Scandinavian Film course #2: Readings about contemporary/main trends

The first half of the first week of lectures in the course I am taking was about “Contemporary Scandinavian Film and Television Culture: Main Trends”. The readings for it included five wikipedia pages and three articles (and a number of journal articles and book chapters o which I didn’t have access to.)  Here are some of the more memorable points from them.

Ib Bondebjerg & Eva Novrup Redvall (2011), A Small Region in a Global World.Patterns in Scandinavian Film and Media Culture

  • This is a 129 page book, that I didn’t fully read
  • The authors analyzed “the Scandinavian film and television culture focusing on films released between 2002-2006”
  • The following excerpts from the report’s introduction/conclusion shows that the focus oif the report was to encourage greater integration between Scandinavian nations and intention to support their film industries:
  • All three countries have a national share of films on their own market that is above the average of other European countries of a similar size.
    We are looking at the transnational patterns of film distribution inside Scandinavia and to a large degree also in the rest of Europe.
    The non-national Scandinavian market is of least importance, the EU market is almost five times bigger, whereas the national market is the most important.
    We cannot conclude from these data that Scandinavians do not want to watch films from neighbouring countries.
    There is no natural cultural Scandinavian feeling of togetherness
    Why do the co-productions in TV drama function so well
    Nordvision cooperation dates more than fifty years back and the network between people From the Nordic public service stations seems much more firmly established
    The public service stations seem to have established a set of creative formulas that combine international and national genre concepts.
    The number of co-productions inside Scandinavia is moderately impressive, with a total of 124 films between 2002-2006
    The number of co-produced films achieving a significant audience on the non-national Scandinavian market is negligible. Scandinavian film culture that remains too focused on production but with not enough focus on reaching a transnational audience outside the national territory.
    60% of the Nordic citizens feel a special connection to the Nordic region and even supported a federal Nordic union. This fact cannot be seen in patterns of film consumption in Scandinavia.
    The Nordic Film Institutes and the Scandinavian distributors do not seem to have developed any efficient coordinated strategies.
    The film sector appears to be much more fragmented.
    Co-production therefore happens between small or very small companies
    The distribution sector in Scandinavia is much more centralised
    The festival system has grown in importance in all three Scandinavian countries
    The films that manage the transition from the national market to a broader Scandinavian market are almost all dramas, with the occasional comedy exception. This means that other types of films are not exported and do not achieve nearly the same kind of success.
    The data highlights how some of the family comedies that are often extremely popular nationally are not travelling to the rest of Scandinavia to any significant degree.
    Scandinavia seems to be currently losing the fight for the young cinema audience and in the new digital media culture.
    Cinema plays an important role in a film’s life, but the audience for films are now also to be found on many other platforms: television, VOD, DVD on TV and computer, downloads, mobile media etc.
    Between 2002-2006 in Denmark alone, the total figures for cinema admissions were only 16 million whereas television represented 39.9 million.
    Television is by far the largest window for Scandinavian films.
    Cinema is no longer the key element in a film’s life.
    We can no longer lock ourselves in the national cinema box. A global, digital revolution has already taken place.

