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Why 12 Years a Slave is more than a costume drama

with 16 comments

12 years a slaveThere’s one scene in 12 Years a Slave that I just can’t get out of my head. And it doesn’t involve whipping.

As horrible as it may sound, we’re exposed to quite a lot of graphical violence in movies these days. Of course I find it troubling to see torture and blood and gore and whatnot, but I’ve dealt with that kind of images before and somehow I managed to get them out of my system, leaving them on the floor as I leave the cinema.

The scene that I keep returning to is the one where Solomon Northup, the previous free man who has been kidnapped and sold as a slave, is hung in a tree. In order to survive he has to tip toe around while waiting for the slave owner to arrive to release him. If he slips, he’ll die. I have no idea for how long this scene went on. Was it a minute? Fifteen? Thirty? I had no idea. Steve McQueen held me in a grip as strong as the rope and just wouldn’t release me no matter how I begged. And in the background: life going on as usual. The other slaves continuing their work, pretending as if they didn’t see the torture going on right in front of them. If they looked at him only for a moment they knew that they could end up in the same situation. The only way to survive was to put their dignity, their compassion, their humanity aside or rather bury it somewhere deep inside. Pretend that you don’t hear. Pretend that you don’t see. Pretend that you don’t understand, that you don’t object.

This was a strategy that worked during the era of slavery. This was a strategy that worked in the 1970’s Cambodia under the terror of Khmer Rouge. And god knows how many people who still, in 2014, have to use that strategy in order to survive. People who live in countries where warlords and dictators rule. Children whose mothers stand under deadly threat from an abusive man.

Why it’s still relevant
There’s very little dialogue in 12 Years a Slave and no voice-over to explain exactly what thoughts run through Solomon’s mind. Most of the time we’re left to make our own interpretations. We read his eyes, we read the landscape, the music and that’s all we need.

Compared to Steve McQueen’s last movie Shame, this is a far more accessible film, with a lot more emotion and scenes that invite you to emphasize with the people you see. You can recognize a bit of his cold, visual style but someone has sprinkled over a bit of Spielbergesque heart and soul into it, making it possible to embrace for a far wider audience.

But it’s still restrained enough to stand out from more conventional well-made costume drama about “important historical events”.

This is so much more than a monument over people’s suffering in the post, more than a history lesson about something that you “should know about”. It’s also a movie about the present, about the uglier features of the human nature. It points out mechanisms that are still in use if we open our eyes. And this is what makes it such a tough – and important – movie to watch, relevant not only to an American audience.

Not everyone’s cup of tea
In the name of honesty I should also add that it’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. My husband didn’t like it at all. He thought it suffered from a phenomenon that sadly is pretty common among arthouse movies: a lack of drive, a lack of a motion forward, a lack of a narrative and plot. “It’s just a bunch of tableaus lined up one after each other. It’s dead. Nothing happens, especially since he’s alone all the time and hardly ever has anyone that he trusts enough to speak with. It was like watching a musical without the song numbers. Dull.”

Needless to say: I don’t agree with him at all. I was on board from the very start, deeply engaged in Salomon’s situation, intensely aware of whatever happened to him, devastated whenever his situation turned from bad to worse. The slowness didn’t trouble me at all and it didn’t occur to me once to check my watch. I just wanted to point out that for all the praise this movie has received, different opinions are available. As always.

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

January 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Posted in 12 Years a Slave

Back on the Alaska train after 29 years – does it run as well as it used to?

with 28 comments


Does the name “Runaway Train” tell you something? No? You’re probably not alone.

Isn’t it strange how quickly a movie falls into oblivion? Runaway Train was by no means a small and obscure movie when it came out in 1985. According to Wikipedia it did pretty well at the box office. Jon Voigt received a Golden Globe award for his performance and it was nominated for three Academy awards. Roger Ebert gave it a four star review. It certainly didn’t pass unnoticed. I watched it around the time it came out, and while I had forgotten about the details over the years, it has lingered in my memory as one of the best movies taking place on a train.

These days very few seem to remember it and I’ve never seen it mentioned on any top list. When I asked a couple of fellow movie bloggers from US they just barely recognized the title. And those guys are knowledgeable cinephiles! I think the American film critic Michael Philips was right when he appointed it “the most underrated movie of the 80s”.

Safe for a rewatch
When a bunch of Swedish movie bloggers decided to devote this month’s blogathon to movies about trains, Runaway Train was the first one that came to my mind. After almost 30 years (OMG, has it been that long?), I wanted to pay it a revisit to see what it was like.

