Swedes make their presence felt in Venice

Swedes seemed to be cropping up all over the place at the Venice Festival, which ended on September 10th.

Sweden’s contribution began with the debut of Lasse Hallströms Casanova, starring Heath Ledger and Sienna Miller alongside Hallström’s wife Lena Olin.

“It was like shooting a film in a museum”, the Swedish director told a packed press conference of Italian and international journalists. (to add to the glamour, those putting questions to star Heath Ledger included Chilean celebrity and former Miss Universe Cecilia Bolocco – who also happens to be married to the ex-president of Argentina, Carlos Menem).

The Casanova party on September 3rd was an extravaganza very much in the spirit of the 18th century setting of the film, where guests were transported by gondolas in the pouring rain.

In the film, Sienna Miller plays a woman who writes under a male ‘nom de plume’. In this sense, Casanova continues a theme explored in films such as Shakespeare in Love and indeed Shakespeare’s own Merchant of Venice, in which 17th century women pose as men in order to be taken seriously.

Hallström who has switched production companies away from Miramax to the Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures seems to have a hit on his hands. Hallström admitted to making a light comedy, returning to his roots in Swedish television.

Hallström and Olin, who currently live in America, have said that they would like to return to Sweden.

Kill Gil, Volume 1 by Gil Rossellini was presented as a special event towards the end of the festival. Filmmaker, producer and the adopted son of Roberto Rossellini after his marriage to Ingrid Bergman , Gil attended the Stockholm Film Festival in 2004. Suddenly he became mysteriously ill, and was confined to Karolinska Hospital for three weeks.

He is now confined to a wheelchair, and after 20 operations used his video camera to make a film on the bizarre experience. Isabella Rossellini, the Swedish speaking daughter or Roberto and Ingrid, helped to interpret for Gil.

The Venice Days section of the festival which contains daring cultural and political themes was appraised by a jury which consisted of among others Mattias Nohrberg of Triangelfilm, a Swedish distribution company based in Malmö that has taken over Sandrew Metronome, one of the largest distribution houses and theater chains in Sweden. French film Le Petit Lieutenant, directed by Xavier Beauvoir was chosen as the best film in the venue.

Each year several out-of-competition films are presented at the Venice festival. Festival organizers appear to have taken to heart criticism last year that the festival featured too many Hollywood movies. This year, that number was halved.

Venice is not only a festival but a market and Swedish distributors selected films which will be released in Sweden in the near future. Other films will be screened at Stockholm Film Festival November 11-21 (notably Kill Gil Volume 1) and the Göteborg Film Festival January 27th to February 6th.

Some of the theatrical films now their way to Swedish cinemas after Venice include The Brothers Grimm by Terry Gilliam (October 14th) starring Mat Damon, Heath Ledger and Monica Bellucci. Terry Gilliam has been chosen as the recipient of the Visionary Award by Stockholm Film Festival this year and will also be the guest of the Fantastisk Film Festival in Lund, September 16-25.

Two films bound for the Stockholm Film Festival are Romance and Cigarettes by John Turturro, a colorful story about working class heroes who break into song including characters played by James Gandolfino and Susan Sarandon – and Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst.

Brokeback Mountain will debut on January 6th 2006, a film about two cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) who are unable to stop their growing passion for each other, even though both have wives. The film, directed by Ang Lee, won the festival’s Golden Lion.

Moira Sullivan

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