Swedish bestselling novel Simon and the Oaks (Simon och ekarna, 1985) by Marianne Fredriksson, was adapted for the screen, hits the theatre in New York October 12 and LA, San Francisco and Chicago on October 19 and throughout the U.S. on Oct. 26. We met with director Lisa Ohlin in New York.
Short video clip with the Swedish director on Thompson Square, Lower East Side, Manhattan: http://www.nordstjernan.com/video/4963/
Swedish director Lisa Ohlin in New York

Ohlin directed this award winning adaptation of Marianne Fredriksson's novel from 1985, about the friendship of Simon and Isak, a working-class boy and the son of a wealthy Jewish bookseller, who fled Nazi Germany during World War II.
This film, an adaptation of the novel of the same name, is still commonly read in Swedish schools. It takes place in Gothenburg in 1939, where we follow Simon, a young intellectual who grows up in a loving working class family, and gains admission to an upper-class culture. An old oak tree plays a central role, as Simon often sits in its branches and dreams about a different life; despite misgivings, his parents agree to let him go to an expensive school. He meets Isak and learns about Jewish culture. It's through Isak’s father that Simon discovers his love for music and reveals the secret about his own Jewish roots, which takes his life in another direction. Eventually as war rages over Europe, the two boys' families slowly merge.

So little changed..."
The film focuses on how anti-Semitism affected Sweden during the war, a subject that is taboo in Sweden.
"We still have a lot of anti-Semitism in Sweden, and so little has changed. It is still an untouchable subject and we don't talk about it in the fear of triggering it. I thought the film would create a debate, but not much has happened," says director Lisa Ohlin, who referred to the recent bombing of a synagogue in Malmö (Attack on Jewish community) which got more attention in the media by Danish press than Swedish.
Simon and the Oaks received a record 13 nominations for the 2012 Sweden's Guldbagge Awards (the Swedish equivalent of the Oscars), including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematography.
Director Lisa Ohlin was drawn to the novel because she could relate it to her own life—when she as a teen, she discovered her mother was Jewish and had fled Berlin for New York in 1939. Her parents separated, and her father returned to his native Sweden. When Lisa was 5, her mother died. She and her brother then moved to Sweden to live with their father, who never mentioned their mother.
“I know how it is when you feel like you don’t belong somewhere, very much like how Simon feels in the film. I was different; I didn’t look like a Swede nor did I feel like one,” says the director.
The film is the fourth most expensive film ever made in Sweden and became a major commercial success. Lisa Ohlin has directed four feature films, television series and commercials, but Simon and the Oaks is her biggest triumph so far.
"One of the more difficult problems of making the film was the oak tree. Finding a 400-year-old oak tree, which lives on the water's edge according to the novel, was a nightmare. Oaks hate water, so the author Marianne Fredriksson's plantation was a tough one, but after hundreds of oaks we luckily found the right one."

Movie times and release dates in the U.S. - Simon and the Oaks at The Filmarcade
Official trailer: Simon and the Oaks, official trailer

Text & Photo: Hanna Aqvilin