Love is in the air at 2011 Stockholm Film Festival

As the 22nd edition of the Stockholm International Film Festival opens this week, The Local's Peter Vinthagen Simpson delves into the twin themes of love and director Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Love is in the air at 2011 Stockholm Film Festival
Photo: Stockholm Film Festival

Love is a perennially popular theme for any regular movie-goer and the festival has this year deemed that it is what the public needs and is deserving of.

“Love is an eternal theme in which each new film generation creates their own interpretations. How love is portrayed in film is both a clear depiction of our time and a finger on the pulse of the state of society,” the festival website proclaims.

Among the films on offer in the category Love Stories is Hysteria by Tanya Wexler, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy, and set in Victorian London.

The film tells the story of a physician who is a specialist in curing nervous women with the aid of hysterical orgasm and is described as a comedy.

A second choice nugget is Like Crazy, by Drake Dorrenius, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and portrays the challenges of continuing a trans-Atlantic long-distance relationship.

The Swedish language contribution to the theme is Once upon a Time in Phuket which explores the concept of “vardagsvägran” (a Swedish colloquialism meaning something like “dropping out of the rat race”).

A Stockholm man, shocked by a friend’s death, decides to chuck in his job and head to Thailand with the intention of writing a novel, but instead he gets involved in a love triangle.

While the theme of love has been feature on the silver screen for as long as any self-respecting film buff can care to remember, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu is something of a more recent phenomenon.

González Iñárritu only made his English language breakthrough in 2003 with with 21 Grams starring Sean Penn. He followed up his success with Babel in 2006 and Biutiful in 2010 and thus has become one of the hottest names in Hollywood.

The 46-year-old is furthermore the first from his homeland to be nominated for the best director Oscar.

His films have won critical acclaim worldwide attracting a total of 12 Academy Awards and have established him as the one of the most prominent artistic exponents of the effects of globalization on individuals.

While Iñárritu has only made four feature films, his impact has been considerable and immediate in a decade characterised by a greater inter-connectedness with the rest of the world.

The Stockholm Film Festival’s award for lifetime achievement has this year been bestowed on iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Huppert is perhaps best known for her role as a repressed piano instructor in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher but at the festival she can be seen in My Worst Nightmare by Anne Fontaine.

“Fearlessness and contemplation are the opposing poles in the space where her characters are created and exist. She is the muse to the greatest of film auteurs, and at the same time, her own incomparable auteur,” her award citation read.

The Stockholm International Film Festival is no glamorous cocktails and canapé mingle, it is a festival for the movie-lover and with almost 200 films on offer over its 11 day duration, there is sure to be something to titillate all tastes.

The festival is more than a feast of film however, with a series of seminars on offer, some in English, as well as the popular Face2Face section which gives fans the chance to meet all the directors, actors and filmmakers visiting the festival.

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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.

READ ALSO: Decision on stricter restrictions for foreign travellers to be made quickly

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.