby, Lasse 289
Brantås, Ulf 328
Brewster, Ben 62
Brijany, Hassan 300
Broberg, Gunnar 103
Brodén, Daniel 184, 198, 203
Bröderna Lejonhjärta /The Lionheart Brothers 194
Bröderna Mozart /The Mozart Brothers
272, 279–81
Bröderna Östermans huskors /‘The Österman Brothers’ Virago’ (1913, 1925 &
1932) 124, 125, 133
Bröllopet på Ulfåsa /TheWedding at Ulfåsa
Bromhead, Alfred 60
Brooks, Thor 120
Browning, Tod 36
Brunius, John W. 73, 94, 145
Bryde, Vilhelm 108
Buber, Martin 276–7
Buñuel, Luis 73, 94, 145
Burch, Noel 62
Burroughs, William 250
Callot, Jacques 274–5
Carlsson, Carl-Axel 61
Carlsson, Gunnar 332
Carlsten, Rune 73
Carter, Nick 69
Casanova 312, 314–6, 319
Castella, Tom De 344–5
Cava, Gregory La 130
Cederstrand, Sölve 122, 127, 137
Celsing, Peter 30, 265
Chandler, Raymond 37
Chaplin, Charlie 108, 234
Charlotte Löwensköld /Charlotte Lowenskoeld 91
Chocolat 312–15
Chopra, Joyce 176
Cider House Rules, The 310–1, 313, 315,
Cinema Art 289
Claesson, Stellan 118
Clemens, Lennart 33
Close Relations /Tjocka släkten 127
Cocteau, Jean 231
Coen, Ethan & Joel 309
Collberg, Britta 262
Collymore, Peter 269
Container 329, 330, 333
Conway, Jack 130
Coogan, Jackie 229
Cooper, Merian C. 318
Cornell, Jonas 184
Corner, John 181
Cowie, Elisabeth 165, 168
Cowie, Peter 65, 70, 269
Crawford, Joan 113
Crescendo film 282
Crisis /Kris 145, 155, 223
Cromwell, John 112
Cronqvist, Marie 212, 269
Cukor, George 113
Dahlbeck, Eva 224
Dahlqvist, Ã…ke 110
Dahlström, Alexandra 329
Dahlström, Margareta 344–5
Daldry, Stephen 309
Dalin, Alfred 86
Dallas Howard, Bryce 337
Dalle, Peter 286, 287, 289
Damiano, Gerard 185, 205
Danielsson, Elsa (Marfa) 104
Danielsson, Tage 11, 183, 204, 241, 270
Där fyren blinkar/‘Where the Lighthouse
Flashes’ 97–8
Dawn of Love/Ingmarssönerna 88, 90
De falska, eller hvi suckar det tungt uti
kvarnen 256
De Grazia, Edward 255
De Ofrivilliga /Involuntary 323
Dear John 310
Den bästa av mödrar /Äidestä parhain
/Mother of Mine 309
Den gamla kvarnen 258
Den ljusnandeframtid /‘The Bright Future’
Den osynliga muren /The InvisibleWall 294
Den vita sporten /The White Sport 200
Deneuve, Catherine 337
Derailed 307
Det gamla sagolandet /The Old Land of
Dreams 140
Det regnar på vår kärlek /It Rains on Our
Love 145, 147, 153–4
Det sjunde inseglet /The Seventh Seal 221,
Det sociala arvet /The Social Contract
Det stora äventyret /The Great Adventure
Diesen, Jan Anders 181
Djurberg, Bengt 125
Doctorow, E. L. 312
Dollar 111
Dom kallar oss mods /They Call Us Misfits
37–8, 173–6, 178–9, 181, 239
Donner, Jörn 239, 295
Drew, Robert 176
Dreyer, Carl Theodor 63, 230–31
Drömkåken /‘The Dream House’ 289
Du gamla du fria /Thou Old, Thou Free
128, 138–40
Du levande/You, the Living 272, 307
Du är inte klok, Madicken /You’re Out of
Your Mind, Madicken 192, 197
Dudnik, Stefan 103
Duerell, Carl 125
Dunås, Jon 257, 260, 262
Dymling, Carl Anders 107–8, 118
Dynamit /‘Dynamite’ 150–1, 157–8
Ebbesen, Dagmar 107, 125
Ebenstein, Lanny 345
Edel, Uli 330
Edgren, Gustaf 100, 106–7, 125, 129, 133
Edholm, Rafael 299
Edlund /Edlund-Wester, Elisabet 196–7
Edström, Mauritz 269
Edwall, Allan 192, 197
Edwardsson, Ã…ke 285
Ehrenborg, Lennart 256–8, 260–2
Ehrenkrona, Olof 39
Eisenstein, Sergei 36, 231
Ek, Sverker 238
Ekborg, Lars 226
Ekegren, Anders 344
Ekerot, Bengt 150
Ekland, Britt 310
Eklund, Bengt 153, 155, 221
Ekman, Gösta (older) 110–2, 145
Ekman, Gösta (younger) 145, 284
Ekman, Hasse 11, 107, 111, 145–6,
161–2, 168, 223
Ekman, Marie-Louise 271
Ekström, Anders 60
Elkington, Trevor G. 304, 332
Ellis, Richard 255
Elsaesser, Thomas 339–40, 343, 345
Elton, Arthur 175
Elvira Madigan 110
Emelie Högqvist/‘Emelie Högqvist’ 116–8
Emigrant aka Amuletten /‘ The Amulet’135
Emil i Lönneberga /Emil in Lönneberga
192, 195
Emil och griseknoen /Emil and the Piglet
Emmerich, Roland 309
En enda natt /Only One Night 109, 113–5
En kärlekshistoria /A Swedish Love Story
239, 241, 272, 274
En kärleksnatt vid Öresund /‘A Night of
Love by the Öresund’ 122
En kille och en tjej /‘A Guy and a Girl’
183, 312
En kvinnas ansikte/A Woman’s Face, 109,
En pizza i Jordbro /‘A Pizza in Jordbro’ 172
En söndag i september/A Sunday in September 239
En uppgörelse i den undre världen 328
En, men ett lejon /‘One, but a Lion’ 118
Endre, Lena 223
Engdahl, Carl 45, 86
Engström, Albert 124
Enligt lag/‘According to the law’ 233
Enquist, P. O. 89, 249, 254, 295
