Sweden Cinematography – from Nya vågen to the 1970’s

The Sixties were the subject of a real change of the guard in the field of Swedish cinema, from an industrial and artistic point of view. Anders Sandrew died in 1957, Carl Anders Dymling, Karl Kilbom (founder of Nordisk Tonefilm) and Erik “Hampe” Faustman in 1961. Sjöberg and Molander returned to the theater, while Ekman and Mattsson left Sweden. At the helm of Svensk Filmindustri, actor Kenne Fant was elected as president and Bergman as artistic director. The real engine of change was the young critic Widerberg who, in his articles and essays, harshly attacked the Swedish film industry, guilty – in his opinion – of having imposed too many limits on directors and of having lost all contact with reality. The films were supposed to represent ordinary people, captured in their daily lives, using real environments and not studios. Widerberg also accused Bergman and Sucksdorff of failing to profit from their popularity, closing in on their own world instead of opening up to the real one. Widerberg proved his theories with the feature films Barnvagnen (The Pram) and Kvarteret Korpen (The Raven Quarter), both from 1963 and starring the young actor Thommy Berggren. The films, heavily influenced by the Nouvelle Vague, featured long sequence shots and continuous stances on the part of the narrator, who intervened to take sides now with one and now with the other character. The success was tremendous and started Nya vågen. At the same time, the critic Harry Schein proposed the foundation of a state body that would manage the resources destined for film production more carefully, becoming itself the financier of the most significant projects. Following lengthy negotiations between government representatives and producers, the Svenska Filminstitutet was born in 1963, of which Schein took over. The tax on tickets was abolished and replaced with a contribution of 10% on the gross proceeds that exhibitors had to pay to the new institution.

According to top-mba-universities, the Svenska Filminstitutet incorporated the Filmhistoriska Samlingarna (in fact the national film heritage), started a film promotion and diffusion policy and assumed the costs of publishing the magazine “Chaplin”, founded by the scholar Bengt Forslund, who was later appointed artistic director of the institute. A film school, Filmskolan, was also inaugurated in 1964. Starting in 1968, the Svenska Filminstitutet also had the opportunity to participate economically in the making of films, so much so that in the 1970s it co-produced about 50% of the seasonal titles. The real novelty, however, consisted in the institution of a real ‘quality prize’ that a jury of experts bestowed every year on the most significant titles. This measure had the immediate consequence of the recovery of the industry: while in the period 1959-1963 the annual average was 17 films, the 1964-65 season recorded 25 new titles. It should be noted that the films shot in the 1960s were however far fewer than those of the 1950s: 177 against 315. Among the important authors who emerged during the period we must mention Sjöman, a provocative and rebellious director, who caused a great scandal due to the violence and eroticism of many situations present in his debut film, 491 (1964; 490 + 1 = 491), distributed only after heavy cuts. Jag är nyfiken – Gul (1967; I am curious), soon followed by Jag är nyfiken – Blå (1968, I am curious – Blue), also had problems with censorship, especially in the United States, where it was distributed after a year of controversy and with enormous success with the public. It was a diptych interpreted by the young acting student Lena Nyman who, without following a script, carried out an inquiry into the political and social situation of Sweden by interviewing passers-by, organizing meetings and using free time for sexual encounters with different guys. Very important was then the directorial debut of the actress Mai Zetterling who, with Älskande par (1964; Gli amorosi), created a beautiful reflection on memory, experience and time using the stories of three women as a pretext. The film was followed by Nattlek (1966; Giochi di notte), a work on incest presented at the Venice Film Festival and screened, for reasons of censorship, only to the jury and journalists. Strongly influenced by feminism was Flickorna (1968, The girls). After the failure of Doktor Glas (1969; Doctor Glas), Zetterling left for England and only returned home in 1986 to direct his latest work Amorosa, a biography of the writer A. von Krusenstjerna, author of the novel from which she had drawn her first film. Filmskolan also didn’t take long to bear fruit: Dom kallar oss Mods (1968, They Call Us Mods) by Jan Lindqvist and Stefan Jarl was born as a student project and then found funding for its realization. Over time it became the first part of a trilogy completed by Jarl alone: ​​the other two episodes were Ett anständigt liv (1979, Una vita decente) – which dealt with the theme of drug addiction – and Det sociala arvet (1993, The social inheritance) – which was linked to the first film by interviewing the sons of the Mods. Cinema also became a political and contesting tool. In 1968 a group of students led by Widerberg made the documentary Den vita sporten (White sport) on the occasion of the protests that prevented the holding of the Davis cup tennis match between Sweden and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). In that period, among other things, the most radical filmmakers and critics began to consider the Svenska Filminstitutet an overly institutional and compromising body. They therefore created a new distribution company for ‘alternative’ cinema, the FilmCentrum.

