The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Some glimpses from the Swedish movie year 2012

with 18 comments

For being a Swedish blogger I write embarrassingly little about Swedish movies. I thought I should make up a bit for that with this post.

While Bergman still is what most foreigners associate to Swedish cinema, he wasn’t the only one. The Swedish film production is still going strong, even though most of it never gets successful outside of the domestic market and the festival circuit.

Documentaries seem to be the area where Sweden currently is doing best. I’ve previously written about Searching for Sugar Man and Big Boys Gone Bananas!*, both excellent films which also appear to become fairly successful internationally.

However I’ve seen a few more Swedish movies this year, which I until this point haven’t come around to write about. I don’t have enough to say about them to make individual posts for each one, but I think they deserve at least a mentioning.

1. Cockpit (Mårten Klingberg, SWE 2012)

Cockpit is one of the most heavily marketed Swedish movies this year, and has also been quite successful at the box office. 263 000 sold tickets puts it on 15th place so far, between Brave and Mission Impossible IV. Sadly it’s nowhere near as good. This is basically a re-make of Tootsie, with the difference that it’s about a job as a pilot. I don’t want to badmouth Tootsie; I remember it as being fairly funny when it came out in 1982. But we’ve come a pretty long way since that time. Seeing men cross-dressing as women isn’t funny anymore. My daughter’s boyfriend wears a skirt once in a while instead of trousers since he finds it more comfortable. The doors have been wide open for decades and we’ve moved on. With the taboo gone, there’s nothing to laugh at and this makes this into a very unremarkable comedy, which probably never will reach an international audience.

My rating: 2/5

2. Bitch Hug (Bitchkram, Andreas Öhman, SWE 2012)

Whenever someone makes a movie about youngsters in a rural town in Sweden, people will start comparing it to Lukas Moodysson’s Fucking Åmal (Show Me Love). Judging from the title, it appears as if the makers of this film didn’t mind this association. What it has in common is that it portrays the friendship between two teenage girls and the hardships they go through as they struggle to find out who they are and what they want from life. However it’s far more lightweight. The “problem” that the protagonist is facing is that she misses the plane to New York, where she was supposed to write a column for a local newspaper. Rather than simply admitting her failure she decides to hide on an attic from where she sends faked reports from her life overseas.

The filmmakers have gone overboard to appear modern to a young audience, using recent hits for the soundtrack and displaying features like smart phones, chats, Facebook and blogs as often as possible. But ever so well made time markers don’t make the story more plausible. The film is OK, but nothing more and I don’t expect it to be anywhere near the international hit that Fucking Åmal became. Kudos though for passing the Bechdel test by a wide margin.

My rating: 3/5

3. Easy Money II (Snabba Cash II, Babak Najafi, SWE 2012)

Swedish crime novels and their following TV and film adaptations have become surprisingly successful abroad. When you’re visiting UK, the Brits are nowadays more likely to say “Wallander” as a reaction to your reveal of your nationality than “ABBA” or “Björn Borg”. I’m far less enthusiastic about those. If you ask me those worn out, disillusioned detective officers with their ex-wives and drinking problems mix into a blur. Eventually you can’t tell one from each other. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen all.

However in 2010 we saw a different kind of crime thriller in Sweden: Easy Cash, which takes a focus on the world of crimes from the inside. There were drugs, gangsters, a ton of violence and a very dark image of Sweden that felt strangely fresh and familiar at the same time. The pacing and editing didn’t feel Swedish at all. It was hugely successful and brought the director Daniel Espinosa to Hollywood, where he got to work with Denzel Washington in Safe House. (That’s a decent career step, I’d say!)

Easy Money II is, as the name suggests, a follow-up. The director is new, but the style is so similar that I couldn’t tell, and Joel Kinnaman is still in the leading role. I liked the first movie a lot and I think the second one is just as good. It’s just a pity the English title is so lame.

My rating: 4/5

4. Palme (Kristina Lindström, Maud Nycander, SWE 2012)

About once in a decade you receive a piece of news that turns your world upside down and the moment when you first hear it will forever be imprinted in your memory. I have a few of those. September 11 2001 comes first to mind. I walked through Stockholm, listening to the news in my earplugs, looking at all those innocent people I met in the street who didn’t know yet, and I wondered if this was the beginning of the end of the world.

But there was another moment, 15 years earlier, which was almost as unreal: the morning when we woke up to the news that the prime minister of Sweden, Olof Palme, had died during the night, murdered in a street on his way home from the movies by a man with a gun.