Eriksson, Göran O. 254
Eriksson, Thord 343
Erlander, Tage 268
Erskine, Ralph 265–6, 269
Esping, Ingrid 238
Espinosa, Daniel 286
Essler, Berit 189
Ett anständigt liv /A Respectable Life 173–5
Ett hål i mitt hjärta /A Hole in My Heart
286, 329–30, 333
Ett paradis utan biljard /A Paradise without
Billiards 296
Europa film 106, 122, 128, 182
Evil /Ondskan 307
Everlasting Moments / Maria Larssons eviga
ögonblick 242, 321
Ewald, Per 66, 70
Exorcist, The 309
Exorcist: The Beginning 309
Eyes Wide Shut 309
Fabik, Teresa 286
Fadren /The Father 45
Fagerström-Olsson, Agneta 271, 295
Fahlström, Öyvind 232
Fairbanks, Douglas 229
Falk, Gunnar 262
Familjen som var en karusell /‘The Family
that was a Carousel’ 119
Fängelse/Prison 146
Fången på Karlstens fästning/‘The Prisoner
of Karlsten’s Fortress’ 69
Fanny och Alexander 272, 295
Fänrik Ståls sägner/‘Tales of Ensign Stål’
45, 86
Fant, Kenne 157
Faragó, Katinka 291
Fares, Fares 296
Fares, Jan 304
Fares, Josef 292, 296, 303, 323, 325–7,
Fargo 309
Farliga vägar/Dangerous Ways 294
Fassbinder, Rainer Werner 252
Fastbom, Ernst 124
Fata Morgana akaThe Mirage/Hägringen
218, 230, 233–7
Father, The/Fadren 45
Faustman, Erik ‘Hampe’160
Ferrara, Abel 40
Feuillade, Louis 67–8
Filmen om Sverige/The Film about
Sweden 140
Fischer, Gunnar 222
Fischer, Siegfried 124
Fleming, Victor 112
Flicka och hyacinter/Girl With Hyacinths
11, 145–6, 161–8
Flickan från tredje raden / ‘The Girl From
the Third Row’ 145
Flickan som lekte med elden /The GirlWho
Played with Fire 285
Flickorna /The Girls 242, 263–9, 272
Flickorna från Gamla Stan /‘The Girls from
the Old Town’ 127
Flinth, Peter 284
Flodén, Torsten (Cyrano) 123
Florida, Richard 339
Florin, Bo 74, 76, 84
Florin, Ola 333
Flottare med färg/‘Colourful Floaters’ 160
Flygare-Carlén, Emilie 68
Flynt, Larry 312
Foerster, Svante 247, 254
Fogelström, Per Anders 157, 160, 226
Folket i Simlångsdalen /‘The People of the
Simlång Valley’ 97–8, 104
Ford, John 319
Före stormen /Before the Storm 292, 296,
Forman, Milos 309, 311, 312
Forsberg, Lars Lennart 172, 259, 262
Forsén, Olof 257
Forser, Thomas 254
Forslund, Bengt 75, 108–9, 118, 258
Forssell, Lars 232
Förstadsprästen /‘The Suburban Vicar’ 70
Fowler, Catherine 218
Franco, Francisco 245
Franju, Georges 37
Fraser, John 203, 204
Frenzy/Hets 107, 118, 147–8, 157, 216,
221, 225
Fresnadillo, Juan Carlos 309
Freud, Sigmund 209
Fribergs 129, 132
Fridh, Gertrud 155
Fridlund, Hans 262
Fridolf i lejonkulan /‘Fridolf in the Lion’s
Den’ 126
Friedan, Betty 210
Friedkin, William 200, 309
Friedman, Milton 343
Frisk, Ragnar 160
Fröken Julie/Miss Julie (1912) 45
Fröken Julie/Miss Julie (1951) 216
From the Life of the Marionettes /Aus dem
Leben der Marionetten 223
Fruet, William 39
Fucking Åmål /Show Me Love 286, 323,
327–9, 331, 337
Fuller, Sam 37
Fullerton, John 61, 65, 70, 349
Furberg, Kjell 21, 23, 33
Furhammar, Leif 10, 15–6, 64, 66, 70, 74,
86, 91–2, 119, 133, 147, 156, 159–60,
179, 213, 262, 264, 269–70, 273, 344
Furuhagen, Birgitta 196
Gado, Frank 226, 228
Gamble, Sven-Erik 157–8
Gandini, Erik 172, 323
Garbo, Greta 74
Gardener, The/Trädgårdsmästaren 40, 77
Garm, Tora (Masque) 97, 104
Garside, E. B. 237
Gatan /‘The Street’ 155
Gehring, Wes D. 168
Genet, Jean 246
Gentele, Jeanette 262
Gerhard, Jane 209, 210, 213
Giliap 272
Girl from the Marsh Croft,The/Tösen från
Stormyrtorpet 72, 82, 87–8
Girl Who Played with Fire, The /Flickan
som lekte med elden 285
Girl With Hyacinths /Flicka och hyacinter
11, 145–6, 161–8
Girl With the Dragon Tattoo /Män som
hatar kvinnor 284, 308
Girls, The/Flickorna 242, 263–9, 272
Gish, Lillian 74
Gjellerup, Karl 73
Glorfinkel, Elena 211, 213
God afton, herr Wallenberg/Good Evening
Mr Wallenberg 272
God’s Way/Karin Ingmarsdotter 88
Goda vänner och trogna grannar/‘Good
Friends and Faithful Neighbours’ 129
Golden Eye 310
Good Evening Mr Wallenberg/God afton,
herr Wallenberg 272
Good Will Hunting 309
Gösta Berlings Saga /The Atonement of
Gosta Berling 81, 90
Govil, Nitin 345
Goya’s Ghost 309, 312
Grabbarna i 57:an /‘The Boys of No. 57’
Graffman, Göran 187, 192
Graffman, Per 302
Granath, Björn 192
Grede, Kjell 272, 291
Greer, Germaine 210–1
Greider, Berit 203
Greider, Göran 203
Grevarna på Svansta /‘The Counts at Svansta’ 14, 97–8
Grevenius, Herbert (Gvs) 104, 223
Grierson, John 169, 172, 175
Grosbard, Ulu 237
Grupp 13 200
Gränsen /The Limit 304
