The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Two Swedish movies from 2013 you should see

with 7 comments

It doesn’t happen often that Sweden appears in news headlines over the world. Abba is still fondly remembered by some, but apart from that, tidings from this dark and remote area doesn’t catch a lot of attention.

Apart from the successful football player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who makes the headlines every now and then, last time Sweden appeared worldwide was probably when the sexual assault charges came up against Julian Assange. Now however we’ve made it again. The word about the A-rating of movies that pass the Bechdel test became a major hit in media this past week. While I’m not a huge advocator of this label, I can’t help feeling a little satisfied and proud seeing Sweden getting all this attention and being described like a gender equality heaven.

With the spotlight directed at Sweden, I thought I might as well grab the opportunity to point the international audience of The Velvet Café to two Swedish movies that came out recently. They are my favourite Swedish movies of the year so far, and I have high hopes for the chances that some distributor will help them to find an audience abroad. They sure deserve to reach a bigger market. And if they do, you’ll hopefully remember that I recommended them to you.

My first recommendation is Hotell, which as opposed to what the unremarkable title leads you to believe is quite special.

In the centre of the movie is Erika who is about to have her first child and as every upper middleclass woman these days, has everything planned in detail. But life doesn’t always obey to plans and wishes, and after a trauma, she ends up depressed, which leads her to group therapy. After one of the therapy sessions, an idea is tossed out: wouldn’t it be nice to check out from your own life, as if you were going to a hotel where you could live someone else’s life for a while? Before we know it, it’s been settled. They’re doing this for real and we’re follow them as they explore new and sometimes pretty kinky sides of themselves.

I think humour and darkness makes a wonderful combination. It’s far more accessible than the plot description may lead you to believe. I wouldn’t rule out that someone will do a remake of it for the US market. The theme of it feels universal.


We Are the Best!
In the name of transparency I should probably tell you right away that my judgement is somewhat clouded in the case of We Are the Best! This film is about three teenage girls who decide to form a punk band in 1982. Basically it’s about me. I too was a punk rocker in the early 80s, I too played in a band for a while. And I too listened to and loved a lot of the music that is played in the movie. I still know many of those text lines by heart and it was only with some effort that I could supress my urges to start singing along.

Like in an earlier movie by Lukas Moodysson, Together, it’s spot on in every little detail when it comes to how people dress, what they eat and what furniture they have at home. It’s a pleasant (and somewhat unpleasant, because being 13 kind of sucks sometimes) walk down the memory lane for everyone who was around at that time.

But if I try to get rid of my own luggage, watching it with the eyes of someone from a different background, I think it’s still enjoyable. The girls have some issues, but it’s still mostly light and upbeat in the tone, reminding of the earlier success films by Moodysson (Show me Love and Together) in its style. The perspective is always the one of the girls. Grown-ups appear in the background, boys will come and go, but they can’t compete with the friendship between the girls, which is the beating heart in the film. And yes, of course it passes the A-rating I’d even give it a double A. Or make it a triple, one for each band member. They’re the best.

Hotell (Lisa Langseth, SWE 2013) My rating: 4,5/5

We Are the Best! (Vi är bäst!, Lukas Moodysson, SWE 2013) My rating: 5/5

Written by Jessica

November 8, 2013 at 1:00 am

7 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Interesting, the way you describe We Are the Best! it could have been one of a thousand movies about coming of age-boys and their friendship 😉 Makes me realise how comparatively rare this story is with another gender in focus.

    On the other hand, (since I’ve seen it, naturally) Hotell is almost genderless for me. The characters are individuals, all in their own strength. And that is the strength of the movie.


    November 8, 2013 at 6:32 am

    • Yes, when I try to come up with any it’s hard. We have Show me Love… Tomboy is a lovely story from last year, though it had more to do with the girl’s friendship with the boys than her relationship to other girls.
      I guess it adds to the freshness of the film. it’s not a topic that has been beaten to death.


      November 8, 2013 at 1:47 pm

  2. Thanks for the recommendations. Hotell sounds fascinating.


    November 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    • It is! I hope it will find international distribution.


      November 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm

  3. […] Reunion was one out of three Swedish movies from 2013 that I genuinely loved (the other two being Lisa Langseth’s Hotell and Lukas Moodysson’s We are the Best! I would recommend you to see them all if you ever get the chance, though it’s pretty unlikely if […]

  4. […] Hotell I’ve seen it twice now. This is probably the funniest Swedish movie of 2013 – and at the same time it’s very gripping. Remake, anyone? […]

  5. I thought you might have seen We Are the Best back when it was a new release over there. I imagine you’re happy to know that it did get picked up for international distribution and reached a wider audience. I just watched it last night myself as it was adapted from a comic book written by the director’s wife. Very fresh perspective on the coming of age film. In an odd way it makes me want to watch Boyhood next as this feels like a very real perspective on what the girls went through rather than a stylized and exaggerated version, and from what I understand Boyhood takes a similar approach.


    January 10, 2015 at 6:53 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: