• Sweden's news in English

New film tackles Olof Palme's complex legacy

14 Sep 2012, 16:33

Published: 14 Sep 2012 16:33 GMT+02:00

For the last few weeks, buzz has been building in Sweden for the September 14th release of "Palme: älskad och hatad" ('Palme: loved and hated').

The feature-length documentary is the first to feature material provided by Palme's family, including never-before-seen Super-8 clips from family vacations and attempts to trace the journey of an upper-class boy who went on to "create the world's most equal country".

Despite more than 25 years having passed since he was assassinated in downtown Stockholm, Palme remains a divisive figure in Swedish politics.

His name can still spark strong reactions about how he either helped or hurt Sweden during his three decades at the heart of Swedish politics, including two stints as prime minister.

According to filmmaker Maud Nycander, Palme was – and still is – a one-of-a-kind political figure in Sweden whose intensity and passion stood in stark contrast to the way Swedish politics had been conducted.

"Sweden is a consensus country, and here comes a politician with brilliant oratory skills giving fiery speeches. That was something new for Sweden," she tells The Local.

Related Olof Palme photo gallery

"That led to him being viewed as arrogant and a know-it-all very early on, even when he was simply a political advisor [to then Prime Minister Tage Elander] in the late 1950s when the first hateful newspaper articles appeared."

Fellow filmmaker Kristina Lindström adds that Palme's combative debate style was often viewed as "aggressive".

"But that's not the way he really was. He had a hard time understanding why people couldn't differentiate between how he conducted a debate and how he was as a person," she says.

Lindström tells of a recent review of the film in a Swedish hip-hop magazine which compared Palme to Swedish football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic proclaiming, "if you like Zlatan, you should like Palme".

"It's sort of like a metaphor for someone who is outgoing, who sparks reactions – both for and against; who says what they think," she says.

"When we grew up, Palme was more of a concept than a person. And everyone had an opinion about him. He was uncompromising. When he took a position, he was very clear about it and very passionate like no one else was."

Nycander and Lindström explain that their motivation for making the film was to help lift Palme's political legacy out from under the shadow of his 1986 assassination.

"The murder really overshadowed Palme as a person and his life," explains Nycander.

"The generation of people who are now around 30 haven't grown up with Palme like we did; they only know about Palme through the murder."

In addition to offering younger Swedes a more nuanced view of Palme's time as the leader of the Social Democratic party, the film is also very much about Sweden at the time.

"Our vision was to do a film that could tell about both Palme and his time. The film shows a lot about the Sweden that existed at that time and he was a part of that time. He had an impact on the times, and the times had an impact on him," says Nycander.

"There was such a belief in the future on the part of Palme and at that time that we don't have today."

Both filmmakers emphasize that the film in no way attempts to put Palme on a pedestal or portray him in an overly positive light.

Indeed, the film also addresses a number of the scandals which Palme faced during his career, including the IB-affair, in which a secret intelligence agency was revealed to be operating with the Armed Forces.

"We really haven't tried to paint some sort of idealized portrait; rather we wanted to do a film about a very complex person," says Nycander.

Indeed, Palme's legacy is a complicated one, his still-unsolved assassination notwithstanding.

As an example, the filmmakers reflect on Palme's relationship with the United States, the foreign policy of which Palme was often at loggerheads, but a country which nevertheless held a warm spot in his heart.

It was during a year studying at Kenyon College in Ohio that Palme was able to move beyond what had been a number of turbulent years at boarding school in Sweden.

"In the United States he got to be a new person, a different person," explains Lindström.

"He really was a friend of the United States; he loved the spirit there and the energy."

Nevertheless, the image of Palme famously marching in Stockholm with the ambassador from North Vietnam in 1968 prompted the United States to recall its ambassador in what many consider to be the nadir of relations between the two countries.

In the film, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger discusses his frustration at Sweden's lack of understanding for the United States' policy in Vietnam.

Story continues below…

"To be compared with Nazism despite having fought a four-year war against it was unacceptable," Kissinger says in the film.