Grönstedt, Olle 39
Guido, Valentin (Henri) 104
Guillou, Jan 39
Gunnar Hedes saga /‘The Story of Gunnar
Hede’ 89
Gunnarsson, Björn 203
Gunning, Tom 60, 67, 70
Gunvall, Per 187–9, 191
Gustafsson, Björn 193
Gustafsson, Lars 254
Gustafsson, Tommy 74–5, 92, 103
Gycklarnas afton /Sawdust and Tinsel aka
The Naked Night 146, 307
Gyllensten, Lars 247
Gyurkovicsarna /‘The Gyurkovics
Family’ 94
Hachiko – A Dog’s Story 310
Håfström, Mikael 307, 329
Hagemann, Karen 103
Häger, Olle 172
Hägg, Maud 206, 208, 211, 213
Häggbom, Råland 38, 179
Hagman, Emy 188
Hägringen /The Mirage aka Fata Morgana
218, 230, 233–7
HÃ¥kansson, Sebastian 193
Hald, Peter 184
Hall, Berta 221
Halldoff, Jan 183
Hallström, Lasse 11, 183, 310, 311–4,
Halta Lena ochVindögde Per/‘Lame Lena
and Walleyed Per’ (1910, 1924 & 1933)
124, 127
Hamilton, Alastair 237
Hammarkullen 305
Hamnstad /Port of Call 147, 153–54,
221–22, 226
Hamsun 242
Hamsun, Knut 73, 242
Han, hon och pengarna /‘He, She and the
Money’ 120
Hansen, Kaja 91
Hansen, Miriam 67, 70
Hanson, Lars 74, 87
Hansson, Kerstin 192
Hansson, Per Albin 13
Happy Mother’s Day 176
Här är ditt liv /This is Your Life 257
Här är polisen 204
Här har du ditt liv /Here is Your Life 239,
242, 261, 262
Här kommer Pippi Långstrump /Pippi
Longstocking; Pippi Goes on Board 189
Härlig är jorden 276–7
Harlin, Renny 309
Härö, Klaus 309
Harry Munter 272
Hartleb, Rainer 172
Harvey, Ann-Charlotte 143
Hasselblad 46, 64, 66, 68, 71
Hasseåtage (Hans Alfredson and Tage
Danielsson) 11, 183, 270, 285
Hassner, Rune 181
Hasso, Signe 117
Hawks, Howard 37
Hazell, Bo 103
Hedenius, Ingemar 220
Hederberg, Hans 201
Hedge, Peter 311
Hedling, Erik 11, 15, 181, 217, 219,
227–8, 269, 332–3, 344
Hedling, Olof 17, 323, 333–4, 343–4
Hedqvist, Ivan 73
Heimersson, Staffan 255
Hellberg, Thomas 201
Hellbom, Olle 183, 187, 189–94
Hellmann, Eugén 84
Hellström, Gunnar 160, 279
Hemberg, Oscar 90
Henning, Eva 224
Henrikson, Anders 115, 119–20, 129–30,
137, 147, 152, 294
Henriksson, Krister 223, 284
Here is Your Life/Här har du ditt liv 239,
242, 261, 262
Hermand, Jost 237
Hermelin, Brita 344–5
Herngren, MÃ¥ns 308
Herr Arnes pengar/The Treasure of Arne
89, 140
Herr Husassistenten /‘Mr Housemaid’ 129
Hets /Frenzy 107, 118, 147–8, 157, 216,
221, 225
Heyerdahl, Thor 196
Hildebrand, Weyler 106, 120, 124, 126, 129
Hip hip hora /The Ketchup Effect 286
Hirdwall, Ingvar 202
Hitchcock, Alfred 37, 107
Hjertén, Hanserik 269
Hjort, Mette 332
Hoax, The 311–2, 314–6, 319
Hoffmann, Raimund 238
Hofman-Uddgren, Anna 45
Höglund, Gunnar 295
Högqvist, Emilie 116
Hole in My Heart, A /Ett hål i mitt hjärta
286, 329–30, 333
Holm, Hannes 308
Holm, Magda 98
Holm, Rut 124
Holmberg, Jan 21–2, 34, 42
Holmgren, Per G 153
Holmlund, Chris 184, 186, 196
Holmqvist, Lasse 257, 260
Hon dansade en sommar/One Summer of
Happiness 144, 216, 222
Hon kom som en vind /‘She Came Like
the Wind’ 160
Hooper, Tobe 39
Horkheimer, Max 207
Horney, Nils (Partner) 104
House of Angels /Änglagård 308, 325–7
Howard, Leslie 36, 112
Hubner, Laura 16
Hughes, Howard 314, 319
Hugo, Per 124
Hugo och Josefin /Hugo and Josephine 272
Hultén, Pontus 235
Hus i helvete/All Hell Let Loose 292, 296,
Hustru för en dag/‘Wife for a Day’ 130
Hyllienmark, Gunnar 232
I am Curious – Blue/Jag är nyfiken – blå
37, 241, 243, 249, 253
I am Curious – Yellow /Jag är nyfiken – gul
14, 37–8, 241, 243–47, 249–55
I natt eller aldrig/‘Tonight or never’ 118
Ibsen, Henrik 73, 79, 80–1, 87
Ibsen, Tancred 119
Idestam-Almquist, Bengt (Robin Hood)
10, 15, 66, 71, 83, 85, 104, 123, 130,
132, 133, 162
Idsøe, Vibeke 308
Idström, Nils (Karsten Wimmermark)
155, 159
Ingeborg Holm /Margaret Day 11, 15, 46,
65, 70, 77–9
Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd /The Flight of the
Eagle 242
Ingmarsarvet /‘Ingmar’s Inheritance’ 90
Ingmarssönerna /Dawn of Love 88, 90
Intacto 309
Intermezzo 109–11, 113–4, 116–7
Involuntary/De Ofrivilliga 323
Irving, Clifford 311, 314, 316, 319
Irving, John 311
It Rains on Our Love/Det regnar på vår
kärlek 145, 147, 153–4
Iversen, Gunnar 16, 273
Jack 183
Jäckel, Anne 322
Jacobsson, Hugo 125
Jaenzon, Henrik 76, 78
Jaenzon, Julius 30, 73, 76, 82–3, 116
Jag är med barn /‘I am Pregnant’ 312
Jag är nyfiken – blå /I am Curious – Blue
37, 241, 243, 249, 253
Jag är nyfiken – gul /I am Curious – Yellow
14, 37–8, 241, 243–7, 249–55
Jag gifta mig – aldrig/‘I get Married?
