What embodies Swedish film? It is of course a question that’s impossible to answer. Ingmar Bergman’s name, although quite often synonymous with Swedish film, is indisputably one of the greatest in film, but one cannot claim he’s the one who single-handedly paved the way for Swedish film. Before Bergman there were other master directors like Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller and Gustaf Molander—all of whom put Sweden on the cinematic world map.
To get a better idea of Swedish film and how great it really is (because it is great), Richard Peña, Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, put together the wonderful program, “Northern Exposures: Social Change and Sexuality in Swedish Cinema.” Peña says it took a long time to produce, and that there was no specific reason for having a Swedish film festival in the Big Apple right now.
“Great art,” he says, “doesn’t need to keep a calendar. I put the series together with the invaluable advice of a number of Swedish friends. The thought behind it was to offer at least an introduction to Swedish film history beyond what we know already about the great silent filmmakers (Sjöström, Stiller) and of course Mr. Bergman.”
Although Peña doesn’t want to reveal which of the many films in the festival is his favorite, he does admit that Ingmar Bergman has been an enormous part of his life and education.
“It's hard to put him into a category like ‘favorite director.’ I very much admire the work of Alf Sjöberg, and the more I see of Hasse Ekman, the more I'm convinced that he's a major and sadly neglected figure. I'm primarily a film historian, and the goal of this series began with the idea to fill in that enormous ‘black hole’ that existed in Americans' awareness of the depth and richness of Swedish cinema. So I hope through this series that the work of people like Gustaf Molander, Hasse Ekman, Arne Mattsson and Mai Zetterling, among others, will become known and appreciated alongside that of Mr. Bergman.”
Fredrik Edfeldt’s beautiful and moving film “The Girl” (“Flickan”) opened the festival to great acclaim, but if you want to know more about Swedish film you might want to have a look at the whole spectrum of films that is shown during Northern Exposures interesting program. Here you can savor everything: from the jovial (Karin Swanström’s “The Girl in Tails" from 1926) to the bittersweet (Hasse Ekman’s “Girl with Hyacinths” from 1950) to recent gems like “The Girl Who Played with Fire” by Daniel Alfredsson and “Heaven’s Heart” by Simon Staho.
Also worth checking out is the exhibition "Ingmar Bergman: The Man Who Asked Hard Questions"—a unique exhibition that takes a look at Sweden's most famous film director ever, through a man-made tree surrounded by a barren landscape.
The installation opened in Los Angeles on April 4, 2008, as a part of a tribute to Ingmar Bergman organized by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It's showing at the Walter Reade Theater in New York from April 16 to April 26.
“Northern Exposures” runs through May 4.
For more information: www.filmlinc.com