Would I get a ride as thrilling as I remembered it to be? Would it hold up? I approached it with certain caution, as I do with movies from the 80s. The pace is often a great deal slower than we’re used to these days and there’s something about the music that doesn’t work for me: strange, annoying electronic music that just is too much.

But I needn’t have worried. This one is safe for a rerun and I urge anyone who hasn’t seen it to give it a go.

This is the story: two convicts – one veteran and one youngster – escape from a prison in Alaska in the middle of the winter. They jump aboard a freight train. But soon after, the engineer dies of a heart attack and they find themselves on a train running at full speed, out of control. Meanwhile they’re chased by the security staff from the prison.

Great execution
It’s a simple plot, but what makes this movie so great is the execution. I’ve seen other trains running wild, but none that feels so absolutely unstoppable. There’s something very real about this monster wrapped in ice and snow, the hostile landscape and the two desperate men clinging to its outside, inches from their runawaytraincertain death. Watching it I couldn’t help asking myself if all the wonders of modern technology in form of CGI and 3D really have added all that much to the experience. At least in this case, I doubt they could do it any better today. That’s also why I keep my fingers crossed that this movie won’t catch the attention of the people who search the 80s for movies to make again. Runaway Train mustn’t be touched. I can’t see how anyone could make it better today – or even as good. Who could replace Jon Voight as the older villain for one thing? Impossible.

Finally I need to mention the ending. I won’t reveal it here, in case you haven’t seen the film, but it’s just beautiful, one of those endings that send you chills along the spine for its emotional impact combined with cold perfection. See and learn, aspiring filmmakers wherever you are! This is how you do it.

Further reading
There’s a great deal more to say about this movie, but I found someone who said it so much better than I possibly could. I urge you to read this article by Graham Daseler at Bright Lights Film Journal. Apart from a great analysis, it’s also got a lot of information about the making of the movie, including some snippets from interviews with the director Andrei Konchalovsky, such as those samples:

You have to be an optimist to make a film about trains.” director Andrei Konchalovsky states.  “Working with trains was very difficult, dangerous, and complicated.  The engines were an enormous amount of steel, very difficult to stop, and treacherous to work around.”

“”The train is a symbol for whatever you want it to be,” the film’s director, Andrei Konchalovsky, explains.”It can be viewed as a prison because they can’t get out of it, or considered as freedom because they escaped from prison on it, or considered as our civilization running out of control because no-one can stop it.”

However a word of warning is needed: If you’re spoiler sensitive you should wait reading it until you’ve seen the film since it goes into detail about the ending.

Runaway Train (Andrei Konchalovsky, US 1985) My rating: 4,5/5


I watched Runaway Train as a part of a the theme of the month of the Swedish film blogging network Filmspanarna Here are links to the other participants..

In English:

Fredrik on film

In Swedish:

Except Fear
Fiffis filmtajm
Fripps filmrevyer
Har du inte sett den
Moving landscapes
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Written by Jessica

January 8, 2014 at 6:00 am

Liv and Ingmar – lovers and friends over 42 years

with 3 comments

Liv&bergmanAcquaintance, friend, love interest, sex partner.

Isn’t that how we usually grade relationships without thinking any further? The physical intimacy has the place at the top of the ladder as if this was the closest you ever could get to any other person. But is it really so?

The Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann and the Swedish director Ingmar Bergman were lovers for a few years in the mid-60s until Liv couldn’t endure to live so near a man ridden by jealousy, control issues and all sorts of other demons. After living more or less in isolation on an island, where she only got to see other people once a week when she got “permission” to leave their home, she finally had enough and fled.

It would have seemed natural if the point of her escape been the end of their relationship. Who wouldn’t want to stay as far away as possible from such an abusive ex-partner? But she didn’t. Instead their relationship went through a transformation. They weren’t lovers anymore but they were still partners at work. And they didn’t hesitate to reuse painful memories from their time as a couple as material for TV and film projects such as Scenes from a Marriage.

Liv and Ingmar didn’t just work together; they also developed a close friendship, so close that they spoke to each other on the phone more or less every day. It wasn’t until Ingmar died that it came to an end, after 42 years. When I think of the ladder of relationships there’s no doubt that they were at the very top of it. But they didn’t climb it until their divorce was a fact.