Never!’ 124, 126, 133
Jag heter Stelios /Foreigners 295
Jahr, Adolf 119, 130
Jalla! Jalla! 292, 296, 300–5, 323, 325,
327, 344
Janson, Tobias 261–62
Janssons frestelse /‘ Jansson’s Temptation’
148, 350
Janzon, Bengt 138
Jarl, Stefan 11, 37, 172–5, 177–181, 233,
239–40, 330
Jarméus, Inger 213
Järrel, Stig 148, 189, 211
Jens MÃ¥nsson i Amerika /Jens Mons in
America 138–9, 141
Jernudd, Åsa 21, 46–7, 58, 170
Jerselius, Kjell 133
Johansson, Ivar 122, 127–8
Johansson, Ivar Lo 197
Johansson, Staffan 344
John-Stevas, Norman St 255
Johnson, Mary 89
Johnson, Virginia 209–10, 212
Jönsson, Lars 323, 326–9, 331–2
Jönsson, Mats 169, 269
Jönsson, Nine-Christine 153, 221
Josephson, Erland 226, 294
Juberg, Birger 108
Kafka, Franz 234
KÃ¥ge, Ivar 97
Käll, Per-Olov 248, 254
Kalle på Spången /‘Kalle’s Inn’ 107, 350
Kallifatides, Theodor 295
Kalling, Ivar 100–1
Kaminski, Albert Hanan 308
Karabuda, Barbara & Günes 295
Karin Ingmarsdotter/God’s Way 88
Karl XII 94, 145
Kärlek och landstorm /‘Love and the Home
Guard’ 122, 124
Kärleken segrar/TheVictory of Love 65, 70
Kärlekens språk /The Language of Love 205
Karlge, Melize 301
Karlsson på taket/Karlsson on the Roof 187,
190, 308
Kaufman, Andy 312
Kaufman, Philip 309
Kendrick, Walter 255
Kesey, Ken 311
Ketchup Effect, The/Hip hip hora 286
Kinnamon, Melinda 300
Kinsey, Alfred 209–10, 212
Kjellblad, Klara 95, 97
Kjellgren, Lars-Eric 157
Kjellin, Alf 118, 221
Klänningen /‘The Dress’ 258
Klercker, Georg af 46, 63–71, 73, 76
Klerk, Nico de 61–2
Kloka gubben /‘The Wise Old Man’ 125
Koedt, Anne 209, 213
Konstgjorda Svensson /‘Artificial Svensson’
Körkarlen /Thy Soul Shall BearWitness aka
The Phantom Chariot akaThe Phantom
Carriage 72, 79, 81–4, 88
Koskinen, Maaret 12, 16, 305, 344
Kris /Crisis 145, 155, 223–4
Kristianstad Film Museum 45
Kristianstads Biograf-Teater 26, 45
Krohg, Christian 80
Krok, Nils 11, 15, 77–8
Krokstäde, Mia 146, 161, 168
Krusenstjerna, Agnes von 279
Kubrick, Stanley 309
Kungsleden /Obsession 295
Kurlandsky, Jesper 329
Kvarnen /‘The Windmill’ 94–8, 101
Kvarteret Korpen /Raven’s End 239
Kvinnodröm /Dreams 224–225
Kvinnorna kring Larsson /‘The Women
around Larsson’ 127
Kyrkoherden /The Lustful Vicar 183
L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat /TheTrain Arrives at the Station 170
La Sortie des usines Lumière/Workers Leaving the Factory 170
Lagerlöf, Selma 10, 73–4, 82–3, 86–91,115
Lagerwall, Sture 117, 131
Lågor i dunklet/‘Flames in the Gloom’ 107
Lake, Marilyn 103
Lamm, Staffan 233
Landgré, Inga 223
Lange, André 344–5
Language of Love,The/Kärlekens språk 205
Länsberg, Olle 221
Larsson, Carl 297
Larsson, Maria Bergom 219
Larsson, Mariah 9, 20, 70, 144, 184, 205,
213, 216, 242, 263, 270, 284, 333
Larsson, Stieg 285, 334
Larsson, William 124
Larsson, Ã…sa 322
Larsson i andra giftet /‘Second-Marriage
Larsson’ 127
Lassgård, Rolf 284
Last Gasp, The/Sista skriket 63
Låt den rätte komma in /Let the Right One
In 285, 308–9
Laughing Policeman, The 199
Laurot, Edouard 233
Lavant, Denis 337
Lawrence, D. H. 250
Leacock, Richard 176
Leander, Zarah 107
Lehman, Peter 213
Leigh, Mike 330
Lennerhed, Lena 213, 254
Lester, Richard 175
Levenson, Christopher 237
Liliedahl, Ellen (Lill) 118
Lilla spöket Laban – Spökdags /‘Laban the
Little Ghost: Spooky Time’ 308
Lilja, Madeliene 242, 256
Lilja 4-ever/Lilya 4-ever 286, 328, 330, 333
Limit, The/Gränsen 304
Lind, Dagny 223
Lindberg, Christina 205, 207
Lindbergh, Charles 142
Lindblad, Helena 304–5, 344
Lindblom, Gunnel 263, 266, 271
Lindblom, Leif 322
Linden, Gustaf 135
Lindgren, Arne 232
Lindgren, Astrid 86, 183, 184, 186–9,
191–7, 308
Lindlöf, John 122
Lindqvist, Jan 37, 173, 177, 180, 239, 240
Lindqvist, John Ajvide 285
Lindqvist, Märta (Quelqu’une) 103–4
Lindqvist, Ragnar (Refil) 104
Lindskog, Annika 332
Lindstedt, Carl-Gustaf 201
Lindström, Ulla 196
Lingheim, Emil 107
Livingston, Paisley 12, 16
Ljungberg, Rune 205
Lloyd, Phyllida 309
Loach, Ken 330
Löfgren, Marianne 115, 223
Löfgren, Orvar 196, 344
Lördagskvällar/‘Saturday Evenings’ 121,