Peter Schepelern (2011), Danish Film History 1896-2009

  • Here are the headings from the long article for an overviews
  • 1896-1910 The first film screening in Denmark takes place in 1896; the following year, in 1897, Peter Elfelt makes the first Danish produced films. The first movie theatres begin to appear in 1904, and in 1906 Ole Olsen founds the Nordisk Film Company. Beginning in 1910 the Nordisk Film Company gambles on producing full-length feature films. This was the beginning of Danish cinema’s golden age.
  • 1910-1920 The Danish cinemas golden age lasted from 1910 to 1920. The period’s leading director is Benjamin Christensen, and the two Danish actors Asta Nielsen and Valdemar Psilander achieve both national and international fame.
  • 1920-1929 Throughout the 1920’s Nordisk Film’s decline continues. The company receives strong competition from another company, Palladium, which achieves success with the comedy duo Fyrtaarnet og Bivognen. It is in this period of decline that Carl Th. Dreyer debuts as director.
  • 1930-1939 In the 1930s talkies make their way into Denmark and jovial comedies with songs, so- called folk-comedies, became the decade’s dominant genre. Poul Henningsen directs the documentary Danmark, which spurs a new filmic conscience that inspires the new generation of documentary filmmakers.
  • 1940-1949 During the German occupation Danish films switch character and become darker, while also putting more focus on the national. Documentary filmmaking is flowering, and it becomes the norm to show documentaries as short films in the theatres. After the war Danish films zero in on a more realistic manner with focus on everyday drama and social problems.
  • 1950-1959 In the 1950s the melodrama returns with the popular Morten Korch film adaptations and the Father of Four (Far til fire) family films. Another direction pursued in the 50s is problem-oriented films, especially dealing with youth. Outside the trends of the time comes Dreyer’s Ordet (1955).
  • 1960-1969 The fast spread of televisions in Danish homes threatens movie theatre ticket sales. In accepting the necessity of economic support to the needy Danish film branch, the Film Law of 1964 formalizes government support to the art of film. Breakthroughs in the European film scene hits Danish cinema and starts the Danish new wave. In extension of the 1960s general tendencies towards freedom of expression, pornography is released and adult censorship of films is removed.
  • 1970-1979 Along with the Film Law of 1972, the Danish Film Institute is established. Organization of governmental movie support finds its fast footing primarily through the new consultant scheme, whose political independence and integrity come under fire from the very beginning due to the Thorsen scandal. Youth films have their heyday in the 70s and the popular folk comedies return again in the form of heist films about the Olsen Gang. Pornography’s newfound freedom leads to the production of ‘erotic folk comedies’ — the so-called bedside movies and zodiac movies.
  • 1980-1989 In the 1980s two Danish films win the Oscar for best international film. A humanistic realism characterizes the period’s films, which depict every day people anchored in a recognizable Danish reality. Nils Malmros makes a name for himself with his realistic youth films, while Lars von Trier creates an avant-garde breakthrough in Danish cinema. The Film Law is revised again in 1989, and the 50/50-scheme is established to stimulate popular movies.
  • 1990-1999 The effect of the 50/50 ordinance becomes visible with the populist comedies of the 1990s. In the mid-90s Danish cinema experiences a generational shift with a new wave of debuting directors and actors. Lars Von Trier achieves his international breakthrough and Dogme movies garner international attention towards Danish films. Zentropa, the company behind Dogme films, establishes itself together with other smaller companies in Film City. The Film Law of 1997 reorganizes The Danish Film Institute and film censorship is abolished.
  • 2000-2009 After the millennium popular film is composed of sequels, romantic comedies and “male action” movies. Mainstream film achieves success with attempts of classical genres and depictions of the class scheme in Denmark. DFI’s talent development system New Danish Screen is created to enhance the development of film’s formal language and narrative. Particularly noticeable in the documentary genre is a new documentary style that breaks through in the new millennium.

Wikipedia, Facts about Norwegian Film History

  • As of 2011, there had been nearly 900 films produced in Norway, with a third of these being made in the last 15 years.[6]
  • The Norwegian equivalent of the Academy Awards is the Amanda award, which is presented during the annual Norwegian Film Festival in Haugesund. The prize was created in 1985.
  • Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature at the 24th Academy Awards in 1951.
  • In 2006 the Norwegian/Canadian animated short film The Danish Poet, directed by Norwegian Torill Kove and narrated by Norwegian screen legend Liv Ullman, won an Academy Award for Animated Short Film
  • As of 2013, five films from Norway have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film: Nine Lives (1957), The Pathfinder (1987), The Other Side of Sunday (1996), Elling (2001) and Kon-Tiki (2012).

