This week directors Vilgot Sjöman and Claes Eriksson took TV4 to court – because the commercial television station had the gall to insert advertisements into their films. Both directors say that they didn’t agree to commercial breaks in their films, and that the breaks were placed badly.
The directors’ hopes might be buoyed by a decision that came down early this week: TV4 was judged to be in the wrong by the Swedish board of inspections for placing a commercial break in the midst of a particularly dramatic scene in Luc Besson’s film Leon (released as The Professional in the USA) last December.
Claes Eriksson is taking TV4 to court over the two commercial breaks in his film Hajen som visste för mycket (The Shark Who Knew Too Much) – a film that’s been seen by many as a direct criticism against venture capital economics. Irony.
Vilgot Sjöman is in court over the three breaks in his film Alfred. In Svenska Dagbladet he described his excitement on finding that the film would be shown on TV4 and settling down in his summer house to watch it.
“It was a catastrophe. It’s like I have a little kid inside me, and I was sad when I saw how they handled my film,” said the 79-year-old filmmaker.
This won’t be the first time Sjöman stands up before a court for his art. Sjöman is the director of the controversial Jag är nyfiken – gul (I Am Curious – Yellow) seized by American customs officials as obscene materials. Sjöman flew to the States to defend his film, and while his work was trashed in the first court, a higher court saw the artistic value of the film and let Sjöman and his tapes free.
A number of members of the board of inspections are looking to charge TV4 with even more wrongdoing concerning Alfred, and freedom of speech and copyright issues are at stake. Among other things the film (which is in four languages) was at times simply not subtitled due to some type of machine failure.
The courts have been watching the films in their entirety as they were shown on TV4. Dagens Nyheter reported that in the sober environs of the courtroom, the commercial breaks seemed even more intrusive than they would have been at home. It seems that commercial channels may have to come up with a new strategy if they hope to break even.