126, 127, 133
Lovelace, Linda 208
Loving Couples /Älskande par 239, 268
Löwenthal, Ivar (Ive) 133
Lukács, György 277
Lumière brothers 170
Lundberg, Frans 45, 65, 71
Lundborg, Herman 103
Lundell, Nils 95, 97
Lundell, Ulf 183
Lundgren, Dolph 309
Lundkvist, Artur 235, 253
Lundquist, Daniel 333
Lundquist, Torsten 130
MacDermot, Galt 312
Mackan 271
Macnab, Geoffrey 16
Madicken på Junibacken /Madicken of
Junibacken 192, 197
Madonna 308
Madsén, Lars 257
Magician, The/Ansiktet 220, 223
Magnusson, Charles 15, 26, 45, 46, 63,
73, 76, 78, 82, 86–8
Magnusson, Lars 196–7
Mailer, Norman 251
Malm, Ulfva W. 133
Malmberg, Eric 136
Malmös Biografteater 25
Malmsten, Birger 224
Mamma Mia! 309
Mamma Mu och kråkan /Mamma Moo
& Crow 308
Mammoth 307, 328–330, 337
Mandal, Gustaf 234
Mankell, Henning 284, 332
Mannen på taket /Man on the Roof 183,
Mannen som slutade röka /‘The Man who
Quit Smoking’ 270
Manns, Torsten 221, 228
Män som hatar kvinnor/The GirlWith the
Dragon Tattoo 284, 308
Man There Was, A /Terje Vigen 73, 76,
79–81, 84, 87
Människor i stad /Symphony of a City 145,
Margaret Day/Ingeborg Holm 11, 15, 46,
65, 70, 77–9
Maria Larssons eviga ögonblick /Everlasting
Moments 242, 321
Marklund, Anders 9, 44, 72, 106, 182,
239, 272, 279, 286, 287, 306, 321
Marko, Susanne 197
Martinell, Ingegärd 197
Martinsson, Moa 197
Masjävlar/Dalecarlians 323, 325
Masters, William H. 209–210, 212
Matthau, Walter 199
Mattsson, Arne 144, 148, 149, 216, 222
Matz, Kerstin 253
Maxwell, Richard 345
Maysles, Albert & David 176–77
McBain, Ed 198
McMurria, John 345
Med sikte på realism/‘Aiming for realism’ 203
Medan staden sover /‘While the Town
Sleeps’ 157–9
Mekas, Jonas 233–34
Méliès, George 16
Memfis Film 322–3, 325–332
Merzbach, Paul 121, 130
Metropia 323
Millennium trilogy 284–6, 322, 336
Miller, Henry 246, 250
Miller, Toby 345
Millett, Kate 210
Min svärmor – dansösen /‘My Mother-inlaw – the Dancer’ 120
Mirage,The aka Fata Morgana /Hägringen
218, 230, 233–7
Miss Julie/Fröken Julie (1912) 45
Miss Julie/Fröken Julie (1951) 216
Mitt liv som hund /My Life as a Dog 310–3,
Moberg, Vilhelm 106–7, 259
Modéen, Thor 118, 124, 131
Molander, Gustaf 80, 90–1, 107–118,
121, 130, 294
Molander, Harald 118
Molander, Karin 87
Molander, Olof 117, 147, 158
Moodysson, Lukas 75, 172, 286, 307,
323, 325–33, 337
Mörner, Cecilia 204
Mosse, George L. 102, 104
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus 281–2, 312
Mozart Brothers, The /Bröderna Mozart
272, 279–81
Muntra musikanter/‘Jolly Musicians’ 126
Murnau, Friedrich Wilhelm 145, 229
Musser, Charles 61
Mysteriet natten till den 25:e/‘The Mistery
of the Night before the 25th’ 65, 67–9
Nachbar, Jack 168
Naked Night, The aka Sawdust and
Tinsel /Gycklarnas afton 146, 307
När Kapten Grogg skulle porträtteras /
‘When Captain Grogg Was to Have
His Portrait Done’ 74
National Board of Film Censors /Statens
Biografbyrå 14, 20, 22, 35, 42, 68–9,
78, 90, 179, 243–4
Nattliga toner/‘Night Music’ 66, 70
Nattvardsgästerna /Winter Light 220
Neale, Steve 165–6, 168, 218
Nelson, Mimi 222
Nesser, HÃ¥kan 285
Nestingen, Andrew 304, 332–3
Netting, Robert 196
Neugroschel, Joachim 237
New Land, The/Nybyggarna 242
Newman, Roger K. 255
Nichols, Bill 176–8, 181
Nilheim, Lis 192
Nilsson, Anders 285
Nilsson, Inger 189
Nilsson, Johan 242, 256
Nilsson, Maj-Britt 225
Nilsson, Mats 175, 179, 181
Nilsson, Ulf 255
Nionde kompaniet/‘The Ninth Company’
Nordemar, Olle 183
Nordenström, Hans 233
Nordin, Annika 213
Nordisk Tonefilm 144
Nordmark, Carlösten 254
Nordqvist, Monica 192
Nordqvist, Sven 308
Norlin, Margareta 196–7
Novotny, Tuva 297
Nutley, Colin 184, 305, 307, 308, 325,
326, 332
Nybyggarna /The New Land 242
Nykvist, Karin 227
Nykvist, Sven 307, 347
Nylander, N. H. 44
Nyman, Lena 241, 245–6, 254
Odepark, Emil 302
Ogniem i mieczem /With Fire and Sword
Ohberg, Ã…ke 150,160
Ohlin, Stig 148
Ohlsson, Jan 187
Olander, Valborg 89, 91
Old Land of Dreams, The /Det gamla
sagolandet 140
Olin, Lena 309
Olin, Stig 222–3
Olofson, Christina 271
Olsson, Erik William (Eveo) 131