Tom McSorley (1999), A short history of Swedish story

  • “Swedish cinema” evokes words like silence, solitude, angst, despair and dread.
  • Swedish cinema has actually been vibrant and wide-ranging
  • A healthy indigenous filmmaking industry backed by an enviable combination of private investment and state support
  • Swedish filmmakers have been actively examining the social function of cinema,
  • Sweden has evolved from a largely agrarian, late-19th century society into an industrial and technological powerhouse.
  • Sweden has moved from a culturally and racially homogenous nation to a multi-cultural, multi-racial society.
  • The first public projection was in the southern city of Malmö, on June 28, 1896.
  • In February, 1907, the AB Svensk Biografteatern was founded and launched the golden age of Swedish cinema.
  • Two characteristics that have come to dominate Swedish film: the constant appearance of the Swedish landscape and the mastering of cinematic techniques.
  • Stiller developed a distinctive brand of ironic comedy, which was later to inspire Ernst Lubitsch.
  • Swedish actors and directors such as Ingrid Bergman, Ingmar Bergman, Max von Sydow, Bo Widerberg and most recently, Stellan Skarsgård, move to Hollywood.
  • Swedes began producing their own images of and for themselves, without relying on Americans or Europeans.
  • The Swedes produced, distributed and exhibited their own films, developing an audience at the same time [during WWI].
  • The golden age lasted into the twenties when the arrival of sound movies proved problematic.
  • While the domestic Swedish market was satisfied in this first decade of talking films, Sweden’s international reputation dropped precipitously
  • The 1940s: the flow of foreign films was cut off. Swedish films were watched more often and filmmakers such as Alf Sjöberg returned
  • Literary movement “Writers of the Forties.” rejected outright the romanticized, idealized images of the Swedish landscape and character
  • Victor Sjöström as artistic director of Svensk Filmindustri believed that creative talent should be treated with patience and be allowed to make mistakes in order to improve
  • Ingmar Bergman is a cinema unto himself
  • Exploring themes of isolation and alienation, and emphasizing individual psychology and its tangles of social and sexual expressions, Bergman mapped the region between desire, memory and action, often merging dream and reality
  • Achievements by filmmakers Arne Mattsson (One Summer of Happiness, 1951) and Hasse Ekman (Girl with Hyacinths, 1950)
  • Swedish film industry workers organized a demonstration on May 1, 1962, much as their predecessors had done in 1936.
  • Mandated to support the production of Swedish films of “high merit” and to promote Swedish film internationally, the Institute was funded by a 10 percent box office levy. The levy is still in place
  • During the sixties Bo Widerberg (Elvira Madigan, 1967, All Things Fair, 1996)
  • This new group called for dramas or documentaries that examined the social and political realities of contemporary Sweden
  • After making Fanny and Alexander, Bergman retired from filmmaking in 1982, causing Swedish cinema to redefine itself yet again.
  • Following the directorial footsteps of acclaimed actresses Mai Zetterling (Night Games, 1968) and Gunnel Lindblom (Paradise Place, 1976), have come talented, challenging directors such as Suzanne Osten, Agneta Fagerström-Olsson, Susanne Bier, Marie-Louise Ekman and Christina Olofson.
  • Sweden produces films that are seen by 20 percent of its population. Swedes still want to see themselves on screens.
  • Consequently, their cinema appears to be vigorous and healthy, if not a little beleaguered.
  • The new generation of directors has even come to terms with the Bergman legacy. Instead of resenting him the new filmmakers recognize and appreciate his contribution.