Indian director
Liv & Ingmar is a documentary about this relationship, made by the Indian filmmaker Dheeraj Akolkar. After reading the memoirs by Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman he became fascinated by their story and wanted to make a film about it. But it took a few years before he could persuade Liv Ullmann to do it. She thought she had spoken enough about her and Ingmar Bergman over the years, but finally she gave in and accepted to give the film two days of recording at Fårö, where she and Bergman had lived, and in Norway, where she comes from. Apart from interviews with Liv Ullmann, the film also contains readings from books and letters, and a great number of clips from Ingmar Bergman’s movies, which clearly show how much inspiration his art took from his personal life.

As a Swede it felt a little weird that everything in the film apart from the clips was in English. It makes sense of course, considering that the director is from India and the film probably will get a way bigger audience abroad than here. I’ve met very few Swedes who are anywhere near as enthusiastic about Ingmar Bergman as they seem to be in US and elsewhere. Our relationship to Bergman is a mixed one. I think Swedes in general find his movies a bit slow, dull and hard to understand. On the other hand we’re secretly delighted every time we get proof of his international reputation. It tickles our national pride. But while it’s all in good order that the film is English, I still can’t help feeling that something is lost in translation.

liv&bergman2The male genius
I suspect that most facts that are presented are well known to those who know their Bergman better than I do. I would still recommend it because it gives a slightly different perspective than we’re used to. As much as it is about Bergman, it’s also a film about Liv Ullmann, who is just as much of an important artist – writer, director and actor – as Bergman was. The only sad thing is that she doesn’t fully see it. At one point Bergman compared her to an instrument. Liv Ullmann’s role was to be the Stradivarius for Bergman to play. Liv Ullmann doesn’t seem to mind; she’s actually rather pleased with the description and I couldn’t help frowning at little at this. It was so typical: once again there was this male genius who is too important to be bothered to take part in raising his children and who uses the women around him as muses to get inspiration from or as instruments to be played on. I’ve never heard about the opposite: a female director who describes a favourite male actor as her Stradivarius and I wonder if we ever will.

It needs to be said though, that Liv Ullmann doesn’t appear to feel inferior or dependent towards Bergman in any way. Maybe she once was, but at this point in her life, she shows confidence, insight and humour as she’s speaking about the past. She’s not a blind fan girl of the director. She’s a colleague and an equal. At last.

Liv & Ingmar (Dheeraj Akolkar, 2012) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

September 13, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in Liv & Ingmar

Why Sunset Boulevard still matters 63 years later

with 30 comments


There’s nothing tragic about being fifty. Not unless you’re trying to be twenty-five.”

I was chewing on the famous line and the bite kept growing on me, filling my mouth with a bitter taste. Finally I swallowed it down, deciding that it didn’t refer to me. I may have some hobbies, preferences and habits that are different to what you expect from a 45 year old, but I’ve never obsessed over my wrinkles or hair colour. I carry the inevitable breakdown of my body with equanimity.

But even if I shrugged away that nagging quote, I still felt rather sad after I had watched Sunset Boulevard at my local film club. It exposed the dark side of the machinery of Hollywood, the cynicism that grows from it and the inevitability that everyone who enters this wold at one point will be spit out and thrown away when it’s been decided that they’re too old. And this moment will come a lot earlier in your life if you’re a female actor than if you’re a male.

It made me even more depressed to think about how up-to-date this film is, more than 60 years after it was made.

My initial reaction had been to think: why couldn’t they make it the reverse? Make it about a man who clings to dreams of his glorious past and who in vain pursuits the love from a younger woman. But then I realized that the movie isn’t showing the world as it should be. It just holds up a mirror to let us see the ugly truth, the way the system works.

Still relevant
All it takes to see its relevance today is to throw a glance at the tabloid press and you’ll see dozes of articles about current actors who expose themselves to treatments that are more brutal and far reaching than the ones that the former silent movie star Norma Desmond submits to during the movie. Like her, they fight their wrinkles fiercely to keep themselves employable, prolonging their time on the screen. And they’ll do anything to keep their real age a secret, including suing IMDb for displaying it.

So little has happened since Sunset Boulevard opened. Youth is still worshipped in Hollywood and the rest of the world. A love affair between an older woman and a younger man is still frowned upon (while the opposite, an older man dating a younger woman is perfectly acceptable.) It brings down my mood to think about it.

And yet, for all of this darkness, I cherished every second of the movie. While it is a tragedy at core, it’s got a lot of humour in it too. And the writing! Don’t get me started on it. It’s far from the natural, improvised style that I enjoy in modern movies, but I enjoy it for what it is: a show number by someone who knows how to dance with words.