But despite differences over policy, Kissinger maintained a great respect for Palme, delivering one of the more moving speeches at his funeral, Nycander recalls.

While the film doesn't focus on Palme's assassination, Nycander believes that the Sweden portrayed in the film ceased to exist the day that Palme died.

"We had a vision of ourselves as a country that was a little better than others. We were free, forward looking, modern. You could trust us," she explains.

"We had an image of ourselves that everything was so great, but maybe in reality it wasn't."

Palme also played an important part in shaping the view of Sweden from abroad.

"Palme still represents Sweden in many parts of the world even though Sweden is no longer his country," says Lindström.

"He helped put Sweden on the map."

David Landes

Follow David Landes on Twitter

Related links:

Your comments about this article

18:01 September 14, 2012 by JonnyDee
I really wish Sweden would honor the legacy of this great self-less man & his family by standing up against the U.S. and finally proclaiming the facts, which is that Palme was murdered by the U.S. because he was against the Vietnam War & advocated peace between the U.S. & USSR versus the Cold war that destroyed so many people.

Here's what really happened: http://www.veteranstoday.com/2011/08/19/assassination-of-swedens-olof-palme-most-dangerous-moment-of-cold-war-3/
18:50 September 14, 2012 by Uncle

COME ON. I understand that it is extremely fashionable to blame US in every evil deed ever done, while USSR, China, Islamic countries and smaller communist countries did nothing but bred unicorns and produced rainbows, (that is until countries are exterminating themself and then the big Satan is called for help) but REALLY?

First, the South African connection is very strong. Then, Rhodesian one. Then, all the factions in Angola and Mozambique, where mr. Palme felt comfy enough to push his long nose into. East German extremists claimed responsibility. Indian connection, where Palme did not allow to sell weapons worth hundreds of millions . There was a Yugoslavian connection. BTW, USSR was also a prime suspect here, due to Palme's attempt to legally de-nuclearize Europe.

There were TENS of stakeholders in line to put a bullet through him ahead of the US.
04:25 September 19, 2012 by rc franden
is this guy like JFK killed by who KGBS.AFRICA or his own government seems like allot of political assassinations wont be told till all players are dead&burried sad since us americans feel that if JFK lived we would have never been in Vietnam cause he was there on fact finding & knew like afganistan a no likee those americans in our country peope!
12:28 September 23, 2012 by AHA
He was an honest man. Hating him came mostly from the right but, even from some of his own "people". I remember the hateful Ads in GP newspaper every other week for many months before his assasination, sent by some Dr Petre`n, I think the name was. Then the mindless investigations that were initiated by a polisman who had an absurd idea of a Kurd connection. The same polisman wanted his wife to have polis protection.
22:20 October 5, 2012 by Schwedenurlauber
He was the last statesman in Sweden who left footprints. Parallel to his later government ended the time of functional socialism and globalization broke through. I think, he would have argued about the powerlessness of elected administrations in the present and worked against this side effect of a globalized economy.
Today's headlines
Winter in Sweden
An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft
Sami guide their reindeer in Karesuando. Photo: TT

An Arctic tradition: hunting and handicraft

2 hours ago

You've seen the city life, Stockholm clubs and Gothenburg streetcars - but there's another side of Sweden, wild and raw. The Local spoke with Peter Siikavuopio, a Swedish trapper living in the far north, about his craft.

Swedish police probe fatal attack in Norrköping
Stock picture of a Swedish police officer. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Swedish police probe fatal attack in Norrköping

2 hours ago

UPDATED: Police have launched a murder investigation after one man died and another was left fighting for his life in hospital on Thursday following a mystery assault in Norrköping in central Sweden.

Refugee crisis
Poll: Swedes get behind stricter asylum rules
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven visiting Malmö on Wednesday. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Poll: Swedes get behind stricter asylum rules

2 hours ago

At least seven out of ten Swedes support the government's controversial decision to tighten asylum rules, a new survey has suggested.

