Foreign Films: Sweden

Funny that Swedish films used to be associated with porn or ”blue movies” as they were known in the past. I am not sure why. Maybe there was an industry I am unaware of. Anyway, I don’t have a lot of films to talk about here but they are significant enough to merit a post of their own. Incidentally, last night I watched Persona, the Bergman classic. Fascinating film but didn’t grip the way I thought it might. My loss perhaps.

One of the first Swedish films I remember seeing, and also one of the best, is Show Me Love, originally titled Fucking Åmål, directed by Lukas Moodysson. I guess I saw this when I was in university in England. Now as a whole the film didn’t impress me so much apart from one particular scene. I don’t want to give spoilers because I would highly recommend this film but it is a scene where one of the two lead actresses throws stones at the window of the other girl to get her attention just at the point where she really needed someone. It is unusually to shed a tear midway through a film but this scene really got to me. It’s a very real and raw film. A kind of search for identity and freedom in a cruel or indifferent world.

During the time I lived and worked in Dublin. That’s 2008. I spent a lot of my money on DVDs. There was sadly no chance of streaming films back then with the tech I had. People were downloading films of course but you needed the right set up for it. Actually, now that I think about it, I am not sure I even had a computer. I guess I didn’t really need one in general. Haven’t times changed. Well, one of the many DVDs I risked buying was a film called Lilya 4-ever. Yes, the 4 is ”for” and that’s not an accident. I am not sure I was aware at the time but the film was by the same director as Show Me Love. This is a dark and powerful film about a neglected Russian girl who turns to prostitution to survive. It is not easy to watch and quite bleak but so moving that it deserves to be seen and is unforgettable. I remember meeting a guy from Sweden in a bar a long time ago. His name was Ericsson or… he worked for Ericsson. Not sure which. We talked about those films. He became silent. He said that just thinking about Lilya 4-ever made him emotional.

Fast forward to 2012 and having watched the Swedish crime series Wallander every Saturday evening in the meantime. I was looking for good international horror films and I came across one called Let The Right One In. This is the most beautiful film of the ones I have mentioned so far. At least, for me. It is a story about friendship and loyalty. Just like Show Me Love. Two very different characters find some connection and change the course of their lives. The film by Alfredson is based on the 2004 novel of the same title by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I mention the novelist because the film I impressed me enough that I read two more of his books. I am not much of a reader either. There is an American remake yet again but surprisingly not bad. It could actually be the best remake of a foreign horror film that I know about. It is called simply Let Me In and features a stellar performance from Chloe Grace Moretz. I’d still recommend seeing the Swedish original first.

And that’s it. Only three films but three very significant ones. No doubt there is more to come. That particular Swedish atmosphere has a kind of magic to it that is hard to define but compelling.

Next we leave the home continent and move East to the country which produced the best horror of all and had me spending a small fortune on DVDs so I could quell my fascination with it. It’s Japan.

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