There are so many great lines in it that it ends up to several pages at IMDb of memorable quotes.

Joe Gillis:

Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.”


Joe Gillis: [voice-over]

You don’t yell at a sleepwalker – he may fall and break his neck. That’s it: she was still sleepwalking along the giddy heights of a lost career.”

But I need to pick just one it will have to be this:

Joe Gillis:

You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”

Norma Desmond:

I *am* big. It’s the *pictures* that got small.”

Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, US 1950) My rating: 5/5


This post is a part of a blogathon run by the Swedish film blogging network Filmspanarna. The theme was “films about film”. Here’s a list of links to the other participants (all other posts in Swedish):

Addepladdes filmblogg
Fiffis filmtajm
Flmr Filmblogg
Fripps Filmrevyer
Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord

Written by Jessica

May 8, 2013 at 8:00 am

Motifs in Cinema 2012: Aging

with 31 comments

age stairAccording to an article my morning paper you can forget about making a career if you’re over 33. You’re already considered “old” and less attractive for potential employers. To be honest I didn’t finish reading it. A few paragraphs were more than enough to cope with for someone who recently turned 45.

The older I get the more aware do I become of the different sides of aging.age stair old

Sometimes it’s just sad, frustrating and ugly. Like when I’m at the hairdresser and for once have to look straight into the mirror rather than just rushing past it and have to confront the fact that the woman with the grey hair I’m looking at isn’t someone else’s mother or grandmother. It’s actually me. My body is letting me down, day by day, making it very clear to me that this idea that I’m going to die one day is more than just a vague hypothesis. It’s a fact.

Then there are other days when I’m perfectly happy to be where I am: in the middle of life, with the most stressful years with small children at home behind me, and still many years ahead of me which I can spend the way I want. Life isn’t finished when you’re middle-aged. It has barely started.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the old image of life in the form of a stair, which up and up, with a top at 50, when you’re on the top of the world, only to turn and go down, down, down towards the grave. This is clearly out of date. Life goes up and down in periods and you won’t know until it’s over if your peak was at 20 or 80.

Aging in movies
There are good days and bad days, but I would lie if I didn’t admit that I think about aging from time to time – trying to cope, trying to understand, trying to reach acceptance of the fact that my mental age and physical age are two different things.

I’m not the only one to wrestle with those issues. Aging was a popular theme in the movies 2012. If it was more popular than before, I can’t honestly say. Perhaps it was just me taking notice, since the issue preoccupies my mind so much.

There were especially five movies from three different genres that stuck out to me as being about aging.

Skyfall age

The miserable action heroes
Dark Knight RisesFirst we have the case of the action heroes struggling with their aging. In Skyfall James Bond is on the verge of taking his supposed death as an excuse to retire for good. Eventually he’s brought into the match again but he’s not in the shape he used to be and doesn’t even pass the test to work as an agent.

Incidentally (or was it? You may wonder. I can’t help thinking of the year when there were three movies almost exactly at the same time, all about a child and a grown-up switching bodies with each other) The Dark Knight Rises has a similar theme. We get a shock meeting with our former hero. He’s old, tired and physically and mentally a broken man.

Bond and Batman are both suffering from disorientation. The job identity was all they had. Without it, they’re lost. Who are they once the hero suit is off? What are they supposed to do with the rest of their lives?

Best Exotic Marigold age
The positive approach
The people portrayed in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Hope Springs seem to cope with aging a ton better than the former action heroes.hope springs

If you’re to believe those films, retirement is the opposite of getting ill, lonely and bored. It’s the time in life when you finally can fulfil the dreams you’ve put aside for so long. Be wild! Take a one-way ticket to a country on the other side of the world! Bring your sex life to a new level! Anything is possible and if you meet an obstacle, it’s just a smaller bump on the road towards the end that we know from the very start will make us feel good. Such is the contract with the audience.

With the risk of sounding prejudiced I think these films mostly target people who are close to the age of the characters on the screen. Sadly enough there’s a bit of ageism in how we watch movies and it goes in both directions. Older people are reluctant to watch a film about teenagers and you rarely see youngsters queue for a film that could be about their grandparents. I thought they both were a lot better than they got credit for, especially the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with its exceptional setup of great British actors.

Amour - age
Darkness and hope
The last movie in this theme is Amour, which happens to be one of my absolute favourite movies from 2012.