This exciting season, however, ended in the late 1960s when Widerberg began to devote himself to more commercial productions, such as Elvira Madigan (1967) and Ådalen ’31 (1969; Adalen ’31), which earned him a certain notoriety outside. of national borders. Jan Troell, who had made himself known with the notable 4 × 4 (1965) and Här har du ditt liv (1966, Behold Your Life) – both based on E. Johnson’s novels – also moved on to feature films of greater spectacular impact: the diptych Utvandrarna (1971; Karl and Kristina) and Nybyggarna (1972; The new earth) had as protagonists, Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow, already well known abroad. The films, which told the story of a couple of Swedish emigrants to the United States, were a great success and allowed Troell to start several collaborations with American producers. Bergman, for his part, was not insensitive to the renewal of the 1960s, as Persona (1966), Skammen (La vergogna, 1968) and En passion (Passione, 1969) showed, but he showed absolute rigor in continuing his personal path of reflection. on the individual and his identity. In the seventies the success of his television series Scener ur ett äktenskap (1973; Scenes from a marriage) was enormous, to the point that the number of divorces in Sweden underwent a significant increase. The previous year, Viskningar och rop (Whispers and shouts), one of his most painful and intense works, was released in theaters, masterfully photographed in color by the great Sven Nykvist, one of the most important cinematographers in the history of cinema. Shortly thereafter, Bergman was accused of tax evasion and left the Sweden for Germany. The major novelty of the 1970s was the attempt to develop a ‘genre’ cinema that was not necessarily indebted to the Hollywood model. Widerberg, for example, drew several films from the novels of the Sjöwall & Wahlöö collective, which specializes in crime stories that are highly critical of society.

The best title in the series was Mannen på taket (1976; The Man on the Roof). On the comedy side, there were significant results from the company Svenska Ord, founded by radio and television comedians Hasse Alfredson and Tage Danielsson. The two had produced, in 1965, one of the funniest comedies in the history of Swedish cinema, Att angöra en brygga (Docking at the Pier). In the 1970s they achieved great success with Äppelkriget (1971, The War of Apples), Släpp fångarne loss – det är vår (1975, Free the prisoner – it’s spring) and Picassos äventyr (1978, Picasso’s Adventure). Their cinema was loved by both the public and critics for the accelerated pace of the narration and the intelligence of the screenplays, which were able to represent the contradictions of the country with biting irony. Beyond these exceptions, however, Swedish cinema of the 1970s faced a dangerous creative crisis. Critics began to point out with great insistence the total absence of new talented authors and the inability to tell stories that had any interest for the public. Revenues from Swedish films became less and less satisfactory and the national film industry took a hard hit. Göran Lindgren, appointed president of Sandrews in 1969, decided to abandon production in 1975 to focus on distribution and operation. The same fate befell Europe Film, directed by Ejnar Gunnerholm, who had replaced its founder Gustaf Scheutz, who died in 1967. Svensk Filmindustri was instead sold to the newspaper “Dagens Nyheter”, which soon got rid of it by selling it to the Bonniers publishing house. Curiously, the number of production companies in those years grew, partly thanks to the support of the Svenska Filminstitutet, partly because many directors set up their own business and founded small companies to obtain tax breaks. Bergman himself created the Cinematograph, becoming his own financier. In the mid-1970s, the conflict between the FilmCentrum group and the Svenska Filminstitutet escalated due to the increasingly authoritarian attitude of its president Harry Schein. The government attempted mediation by appointing Bo Jonsson, founder of Viking Film, as president. Schein, however, remained as chief executive and, after only two years, forced Jonsson to resign. The director of “Chaplin”, Stig Björkman, was also turned away. When Schein entered into a financial agreement with Svensk Filmindustri, Sandrews and Europa Film, the protests escalated further and Schein was put in a position to vacate the post. In 1976 Per Ahlmark became managing director and Finnish-Swedish director Jörn Donner was chosen as president. The latter, however, did not prove to be up to the task, in particular he invested large sums in international co-productions that were frequently not even realized.

Sweden Cinematography - from Nya vågen to the 1970's

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