My life in movies – 1967 to 1982
It’s a tricky question and frankly I can’t answer it.
Every time someone asks me to describe myself, whatever comes out seems false and out of touch. Sometimes it feels as if I’m pitching myself, treating an honest, friendly question like a job application. Other times I go too far the other way, going on about what a horrible person I am until I start to believe it myself. Occasionally the idea comes into my mind that I’m not an interesting person at all and I shouldn’t take up so much space. So I decide to stealth and hide in the shadows, where it’s safe. Watching.
But what is a blog if not a personal space? My café is like a shower where I’m allowed to sing to myself and where I’m better off naked than dressed up in clothes of pretence.
And that’s why I decided to make one of those lists of “my life in movies”, which I’ve seen on a few other film blogs.
My take on this is that I’ll write something about one chosen movie for every year I’ve lived, apart from a couple of years where I cheated and picked several.
Many of the films I’ll talk about are great and favourites of mine, but not every one of them. Some of them are mediocre, but are there because they represent aspects of me: dreams, experiences, time documents or I may have a certain memory connected to it.
It turned into a mosaic of images, as fragmented and disorganized as life itself, and the act of putting it together brought me back a lot of memories – for good and for bad. I wouldn’t say it’s the true story about who I am. But at least it will bring some glimpses.
However: I’ve talked enough. It’s time to start singing. This post will be the first in a series of three, covering 1967 to 1982.
1967 The Jungle Book
“Perceived scarcity will generate demand” said Robert Cialdini in Influence, a classical book about marketing and persuasion. And God knows that if you grew up in Sweden in the 70s, you were starved for Disney movies. That’s how it came that an entire nation sat down in front of the TV at 3 pm Christmas Eve every year to enjoy one entire hour of Disney cartoons. One blessed hour, an island in the middle of an ocean of dull animations from Easter Europe.
When I think of The Jungle Book, I think of “The bare necessities”, a song I definitely should sing to myself more often than I do. It’s a great reminder not to take life or myself too seriously.
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey
My love for science fiction is a heritage from my parents. They pointed me early to writers such as Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. Not all of them are as great reads today as they were for my 12 year old self. But no one can take from me the epic feeling of looking at eternity to the tones of Thus Spake Zarathustra.
1969 Easy Rider
I’ve never been on a motorbike in my entire life. I haven’t even sat on a small one, those that teenager ride at 30 km per hour. And yet I’m convinced I’d love it. They say that it’s a bit of the same as galloping on a horse, and that I love. The wind of freedom messing in my hair, the road to the unknown stretching towards the horizon. I want it and I tell myself that at some point in my life I’m going to ride.
1970 Pippi in the South Seas /M*A*S*H
Pippi in the South Seas is one of many movie adaptations of the books by Astrid Lindgren, who was – and still is – A Big Deal in Sweden. People still are disgruntled over the fact that she never got the Nobel Prize. Pippi was the most iconic of all her characters. Strong, anarchistic, independent, dirty rich and – at least occasionally – kind hearted.
And why is M*A*S*H on this list? Well, to be perfectly honest I don’t have any particularly strong memories of Altman’s original movie, so this is a cheat. What mattered to me was the TV series, one of the cornerstones of my TV watching back in the days. Every Sunday night at 8 pm the signature went on. I loved it. There was something soothing about it and I learned to play it on the guitar. I remember the series as being very funny, but whenever I catch a glimpse these days I don’t feel any urge to laugh at all. Humour ages very quickly, unfortunately.
1971 A Clockwork Orange
Ultraviolence. This was where I first learned the word. Cold, calculated, meaningless, a twisted act of pleasure with an aesthetic touch. Today we yawn at it.
More science fiction! Not much to say more than that I loved how alien the alien was.
1973 Scenes from a Marriage
I haven’t seen all of Bergman’s movies and I’m not one of his biggest fans. But Scenes from a Marriage gives a fantastic picture of how a relation can evolve over time, about lovers and ex-lovers, about friendship and about aging. It’s honest authentic, but quite pessimistic. (Note to myself: Remember what you said about “The bare necessities”!)
Bergman didn’t always get the recognition he deserved in his own country. On the contrary he got into trouble with the tax authorities, which forced him to eventually flee abroad. But today I think many of us feel a little proud whenever we see signs of what a big name he still is internationally. Made in Sweden. Just like me! Yep.
1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
This movie – which is the only one on this list which I actually haven’t seen – caused a huge debate, a moral outcry in Sweden about the so called “video violence”. People were of the theory that watching violence on the screen could inspire young people to terrible deeds. The debate is still there, but it’s moved forward over the years. For a while role playing games were targeted, more recent it’s been about computer games. And I’m still as sceptic to the idea.
1975 Picnic at Hanging Rock / Jaws
My mother is a huge fan of horror movies. I’m not. And the older I get, the harder is it for me to watch them. I’m getting squishier. Picnic at Hanging Rock captivated me. Eerie, dreamlike, beautiful and scary in a mysterious way. And Jaws is just iconic. It was The Horror Movie as I grew up.