I have to admit that its take on aging shook me up a little in its brutal honesty. Here we’re far away from middle-aged action heroes pulling themselves together to perform yet another rescuing of the world or newly retired people travelling the world. This is Aging with a capital “a”: an uncensored picture of what exactly it means when your body and mind fails you as you’re taking your final stumbling steps towards death and what it’s like to be near someone who is in the middle of this process. Deep down we know this is going to happen, but we usually don’t acknowledge it.

Some people found it unbearable to watch. I wasn’t one of them. If you could look behind the apparent ugliness of aging, it’s also very sweet. If you get to experience closeness, love and care like this couple did during your final days in life, you can consider yourself lucky.

The conclusion
So first we had the action heroes trying to get on terms with getting older, then we had the newly retired or soon-to-be retried who demonstrate that it’s never too late to begin a new life. And finally the couple that are beyond merry trips to India, now dealing with the inevitable end.

They’re different sorts of movies, but they’re all looking for answers to the same kind of questions that I ask myself when I look myself in the mirror after my latest haircut:

Is there anything more left for me to do in life? Where now? How do I cope with the fact that I’m getting older?

And each one, in their unique way, has a reassuring answer: Look at all those people! They have found their way.

You will too one day.

About Motifs in Cinema
This post is a part in a yearly event called “Motifs in Cinema”, organized by Andrew Kendall at Encore’s World of Film & TV.

Here’s how Andrew describes the idea:

Motifs in Cinema is a discourse across some film blogs, assessing the way in which various thematic elements have been used in the 2012 cinematic landscape. How does a common theme vary in use from a comedy to a drama? Are filmmakers working from a similar canvas when they assess the issue of death or the dynamics of revenge? Like most things, a film begins with an idea – Motifs in Cinema assesses how various themes emanating from a single idea change when utilised by varying artists.”

Don’t miss out the other posts in this blogathon, which includes twelve different themes. All the posts are collected in a list over at Andrew’s place.

Written by Jessica

February 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Dear Santa! – My film wish list for Christmas (2012 edition)

with 33 comments

Dear Santa!

It’s Jessica writing again. Do you remember me? I wrote to you about this time last year, sending you my film wish list for Christmas.

It looked like this:

  1. A working business model so that people can keep making different sorts of movies, making a living on it in years to come. Something that would get people going to the independent theatre in my city, something that would grant us a greater variety than the sequels and remakes dominating the box office list.
  2. More women in the director’s chairs.
  3. 3D that makes movies better, not worse
  4. Freedom to make film for everyone, including Jafar Panahi and other filmmakers who are in jail or risk to get there for wanting to exercise their freedom of speech.

I had great confidence in you and considering that I had been a good cinephile, keeping quiet at the theatre and never downloading anything illegally, I thought you would grant at least one of my wishes. But alas – that didn’t happen and frankly I’m a little bit disappointed with you.

Perhaps I overrated your abilities? Perhaps I hadn’t lived up to your standards after all and the blame is on me? In any case I guess we should put this behind us and make a new try this year.

Seeing how hard it was for you to help me out, I’ll settle for something smaller.  This year I will make a very short list.

My wish list for 2012:

1. A noise- and smell-free snack to replace the popcorn

Seriously, the popcorn issue is growing on me. I can’t stand the smell, I can’t stand the rattling sound of it and – above all – I can’t stand that it’s all over the floor, since the theatre staff don’t have time to clean the room between the screenings.

I can’t take it anymore. Get rid of it! Come up with a solution, Santa!

If people necessarily have to eat, give them something else. Small bowls of fruit salad? Chewing gum? Just as long as it doesn’t smell, sound or inexplicably jump to the floor, I’m fine.

2. Spoiler-free trailers

Santa, I don’t know what’s up with those people in the marketing department, but they seem to be pretty clueless about how to make trailers. The idea of trailers is that they should raise your interest in watching a certain movie. They are not supposed to be a Reader’s Digest summary, revealing everything.

My reserve option
So, that’s my wishing list for this year. Just two items. I hope you can work it out somehow, Santa.

But with the experience from last year, I’ll also ask for something more tangible, in case the major wishes turn out to be too hard to grant. I would love, love, love to get a Moon poster, preferably one that is signed by Duncan Jones. It’s such a brilliant movie and a beautiful poster that I’d really love to put on my wall.

I know you’re going to have a busy time this month, but don’t forget to have a break once in a while.  Just take off the costume for a couple of hours, slip into the theatre incognito and watch a movie. A hint: The Hobbit is soon about to open. I bet you’ll get along well with Gandalf.

And if you feel like it, I’d love to see you here in the café for a drink afterwards.



Written by Jessica

November 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm

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