The murderer was never caught and I think this worsened the national trauma we went through. We kept going over the assassination and the failed police investigation over and over again. No one ever talked about the life and importance of the politician in question, Olof Palme. Not until in this film.

As a documentary regarded it’s quite traditional: plenty of archive material and a few talking heads trying to bring some perspective to it. It’s really nothing special and there aren’t any sensational revelations about Palme. And yet I found myself pulled into it. This was the world I grew up in and I hadn’t thought about it for so many years. It feels familiar and very foreign at the same time when you see it from this long distance. Sweden has really changed since the days of Palme – and mostly in a good way, I’d say. But that’s for a different discussion.

 My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

November 12, 2012 at 1:00 am

18 Responses

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  1. In defense of Tootsie, the film is a lot deeper than just laughing because a man’s dressed as a woman. Through the eyes of the male character, stepping into a woman’s shoes, we get a glimpse of male privilege, both in business and in personal relationships. It isn’t perfect but I think it is surprising in its moments of wisdom.


    November 12, 2012 at 8:23 am

    • It’s been quite a few years since I watched it, so I can’t tell how dated it is. But Cockpit definitely felt as if it was made too late. I don’t question that there still are male privileges and stereotypes around that women have to fight. But I think you need to find other ways to demonstrate it than cross-dressing and the mandatory gags that come with it.


      November 12, 2012 at 9:29 am

  2. Oh nice. Thanks for mentioning these films Jess. I will keep an eye out for them.

    Sorry I have been AFK from your commenting section lately. I have been very busy. Forgive me?

    • I forgive you if you forgive me. I’ve really not been commenting much at all lately and my own blogging seems to have dwindled a bit. I’ve just been crazy busy with other stuff, mostly work I think. 😦
      You’re still one of my top-on-mind blogs though. Never forget that!


      November 12, 2012 at 11:36 am

  3. Nice recommendations Jessica. As always, I’ll take them on board. Thanks.

    Mark Walker

    November 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    • Thanks Mark. To be honest I’m not entirely sure you’ll get the chance to see those. But it’s possible that Easy Money and its follow-up will turn up and I think both are well worth seeing.


      November 13, 2012 at 8:09 am

  4. I had a teacher a few years ago who presented himself with the words: “I live in Åmål, and what can I say about that? Well, you’ve seen the movie.”

    So it has definitely made an impact, especially for the Åmål community.


    November 13, 2012 at 12:47 am

    • It’s definitley a saying. But I think its done more good than bad for the region. As far as I understand they’ve got quite a few film recordings over there and that must surely compensate for being pictured as a dull place to live.


      November 13, 2012 at 8:11 am

      • Well, it depends on how you define region. The movie wasn’t filmed in Åmål, but in Trollhättan. Trollhättan though has gotten a lot of film production through the prod. company Film i Väst, which also distributed Fucking Åmål.


        November 13, 2012 at 8:25 am

        • I stand corrected, thanks!


          November 13, 2012 at 11:17 am

          • I live in Trollhättan for the moment and the town is very proud of its movieproducing. There is a walk of fame here for instance. Just a few of the names that has been inducted: von Trier, Nicole Kidman, Jacob Eklund, Persbrandt..

            Pretty funny looking at it from the outside.


            November 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm

  5. So you haven’t written that much about Swedish movies this year? Well, perhaps Sweden needs to make better movies… 😉


    November 13, 2012 at 5:52 am

    • I have seen a few this year and I’ve endorsed the documentaries. But yeah, there are some films that I can’t even been bothered to see. The Hamilton franchise…seeing the trailers is more than enough.


      November 13, 2012 at 8:12 am

  6. No surprise the film on this list that interests me most is Palme. For obvious reasons I wish I knew more Scandinavian history than I currently do.

    Also though seeing “world events” through a somewhat difference perspective is really very interested now I am starting to get teh opportunity to read current affairs in a different language. Alas such perspectives are not easy to find on a budget in the UK 😀


    November 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    • I definitely think that the Palme feature will be of interest to you. Without knowing all that much about Danish politics, I still think it reflects on how life was in Scandinavia if you grew up in the 70s and 80s. I wouldn’t rule out completely that it will come out in an international edition at some point. Let’s hope for the best.


      November 13, 2012 at 4:58 pm

  7. Thanks for doing this. I haven’t heard of any of these before, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for #’s 2 and 4.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    November 14, 2012 at 2:06 pm

  8. […] Easy Money II: The Swedish thriller Easy Money gave the director a ticket to Hollywood where he made Safe House, which was a decent thriller that made surprisingly well at the box office. The follow-up has a different director but is just as good. I hope this too can get international attention, despite the silly title. […]

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