a brief history of Swedish film

Sweden has been a part of the film industry almost right from the start.

As early as 1896, moving pictures were screened in Malmö. In the silent film era, Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller created the Golden Age of the Swedish film, with masterpieces like Ingeborg Holm (Victor Sjöström, 1913) and Gösta Berlings saga (Mauritz Stiller, 1924) featuring Greta Garbo. With these films’ international acclaim at the time, the three then left for and brought a Swedish hurricane in Hollywood.

In the 1920s, comedy dominated Swedish cinema; also, military farce sprouted and reached its peak in the 1930s owning to the charm of Edvard Persson who starred in films like Kalle på Spången (Emil A. Lingheim, 1939) and Söder om landsvägen (Gideon Wahlberg, 1936).

Fundamental changes took place in 1930s due to the restructuring of the Swedish society and a number of propaganda films were made to spread ideas of regular exercises, health and openness promoted by Alva Myrdal.

During the World War II, serious films about duty, spirit and state became a major propaganda tool, together with themes like “freedom, the fight for liberty and the moral responsibility of the individual.” Also, a number of literary classics were turned into films and the working class, the jazz music were incorporated in the Swedish cinema. To name just a few, The First Division(Hasse Ekman, 1941), Stål (Per Lindberg, 1940), Swing it Magistern (Schamyl Bauman, 1940), Doktor Glas (Rune Carlsten, 1942) were some of the most popular films during the time.

In the post-war era, peasant films were shown in the 1950s, and films about nostalgia and rural way of living were well-received such as Hon dansade en sommar (Arne Mattsson, 1951) and the series of Åsa-Nisse (1949-68). Thanks to the rapid economic growth, “housewife films” were promoted to train women as ideal mothers and wives; comedies, teenagers films, literary films were welcomed, for instance: Sjunde himlen (Hasse Ekman, 1956), Ungdom i fara (Per G. Holmgren, 1947)and Mästerdetektiven Blomkvist lever farligt (Olle Hellbom, 1957). Fröken Julie (Alf Sjöberg, 1951) won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, restoring the international fame and influence of the Swedish film. The indisputably talented Ingmar Bergman influenced “the image of the Swedes abroad and Swede’s image of themselves” with a chain of masterpieces like Det sjunde inseglet and Sommarnattens leende.

The 1960s Swedish cinema witness a generation gap as experienced directors were either gone or retiring. Bergman was attacked for his repetitive portrayal of personal problems. A reform took place: the entertainment tax was put to an end, the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) was established, Filmhuset was opened, and quality film evaluation was initiated. Jag är nyfiken – gul (Vilgot Sjöman, 1967) received the most attention in the United States; films about young rebels like Dom kallar oss mods (Stefan Jarl and Jan Lindkvist, 1968) led to debates, films based on Pippi Longstocking and rascal Emil were continued to be adapted for the screen. A detective film, almost the opposite of the Hollywood action films, Mannen på taket(Bo Widerberg, 1976) was a tremendous success.

One remarkable thing is: female directors rose to public attention with films like Rätten att älska (Mimi Pollack, 1956) and Älskande par (Mai Zetterling, 1964). Comedy made by Hasse Alfredsson and Tage Danielsson gained widespread acceptance.

In the 1980s, SFI dominated film production and produced a series of prominent films like Hip Hip Hurra! (Kjell Grede, 1987); furthermore, documentaries and animations blossomed in the 1980s. Films regarding children, psychology, immigrants were made from 1960s to 1990s, yet the notion of folkhem has been the most essential background.

In short, besides the universal myths about the Swedish film like the “Swedish sin” and the exhibition of nature, there are several distinguishing features: first, it is state fund; second, it has a long history of literary adaption; third, it usually involves with a cooperative casting from other Nordic countries.

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