Wikipedia, Facts about Swedish Film History

  • Swedish filmmaking rose to international prominence when Svenska Biografteatern moved from Kristianstad to Lidingö in 1911.
  • In the mid-twenties both of these directors and Garbo moved to the United States to work for MGM, bringing Swedish influence to Hollywood.
  • During World War II Swedish cinema gained artistically, mainly due to the directors Gustaf Molander and Alf Sjöberg.
  • Cinematographer Sven Nykvist can be said to have had a major impact on the visual aspect of Swedish cinema. Twice the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, for Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander, Nykvist is considered by many to be one of the greatest cinematographers of all time. He also directed The Ox (Oxen) (1991), nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1992.
  • Vilgot Sjöman debuted in 1962 with The Swedish Mistress (Älskarinnan), but attracted far wider attention in Sweden when his film 491 was originally banned by the Swedish censors due to its explicit sexual content.
  • Bo Widerberg. His 1963 film Raven’s End (Kvarteret Korpen) and The Man on the Roof (Mannen på taket) are widely regarded as Swedish film classics.
  • Jan Troell debut with his own film Here’s Your Life (Här har du ditt liv). He went on to direct The Emigrants (Utvandrarna) in 1971 and its sequel The New Land (Nybyggarna) the following year.
  • Hans Alfredsson and Tage Danielsson, in common speech now as Hasseåtage who made a movie called Svenska Bilder. [Their] movies are considered cult in Sweden today.
  • In 1968, Stefan Jarl’s and Jan Lindqvist’s documentary They Call Us Misfits (Dom kallar oss mods) was released.
  • Roy Andersson had a breakthrough with his first feature-length film, A Swedish Love Story in 1969,
  • Lasse Hallström made his feature-length film debut in 1975 with the comedy A Guy and a Gal (En Kille och en tjej)
  • In the comedy genre Lasse Åberg has directed and also starred in some successful films that, although not praised by film critics, were box-office successes
  • Lukas Moodysson‘s first feature-length film, Show Me Love (aka Fucking Åmål) was a huge success in Sweden.
  • Lebanon-born director Josef Fares, with the comedies Jalla! Jalla! (2000) and Kopps (2003), and the refugee drama Zozo (2005), Iranian-born Reza Parsa with the drama Before the Storm (Före stormen) (2000), and Maria Blom, with the comedy Dalecarlians (Masjävlar) (2004).
  • Tomas Alfredson’s (son of Hasse Alfredson) romantic vampire film/drama film Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) (2008) received widespread acclaim
  • The Swedish Film Institute was founded in 1963 to support and develop the Swedish film industry.
  • At a rate of, currently, 20 films a year the Swedish film industry is on par with other comparable North European countries.

I also read these three Wikipedia pages and recommend you to do so too.

Extra Readings:

  • Swedish Film. 'An Introduction and Reader.Bondebjerg, Ib (2005). The Danish Way: Danish Film Culture in a European and Global Perspective. In Andrew Nestingen and Trevor G. Elkington. Transnational Cinema in a Global North.
  • Hjort, Mette (2005). ‘From Epiphanic Culture to Circulation: The Dynamics of Globalization in Nordic Cinema.’ In Andrew Nestingen and Trevor G. Elkington. Transnational Cinema in a Global North. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, pp. 191-221.
  • Francoise Buquet (1992). ‘Chronology of Scandinavian Cinema (1896-1991). ‘ in Peter Cowie (ed). Scandinavian Cinema. London: Tantivy press, pp. 11-20.
  • Paolo Cherci Usai. ‘The Scandinavian Style’. In The Oxford History of World Cinema, pp. 151-162.
  • Monika Djerf-Pierre & Mats Ekström (eds. 2014). ‘A history of Swedish Broadcasting. Communicative, ethos, genres and institutional change.’ Gothenburg: Nordicom.
  • Mariah Larsson & Anders Marklund (eds. 2010). Swedish Film. ‘An Introduction and Reader.‘ Lund: Nordic Academic Press.
  • John Tucker (eds. 2012). ‘Evaluating the Achievement of One Hundred Years of Scandinavian Cinema.’ New York & Ontario: The Edward Mellen Press.

* This blog entry is part of my series on the “Scandinavian Film and Television” course I am taking.

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