Olsson, Gunnar 128, 138
Olsson, Jan 11, 15, 46, 61–2, 65, 71
Olsson, Robert 45
Ombyte förnöjer /‘Variation is the Spice
of Life’ 115
Once Around 311, 313–5, 317
Ondskan /Evil 307
One Summer of Happiness /Hon dansade
en sommar 144, 216, 222
Only One Night /En enda natt 109, 113–
Oplev, Niels Arden 284, 308
Östberg, Ragnar 27
Osten, Suzanne 213, 271–3, 279
Osterman, Inga (Ingerl) 133
Östlund, Ruben 307–8, 323
Oveissi, Said 299
Oxen /The Ox 307
PÃ¥ rymmen med Pippi LÃ¥ngstrump /Pippi
on the Run 189
Palme, Olof 243, 247
Palme, Ulf 224
Palmstierna, Gunilla (Palmstierna-Weiss)
222–3, 225, 238
Parsa, Reza 292, 302–5
Pasolini, Pier Paolo 252
Pathé Frères (Swedish branch) 69
Peixoto, Mario 231
Pelle Grönlunds bryggeri /Pelle Grönlund’s
Brewery 48
Penley, Constance 211, 213
Pennebaker, David A. 176
Pensionat paradiset /‘A Boarding House
Named Paradise’ 106, 120, 130–3
Persona 220
Persson, Edvard 104, 107, 124, 127–8,
139, 141–2
Persson, Magnus 346
Persson, Maria 189
Persson, Martin 344
Peterson, Mortimer 25
Peterson, Numa 25, 170
Petersson, Torkel 296
Petschler, Erik 124
Petterson, Kjell 253
Pettson & Findus – Kattonauten 308
Phantom Carriage, The aka The Phantom
Chariot /Körkarlen 72, 79, 81–4, 88
Picassos äventyr/The Adventures of Picasso
Pippi Longstocking; Pippi Goes on Board /
Här kommer Pippi Långstrump 189
Pippi Långstrump på de sju haven /Pippi
Longstocking in the South Seas 189, 196
Pippi on the Run /PÃ¥ rymmen med Pippi
LÃ¥ngstrump 189
Pir Ramek 133
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
205, 309
Platen, Fredrik von 32
Plattform 323
Pojkarna på Storholmen /‘The Boys of
Storholmen’ 122
Pojken och draken 260–2
Pollack, Sydney 309
Pollak, Kay 307
Pontoppidan, Henrik 73
Popple, Simon 60–2
Porr i skandalskolan /The Second Coming
of Eva 183
Port of Call/Hamnstad 147, 153–4, 221–2,
Pourkarim, Laleh 297
Powell, Michael 37
Prästen som slog knockout /‘The Parson’s
Knock-Out’ 152
Primary 176
Prison /Fängelse 146
Proulx, E. Annie 311
Publikfilm 123
Queen of Sheba’s Pearls, The 307
Qvist, Per Olov 10, 16, 108, 119, 132, 160
RÃ¥dberg, Johan 269
Rado, James 311
Ragni, Gerome 311
Ramos, Philippe 337
Rapace, Noomi 285
Rauf, Caroline 301
Raven’s End /Kvarteret Korpen 239
Reader, The 309
Reems, Harry 208
Reisz, Karel 260
Rembar, Charles 255
Renhäll, Hans 291
Repmånad /‘The Conscripts’ 184
Resnais, Alain 37
Reuterswärd, Carl Fredrik 232, 237
Rhudin, Fridolf 106–7, 125
Richardson, Marie 309
Richebé, Roger 153
Rid i natt! /Ride Tonight! 107
Riis, Jacob A. 175, 181
Rivi, Luisa 332
Rodin, Gösta 120, 130–1, 138, 148
Roeck Hansen, Harry 99
Roger, Susanne 344
Roikjer, C. V. 170
Rolf, Tutta 107, 115–7
Rönnberg, Margareta 186, 194, 196–7
Roseanna 199, 201
Rosen på Tistelön /‘The Rose on Thistle
Island’ 68
Rosén, Eric 360
Rosenberg, Stuart 199
Rosenthal, Alan 181
Rossell, Deac 50–1, 60
Rossellini, Roberto 107
Rosset, Barney 250–1, 255
Rötägg/‘Incorrigible’ 147–8
Rouch, Jean 167, 181
Runeberg, Johan Ludvig 45
Rydberg, Georg 117
Rydberg-Eklöf, Signe 100–1
SÃ¥ som i himmelen /As it is in Heaven 307
Så vit som en snö /AsWhite as in Snow 242
Sånger från andra våningen /Songs From
the Second Floor 372, 307
Sahindal, Fadime 301
Sahlin, Fredrik 305, 344
Saleh, Tarik 323
Salesman 176–8
Sandberg, Inger & Lasse 308
Sandin, Gösta 123
Sandrew Metronome 321, 334
Sandrews 15, 32–3, 38, 106, 182, 322,
325, 341
Sara lär sigfolkvett /‘Sara Learns a Lesson’
130, 133
Sarrimo, Cristine 213
Sarris, Andrew 217
Sawdust andTinsel akaThe Naked Night /
Gycklarnas afton 146, 307
Scandinavian Talking Pictures 141
Scener ur ett äktenskap /Scenes from a
Marriage 226
Schein, Harry 240
Schelin, A. 53, 57
Schierup, Carl-Ulrik 196
Schildt, Jurgen 133, 253–4, 269
Schoedsack, Ernest B. 318
Schulz, Fritz 120
Schutte, Jürgen 238
Scorsese, Martin 41, 309, 346
Scorupco, Isabella 309
Scott, Franklin 196–7
Se upp för dårarna /Mind the Gap 286
Selznick, David O. 112
Seppan 295
Serlachius, Viveca 188
Serner, HÃ¥kan 201
Serpent’s Egg, The 295
SF Bio 321
SF, see Svensk Filmindustri
