Some glimpses from the Swedish movie year 2012
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