Swedish cinema hot in Hollywood
Published: 24 Feb 2012
Swedes are enjoying great success in the international film world. Tomas Alfredson's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has been nominated for three Academy awards, while the Millennium phenomenon has put Swedish actors like Noomi Rapace on the world stage.
An early scene from Tomas Alfredson's :
Gary Oldman plays the lead role of George Smiley in Alfredson's film, based on John le Carré's novel of the same name and photographed by Swedish-Dutch cameraman Hoyte van Hoytema. Alfredson's previous film, , was given its first US showing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April 2008, where it won the prize for best feature film. Since then, Swedish cinema in general has taken off, and particularly the career of Tomas Alfredson.
Fresh start after Bergman
Perhaps, however, the story began earlier - more specifically on July 30, 2007, when Ingmar Bergman, Sweden's greatest film director in every respect, suddenly passed away. Several of the new generation's filmmakers admit to having an ambiguous relationship with this legendary predecessor. Bergman was a major source of inspiration, but also a giant in his field and an authority who was impossible to match or even approach.
After his death, Swedish cinema was suddenly able to relate more freely to his legacy, and filmmakers developed their own versions of Hollywood's genre movies and the European "art cinema" tradition.
Alfredson's new interpretation of the vampire horror movie was a perfect case in point - artistically challenging but at the same time very skillfully crafted and marketable as a genre film. was quickly followed by the most successful export Swedish cinema has ever known.
Stieg Larsson's trilogy was already a worldwide literary success when the Yellowbird production company decided to film the books, together with a number of major TV channels in Scandinavia and Germany. Noomi Rapace, then an international unknown, played the lead as the controversial heroine Lisbeth Salander. The screen versions were welcomed both by critics and by audiences thirsting for movies that did justice to the burgeoning array of dark Swedish crime novels.
The Swedish films based on Larsson's books have now earned more than SEK 1 billion at the box office and have been exported to over 50 countries. Rapace has shot to fame with roles in Guy Ritchie's and Ridley Scott's coming sci-fi movie .
The success of the films has also paved the way for David Fincher's American interpretation of the books, and his movie became the first Hollywood production to be filmed almost exclusively in Sweden.
Swedish talent exports
But it is not just the Swedish interpretations and reworkings of pop culture genres that have gained ground in the international arena. During the past few years, Swedish talents began to carve out a place for themselves in Hollywood's Dream Factory.
Besides Noomi Rapace, Stellan Skarsgård's three sons, Alexander, Gustaf and Bill, were suddenly on the list of characters in major American productions where previously only their father had been found. Joel Kinnaman, Michael Nykvist, Lena Endre, Mikael Persbrandt, Ola Rapace, David Dencik and Alicia Vikander are all established Swedish actors who have broken into the international market. They will shortly be seen in everything from giant productions such as , and to costume dramas like and Paul Thomas Anderson's new film, .
Directors such as Mikael Håfström, Måns Mårlind, Björn Stein and Daniel Espinosa are making a name for themselves in Hollywood as skilled craftsmen in the action, thriller, horror and sci-fi genres.
Creativity before money
Meanwhile, streaming out of Sweden's art schools, theaters and experimental short-film labs are a generation of independently minded filmmakers who, in keeping with European cinema tradition, are more interested in finding new forms of expression and on examining the dark side of life than on juggling with million-dollar budgets in California.
Behind successful Swedish directors like Ruben Östlund, Lisa Aschan, Jesper Ganslandt, Fredrik Wenzell, Pernilla August and Axel Petersén () are small creator-driven production companies such as Plattform, Atmo, Fasad and Hepp Film. The new, prizewinning Swedish directors go behind the façade of Swedish society in a way that has not been seen in Swedish cinema since the late 1960s, when directors such as Bo Widerberg, Mai Zetterling, Vilgot Sjöman and especially Bergman captured Scandinavian melancholia on screen.
Next in line to continue this trend are prizewinning short film directors like Lisa James Larsson, Jens Assur, Johannes Nyholm and Patrik Eklund.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Tomas Alfredson is unfazed by all the excitement surrounding . Some might find the film dull, he says in an interview with the Swedish magazine , "but there's no carelessness involved - it's a totally solid product. That pays in the end."
This feature has been published by the Swedish Institute.