Shipping News, The 311, 314–5, 318
Show Me Love/Fucking Åmål 286, 323,
327–9, 331, 337
Shutter Island 309
Sica, Vittorio de 216
Silbermand, Marx 237
Silbersky, Leif 254
Silver, Alain 168
Sima, Jonas 221, 228, 254
Simon i Backabo /‘Simon of Backabo’ 125
Sista skriket /The Last Gasp 63
Sjöberg, Alf 107, 118, 147–8, 216, 221
Sjöberg, Emma 310
Sjögren, Olle 132
Sjöman, Vilgot 11, 37, 218, 239–41,
243–9, 251–5, 258, 272
Sjöstrand, Arnold 153
Sjöström, Victor 11, 15, 30, 40, 46, 63,
65–6, 68, 70, 72–90, 115, 118, 223
Sjöwall, Maj 184, 198–9, 201, 203, 284,
Ska vigå hem till dig… eller hem till mig…
eller var och en till sitt? 183
Skarsgård, Alexander 299
Skarsgård, Stellan 205, 207, 309
Skelton, Geoffrey 237
Skepparkärlek /‘Skipper’s Love’ 122, 125,
Skeppsbrutne Max /‘Shipwrecked Max’ 120
Skeppsholm, Carl-Olov 224
Skifs, Björn 289
Skoglund, Erik 37, 244, 253
Släkten är värst /‘Unfriendly Relations’
119, 137
Släpp fångarne loss – det är vår! 204, 270–1
Smålänningar /‘The People of Småland’
131, 138
Smultronstället /Wild Strawberries 74, 221
Söder om landsvägen /South of the Highway
128, 142
Söderbaum, Kristina 107
Söderberg, Hjalmar 58
Söderbergh Widding, Astrid 16, 46, 63,
70, 237, 273
Söderblom, Åke 118
Söderdahl, Lars 190
Söderkåkar/‘The Southsiders’ 124–6, 133
Söderström, Albert 69
Søholm, Ejgil 199, 203
Soila, Tytti 16, 117, 271, 273
Sokalski, J. A. 61
Solstorm /‘Sunstorm’ 322
Something to Talk About 311, 313–5
Sommaren med Monika /Summer with
Monika 216, 226
Sommarhamn /‘Summer Harbour’ 257, 262
Sommarnattens leende/Smiles of a Summer
Night 216, 221
Sommartåg/‘Summertrain’ 258, 260
Sommerfeld, Sara 298
Søndberg, Ole 332
Sonet 322
Songs From the Second Floor/Sånger från
andra våningen 372, 307
South of the Highway/Söder om landsvägen
128, 142
Spielberg, Steven 200, 277
Spielmann, Yvonne 231–2, 234, 237–8
Spöket på Bragehus /‘The Ghost of Bragehus’ 119
Sporrong, Frida 125
Stackars miljonärer/‘Poor Millionaires’ 119
Stad /‘Town’ 257, 262
Staiger, Janet 15, 70, 255
Star Wars: Episode 1 & 2 309
Statens Biografbyrå (National Board of
Film Censors) 14, 20, 22, 35, 42, 68–9,
78, 90, 179, 243–4
Steene, Birgitta 12, 16
Stendrup, Thomas 321
Stenstam, Eva 333
Stevens, Gösta 110, 113, 115
Stiller, Mauritz 15, 30, 46, 63, 65–6, 68,
70, 72–4, 76, 81–2, 85, 87, 89–90, 109,
115, 140
Stormare, Peter 309
Striden går vidare/‘The Fight Continues’
Strindberg, August 45
Strömholm, Christer 233
Strömstedt, Bo 245–6, 254
Strömstedt, Margareta 191, 196–7
Studie I–V 230–2
Studio 24 323
Sturfelt, Lina 212
Sucksdorff, Arne 145, 171–2, 196, 216,
240, 259
Sundberg, Pär 189
Sundgren, Nils Petter 269
Sundholm, John 237
Sunes jul /Sune’s Christmas 322
Sunes sommar/Sune’s Summer 322
Svärmor kommer/‘Mother-in-law’s
Coming’ 130, 133
Svartskallen /Black-skull 295
Svea Film (earlier Svensk Ljudfilm) 122
Svensk Filmindustri (SF) 14, 27, 32, 44,
74, 81, 107–8, 110, 113, 116, 118,
120–2, 132, 157, 170, 182–3, 196,
289, 321–2, 325
Svensk Ljudfilm (later Svea Film) 122
Svensk Talfilm 106, 123
Svenska Bio (cinema owner) 321, 324
Svenska Bio (Svenska Biografteatern)
14–5, 26, 33, 44–6, 63, 66, 68, 72–4,
76, 78–82, 86–8, 135, 170, 324
Svenska Filminstitutet (SFi, Swedish Film
Institute) 14, 30, 84, 182–3, 217, 239–
40, 270, 272, 282, 306, 330, 334–5,
338, 344
Svenska flickor i Paris /The Flamboyant
Sex 218, 235
Svenska Paramount 122
Svensson, Arne 22
Svensson, Birgitta 271
Svensson, Per 269
Svenstedt, Carl-Henrik 179
Sveriges Biografägareförbund 27, 61
Sveriges Filmproducenter/Swedish film
producers’ association 144
SVT (Sveriges Television) 305, 322
Swan, Jon 237
Swanström, Karin 114, 116
Swedenhielms 110–1, 114
Swedish Association of Cinema Proprietors (Sveriges Biografägareförbund)
27, 61
Swedish Film Institute (Svenska Filminstitutet) 14, 30, 84, 182–3, 217, 239–40,
270, 272, 282, 306, 330, 334–5, 338,
Swedish film producers’ association /
Sveriges Filmproducenter 144
Swedish Love Story, A /En kärlekshistoria
239, 241, 272, 274
Swing it, magistern /‘Swing it, Teacher!’
