GRIM. Grey. Gloomy. Add together the moodier inhabitants of Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland, throw a few stark landscapes into the mix and add in some slow-paced drama and you'll more or less have arrived at Scandinavian cinema.
“We’re a nation of beautiful people singing happy songs in stylish modernist apartments. But that’s not how we Swedes see ourselves. We have a very, very dark side, and I think you’re only just finding out about it now.”
The media just cannot fathom it; one minute Scandinavian film is in total crisis – are the glory days over for the Swedes? Where did it all go wrong for the Nords? How will the Danes ever resurface from this overhanging, black shitstorm? – and the next, they’ve magically usurped – hurrah(!) – nobody panic, a huge resurgence has been announced, a new leaf has been turned. Scandinavian film has been in and out of crisis more times than Sarah Harding has been to rehab. Yet press, good or press bad, we can trust that the filmmakers of this oft-overlooked region are, much like the Vikings before them, a force to be reckoned with.
Scandinavian mysteries in particular seem to be making a mark on the back of Danish TV series The Killing. Despite being aired in its original language with subtitles, which wouldn’t typically attract an English-speaking audience, the BBC4 sensation show drew more viewers than Mad Men and had fans running out to Gap to buy that red sweater. In a recent interview with the Danish Film Institute, one Danish producer suggested that the growing interest is due to the fact that Scandianvian film portrays "the world’s happiest people."
Is he high? Judging by their grey scenes and dark plotlines, this is far from the case. "Part of Sweden’s problem overseas is that everyone thinks we’re like Abba and Ikea,” says Stockholm-based stand-up comedian, Magnus Betner. “We’re a nation of beautiful people singing happy songs in stylish modernist apartments. But that’s not how we Swedes see ourselves. We have a very, very dark side, and I think you’re only just finding out about it now.”
Swedish mysteries in particular is known for producing many critically acclaimed movies, and during the twentieth century was the most prominent in Scandinavia, mostly due to cutting-edge directors such as Ingmar Bergman (The Virgin Spring, 1960) and Lasse Hallström, the current pioneer in the Scandinavian noir genre (The Hypnotist, due for release in 2012, his first Swedish film since 1987).
The Danes lend a hand to the Swedes, painting a darker side of everyday Scandinavian life that is far from the safety of Ikea storage units and Dancing Queen. Both Bergman and Danish director, Lars von Trier have a whole catalogue of filmic evidence to their name, that displays a more complex and conflicted picture of so-called idealist Scandinavian life.
To give you an idea, here are some must-see Scandi films. Brace yourself...
Enfant terrible Lars Von Trier's film Antichrist featured unsimulated sex and self-mutilation. Casual.
"A few days after the premier of Crisis, the telephone rang. It was Lorens, saying: "Dear Ingmar. That was an awful film, hard imagining anything worse! I suppose your phone is ringing off the hook with offers." Ingmar Bergman
Released on 21 December 2011 was the American remake of the Scandinavian mystery thriller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
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I went to see the new Girl With The Dragon Tattoo last night - amazing. And the soundtrack is…Read more