Evergreen director still makes waves

According to Danish film director Lars Von Trier, "the only mistake Ingmar Bergman made was not dying”.

A curious comment from a neighboring Dane—who shares with Bergman a love for the Danish silent filmmaker Carl Dreyer. Von Trier recorded his thoughts on video, and they were added on to the other accolades given to Ingmar Bergman during a recent seminar on Ingmar Bergman held in Stockholm.

Some of Bergman’s films, such as Persona, were “difficult”, said Von Trier. But, he added , there was “even a little aura of the pop group ABBA about Bergman”.

By this he meant that some films were able to reach a general audience, such as Scenes from a Marriage (1976), a TV drama made into a theatrical release. The film is supposed to have raised the divorce rate in Sweden.

It is important to put Von Trier’s comments in perspective. For many young directors during the 1980’s, Bergman ”spoiled their careers” with his cinematic wonders. Many of them tried to make films exactly like him.

One of these was Reza Bargher, director of the box office success Wings of Glass (2000) about intercultural relationships in Sweden. His current film Popular Music from Vittula (2004), is based on a best selling Finnish novel by Mikael Niemi.

Bargher said he is glad that the octogenarian Ingmar Bergman “left the film scene”.

But has he for good? His latest film TV drama, Saraband, will be released in cinemas outside Sweden this year. The film was sold to distributors in Cannes before they had ever seen it. All Bergman has to whisper is “ I’ve got a craving to make something ”.

According to Marianne Ahrne, one of several film advisors who decides which films will get state funding, of 700 screenplays sent to the Swedish Film Institute during the past year and a half, she “hasn’t seen anything in the Bergman tradition”.

So unless the master wants to ”play again”, and despite having inspired countless directors from Woody Allen to Swedish director Suzanne Osten, the art house cinema director will remain in a class of his own.

Moira Sullivan

Moira Sullivan is a freelance journalist and member of the Swedish Film Critics’ Association


How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic

A front-line Swedish nurse is getting some Covid downtime with a week of private screenings of the Gothenburg film festival, in a former lighthouse off the country's west coast.

How a Swedish film festival is offering a nurse downtime during pandemic
Competition winner Lisa Enroth.

More than 12,000 candidates from 45 countries applied to watch the festival's films in almost near isolation on an island 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Stockholm.

The prize is a week viewing as many of the festival's 70 premieres as they like in a hotel in the former Pater Noster Lighthouse. But they will be in isolation and will have no access to their own computer or laptop.

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The bright-red lighthouse, built on a tiny island off Sweden's west coast in 1868, is surrounded by a scattering of squat, red buildings originally built to house the lighthouse keeper's family. It can only be reached by boat or helicopter, depending on the weather.

After a series of interviews and tests, festival organisers chose emergency nurse and film buff Lisa Enroth for the prize, in keeping with the 2021 festival's theme, Social Distances.

Before boarding a small speedboat out to the island on the clear, chill winter's morning, Enroth said she had applied not only out of her love for the cinema, but also to seek respite from her hectic work as an emergency nurse during the pandemic.

“It has been hectic, so it's a nice opportunity just to be able to land and to reflect over the year,” she said.

Months working amid Covid crisis

Sweden, which has taken a light-touch approach to the pandemic compared to its neighbours, has been facing a stronger than expected second wave of the virus. So far, more than 11,500 people have died from Covid-19 across the country.

Enroth works in the emergency ward of a hospital in Skovde in central Sweden. Since the start of the pandemic, her hospital's work caring for virus patients on top of their regular workload has been intense.

Lisa Enroth on her way to the remote festival location. Photo: AFP

“We had a lot of Covid cases during this year and every patient that has been admitted to the hospital has been passing through the emergency ward,” she told journalists.

The organisers said they were surprised by the numbers of applicants for the prize but were confident they had chosen the right candidate — not only for her love of cinema.

“She has also dedicated this past year in the frontline against the Covid-19 pandemic,” the festival's creative director Jonas Holmberg said to AFP.

“That's also one of the reasons we chose her”. 

Isolated screenings

Boarding the boat dressed in a thick survival suit, Enroth sped over the calm, icy waters, jumping off in the island's tiny harbour and disappearing into her lodgings.

A screen has been set up in the lantern room at the top of the windswept island's lighthouse, offering a 360-degree view of the sea and coastline around.

Another wide screen has been set up in one of the island's buildings.

Enroth will also have a tablet and headphones if she wants to watch films elsewhere on the island, which measures just 250 metres by 150 metres.

With only one other person staying permanently on the island — a safety precaution — Enroth's only contact with the outside world will be through her video diary about the films she has viewed.

The festival's films will be shown online and two venues in Gothenburg itself will allow screenings for just one person at a time.

Holmberg, the festival's creative director, said he hoped events like these would maintain interest in the industry at a time when many screens are closed because of pandemic restrictions.

“We are longing so much to come back to the cinemas and in the meantime we have to be creative and do the things that we can to create discussion,” he told journalists.