147, 350
Sydow, Max von 309
Symphony of a City/Människor i stad 145,
Tabu /Taboo 249
Tales of Ensign Stål /Fänrik Ståls sägner
45, 86
Tarkovsky, Andrei 291
Taslimi, Susan 292, 300–1, 303–4
Taube, Aino 115
Taxi 310
Tengroth, Birgit 223
Terje, Tora 58
Terje Vigen /A Man There Was 73, 76,
79–81, 84, 87
Thesleff, Arthur 103
They Call Us Misfits /Dom kallar oss mods
37–8, 173–6, 178–9, 181, 239
This is Your Life/Här är ditt liv 257
Thomaeus, Jan 232
Thompson, Kristin 15, 61, 66–7, 70
Thor, Annika 97
Thorén, Johan 203
Thou Old, Thou Free/Du gamla, du fria
120, 138–40
Three Days of the Condor 309
Thriller – en grym film /Thriller – A Cruel
Picture 40
Thulin, Ingrid 271
Thulin, Sonja (La rogue) 133
Tic Tac 285–91
Till glädje/To Joy 225
Till Österland /‘To the Orient’ 90
Tillsammans /Together 286, 325, 328–30
Tinguely, Jean 235
Tjocka släkten /Close Relations 127, 137
Together/Tillsammans 288, 325, 328–30
Toijer-Nilsson, Ying 91
Torn, Bert (aka Mac Ahlberg) 183
Tort, Niels Le 25
Tosh, John 103
Touch, The/Beröringen 295
Toulmin, Vanessa 60–2
Törst /Three Strange Lives 223–4
Tösen från Stormyrtorpet /The Girl from
the Marsh Croft 72, 82, 87–8
Trädgårdsmästaren /The Gardener 40, 77
Trakom /Trachoma 258
Tranceformer/Tranceformer: A Portrait of
Lars von Trier 325
Traung, Göran (Jerome) 127
Trier, Lars von 284, 309, 325–7, 336–7
Troell, Jan 239–40, 242, 256–62, 272,
307, 321
Trollebokungen /‘The King of Trollebo’
Trolösa /Faithless 222
Truffaut, François 216
Tuppen /‘The Cock’ 312
Tursten, Helene 285
TV4 322
Två bröder/‘Two Brothers’ 69
Två killar och en tjej /‘Two Guys and a
Girl’ 312
Två kvinnor/‘Two Women’ 153
Två svenska emigranters äfventyr i Amerika /‘ The Adventures of Two Swedish
Emigrants in America’ 136, 138
Två trappor över gården /‘Across the Yard
and Two Flights up’ 155
Tvärbalk /Rooftree 295
Tydén, Mattias 103
Tyler, Parker 234, 238
Tystnaden /The Silence 16, 225, 244
Ullman, Liv 222, 226
Unbearable Lightness of Being, The 309
Under solen /Under the Sun 307
Unfinished Life, An 311, 314–5, 319
Ung sommar/‘Young Summer’ 157
Ungdom i bojor/‘Youth in Chains’ 152
Ungdom i fara /‘ Youth in Danger’ 153,
157, 159
Universal Soldier 309
Ute blåser sommarvind /‘Outside the Summer Breezes Blow’ 160
Utvandrarna /The Emigrants 242, 259
Valberg, Birgitta 222
Valborgsmässoafton /Walpurgis Night 107
Valentí, Tomás Fernández 310–1, 320
Van Sant, Gus 309
Våran pojke/‘Our Boy’ 127
Varg/Wolf 285
Värmlänningarne/‘The People of Värmland’ (1910) 45, 86
Varning för Jönssonligan 184
Vejštagin, Igor 308
Verbinski, Gore 309
Verklighetens Beck /Beck in Real Life 198
Verneuil, Henri 200
Vertov, Dziga 176
Vesely, Herbert 234
Vi på Solgläntan /‘We of Sunny Glade’ 128
Vi som går köksvägen /‘We Who use the
Servant’s Entrance’ 111
Vibenius, Bo Arne 40
Victoria 86–7
Victory of Love,The/Kärleken segrar 65, 70
Videocracy 323
Viggen 37 172
Vigo, Jean 231, 235
Viklund, Klas 333
Villius, Hans 172
Vingar av glas /Wings of Glass 292, 296,
298, 300, 302–3
Vinterhed, Kerstin 254
Vogel, Amos 233
Vredens dag/Day of Wrath 230
Wahl, Anders de 95
Wahlberg, Gideon 124, 128, 124
Wahlberg, Malin 261–2
Wahlberg, Robert 133
Wahlbom, Nils 127
Wahlöö, Per 184, 198–9, 201, 203, 284,
Waldekranz, Rune 10, 15, 57, 60–2, 66,
71, 84–5, 109, 114–5
Wallén, Sigurd 97, 99, 104, 107, 119,
112, 124–5
Wallengren, Ann-Kristin 108, 134, 332–3
Waller, Gregory 60
Walpurgis Night /Valborgsmässoafton 107
Walsh, Raoul 229
Waltå, Olle 25
Wang, Ting 345
Ward, Elisabeth 168
Warhol, Andy 252, 255
Wasserman, Dale 311
Wechselmann, Maj 172, 271
Wedding at Ulfåsa /Bröllopet på Ulfåsa,
The 45
Weiss, Peter 218, 229–38
Welles, Orson 162, 319
Wellman, William A. 36, 112
Wellton, Öllegård 190
Wendelius, Lars 143, 203
Wennersten, Oskar 124
Werkmäster, Barbro 206, 208, 211, 213
Werner, Gösta 10, 15, 65–6, 71, 155
Werring, Ã…ke 66
Westcott, Tim 344–5
Westerståhl Stenport, Anna 323, 325
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? 310–1,
314–5, 317
Wickman, Torgny 183, 185, 205, 207, 209
Widerberg, Bo 11, 110, 183, 199–201,
203–4, 239–40, 242, 260–1, 271, 330
Widestedt, Ragnar 122
Wieslander, Jujja & Tomas 308
Wiklund, Martin 212
Wikström, Mats 187, 190
Wild Strawberries /Smultronstället 74, 221
Wilder, Billy 166
Wilk, Richard 196
Williams, Linda 208, 212–3, 255
Williams, Michelle 337
Willim, Robert 344
Wilson, Roger 332
Wimmermark, Karsten (Nils Idström)
155, 159
Wings of Glasss /Vingar av glas 292, 296,
298, 300, 302–3
Winston, Brian 175, 181
Winter Light /Nattvardsgästerna 220
Wisborg, Lena 187
With Fire and Sword /Ogniem i mieczem
Wivefilm 132
Wolgers, Beppe 189
Wollter, Sven 201
Woman’s Face, A (George Cukor) 113
Woman’s Face, A /En kvinnas ansikte
(Gustaf Molander) 109, 113–115
Woo, John 40–1
Wray, Fay 318
Wredlund, Bertil 213
Wright, Rochelle 92–3, 103–4, 197, 286,
292, 304, 332
Yellow Bird 322
You, the Living/Du levande 272, 307
Yrrol – en kollosaltgenomtänkt film 286–9
Zarchi, Meir 40
Zern, Leif 219–20, 222, 226–8
Zetterberg, Hanna 195
Zetterling, Mai 9, 213, 221, 240, 242,
263–5, 268–9, 272, 279
Zetterström, Marianne 253
Zodiak Entertainment 322
Zorn 279

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