1976 All the President’s Men
I never could figure out what profession I wanted to have as I grew up. One day I wanted to become an astrophysicist, the next day an archaeologist. To mention a couple. That’s how it came that I decided to go for journalism, so I could learn a little bit about everything, covering a multitude of topics. I worked in the profession for a few years, but I never grew famous and the biggest scandal I came to reveal was a plot on throwing thousands of tennis table balls into a lake, which I stopped. Not exactly Watergate. As I became a parent I thought it was a bad idea to combine journalism with family life and changed career. Sometimes I regret it, but I’m not sure if there’s any way going back at this point. Anyway: it’s fun to watch this movie and dream of what could have been.
1977 Abba: the Movie / Close Encounters of the Third Kind /Saturday Night Fever
Abba the Movie because they were my first pop idols. In 1977 Lasse Hallström made a half of half documentary movie about their tour in Australia, with some silly subplot added as an excuse. I wanted to see it desperately and somehow I got my aunt to take me to it. There was an age limit of 11 and I was only 10 and with my short cut and lack of makeup I looked like a 7 year old boy. My heart was beating – would my fraud be revealed, would they throw me out? But they didn’t. And I think I grew a couple of inches from the experience. I was a big girl now.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind because they don’t do this kind of movies anymore. Or I don’t enjoy them the same way since I’m too old. Anyway. Mashed potatoes. That’s all I need to say.
Saturday Night Fever. No aunt brought me to see it and I was too young to go on my own, so I didn’t see it until many years later (it was better than I had expected). But you didn’t need to watch any movie to imitate what you thought were Travolta moves to the music of Bee Gees. It was the default music at any school dance during a couple of years in the end of the 70s, only broken up occasionally by some Bonnie M.
1978 Watership Down
My copy of Richard Adam’s novel about rabbit politics is quite worn after several readings. As far as I can recall the animated adaptation wasn’t bad at all. Most of all I remember Art Garfunkel’s hit “Bright Eyes”, a single record I played many, many times until my musical taste changed drastically overnight.
1979 Quadrophenia /Alien
Quadrophenia is on a list because of a memory. At 14 year I was at a summer course in Brighton to improve my English. With the self image of a young rebel, I stayed away as much as possible from mainstream activities such as guided tours and arranged dances for the foreign students. Instead I spent a lot of time on my own and one day I went to see Quadrophenia. After all My Generation was an awesome song. “I hope I die before I get old!” To my astonishment the theatre was more or less filled with mods, who I figure were on some meet-up in Brighton. They sang along with every song in the movie and afterwards I watched them take off on their scooters, assembling on the beach for a huge party. It was like the movie, extended. And somehow I tagged along with them and forgot about that I in fact wasn’t a mod, but a punk rocker crossing the border, ignoring the fact that back in those days we all belonged to a group and you weren’t supposed to mix them. Times are better now in this aspect.
Alien is there because I can’t get too much of sci-fi on my list. Alien doesn’t only have one of the best film posters ever; it also has something that still is quite rare, but was even rarer back then: a strong leading female character whose primarily reason not is to be sexy. Sigourney Weaver. So awesome.
1980 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
The charming bots. The signature. Yoda. The whispering voice in the dark helmet. What’s there not to love? The original series was wonderful, but if you press me, I was always more into Star Trek than Star Wars.
1981 Gregory’s Girl
Gregory’s Girl is high up on my top 100 list. Recently I saw it mentioned in a way that made me a little sad. It was written a feminist author who had used to love Gregory’s girl, but had revisited recently and discovered that it actually was quite sexist. We just didn’t notice back in the days. Maybe I’d better stay away from this movie and remember it the way it was to me: funny, quirky and very charming.
Pink Floyd The Wall because the teenage me loved it so much. There were times when I barely listened to anything else. Only this record, over and over again. I picked it up a little while ago after all those years and to my surprise the opening guitars of In the flesh still made me tremble a little.
Koyaanisquatsi because it was so different from anything else I had watched until then, smashing the boundaries of how you could make a movie. The strong criticism against the western civilization and our way of life made a stunning impression on Jessica at 16. I bought the score by Philip Glass and listened to it over and over again, enjoying every bit of my adolescent spleen.
Ebba the Movie because it’s a documentary about Ebba Grön, a Swedish punk band in the early 80s, which over one night pushed out Abba from the number one position in my heart. I still know all the lyrics from their first two albums. And I still think they’re awesome, even if I’m now a part of the establishment they mocked. They used to sing: “What’s going to become of you when you’ll grow up?”, followed by the answer: “Keep being a rebel, keep being yourself.” The question is: did I?
Blade Runner because you can quote and repeat the dying scene with Rutger Hauer any amount of times, I’ll never grow tired of it. Pure magic.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”
End of part 1
And with those beautiful words, I’ll finish the first part of my life in movies. This post became far longer than planned. I had too fun writing it.
Now my throat is getting sore, so I’d better stop singing and pour myself a drink – it’s Friday night after all.
But I’ll get back to the list at some point in the future, and share some more nostalgia from the 80s and 90s, as my search for myself continues. Until then:
Other posts in this series: