Two Swedish movies from 2013 you should see
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