What's on in Sweden
Four groovy music gigs in Sweden this week
Rock and blues singer-songwriter Beth Hart. Photo: Therese Jahnson/SvD/TT

Four groovy music gigs in Sweden this week

4 hours ago

We have picked out our four favourite events rocking it this week, alongside our regular interactive guide to everything cool happening in Sweden.

Refugee crisis
Calls for stricter asylum rules after Sweden move
Stefan Löfven visiting border police in Malmö on Wednesday. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/TT

Calls for stricter asylum rules after Sweden move

19 hours ago

Sweden's decision to tighten asylum rules and border checks sent shockwaves through the rest of Scandinavia on Wednesday. But some predicted the measures will have little effect.

'Swedes can still hold their heads high'
Police and refugees at a train station in southern Sweden. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson / TT

'Swedes can still hold their heads high'

21 hours ago

Sweden's decision to cut the number of refugees it accepts doesn't mean the country has shed its humanitarian superpower identity – merely that it could no longer do it all on its own, writes The Local's correspondent Paul Connolly.

'Our story is some kind of Disney fairytale'
The happy couple. Photo: Private

'Our story is some kind of Disney fairytale'

21 hours ago

Josefin Karlsson was so disgusted by the abuse hurled at the young beggar sitting outside her local supermarket in Gothenburg that she resolved to talk to him. The chats went rather better than expected, because in December they get married.

Swedes bite into bizarre Christmas holiday pizza
The Swedish Christmas smörgåsbord pizza. Photo: Private

Swedes bite into bizarre Christmas holiday pizza

22 hours ago

A fast food restaurant in Karlstad is cooking up a storm with a unique Christmas twist combining Swedish favourites such as meatballs and pickled herring with Italian pizza.

Champions League
Zlatan eyes hero's welcome to Malmö
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at a press conference ahead of the match. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Zlatan eyes hero's welcome to Malmö

1 day ago

Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is planning a glorious night when he returns to his native city to tackle his first club Malmö FF in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Refugee crisis
Sweden split over move to tighten asylum rules
Refugees arriving in Malmö on Tuesday evening. Photo: Stig-Åke Jönsson/TT

Sweden split over move to tighten asylum rules

1 day ago

UPDATED: Public opinion was divided in Sweden after the government announced a shock tightening of asylum rules in a bid to stem the influx of refugees, which could see people turned away at the border.

Sponsored Article
After Paris: 'The war is not only against Isis'
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm solved a startup’s housing crisis
How did this missing Swedish cat turn up in southern France?
Sponsored Article
Swedish researchers find Ice Age 'missing link'
Blog updates

25 November

So What Does An Ambassador Do? (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"I know that my mum is super proud that I’m an Ambassador. But if you asked..." READ »


20 November

Editor’s blog, November 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, It has been a long and busy week for The Local as we reported on..." READ »

People-watching: November 25th
Sponsored Article
Lofsdalen: The real Swedish wilderness
What do Swedes want for Christmas?
Sponsored Article
Top five UK weekend getaways from Sweden
GUIDE: How to help refugees if you live in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Beaches, bikes, and buds: studying in Malmö
Mystery ice circle in Swedish river
Sponsored Article
Sweden must combat extremist 'mirage'
IN PICTURES: New royal winter snaps of Sweden's Princess Estelle
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
How to figure out healthcare abroad
Stockholm film festival's top movies
Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: the new epicentre of global leadership
People-watching: November 20th-22nd
Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
‘Food choices in Sweden destroy forests in Asia’
Swedish King calls for bathtub ban
Analysis & Opinion
Why you should care about Sweden raising its terror threat level
Sponsored Article
The cheapest and fastest way to transfer money
Stockholm's best international bars
Is this the best warning sign ever?
Why are more Swedes getting fat?
Sweden's tribute to Paris victims
What is Sweden's sexiest name?
VIDEO: Madonna's emotional tribute to Paris victims at Stockholm gig
Nine of the merriest Swedish Christmas fairs
Sweden cashes in on new kronor banknotes
How lonely are you in Sweden?
Roaming bear shot dead in Swedish village in Uppsala county
Seven tips for scoring firm friendships in Sweden
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: