Star Wars fever awakens Sweden’s film nerds

UPDATED: How many light sabres have popped up in your Facebook feed so far? Tech-loving Swedes are gripped by Star Wars fever as one of the most-hyped movies of all time hits screens across the Nordics, before the US.

Star Wars fever awakens Sweden's film nerds
Swedes at the premiere on Tuesday night. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' opened in Swedish cinemas at 10am, with fans rushing to get an early glimpse of the movie, following its premiere on Tuesday night.
Sweden was selected along with countries including France, Denmark and South Africa to be among the initial countries to screen the much-hyped film, a day before it goes on release in the UK and two days before cinemas in the US will show it.
In Stockholm, more than 30 screens were set to show the film throughout Wednesday, with the most-anticipated screenings taking place at the country's new Imax theatre inside the new Mall of Scandinavia in Solna, north of the city centre. 
Jens Leffler, 29, told The Local that he was “totally psyched” about watching the movie in the Swedish capital. He said he had spent the morning following the film's official Instagram account in order to get in the mood, but noted that he had avoided looking too closely at early reviews.
“I am pretty excited. I'll admit I have circled the date a little bit in my calendar!” he said.
“I feel that I am in quite a good position because even if it's bad I am just looking forward to the experience and going back to that universe again.”
Meanwhile southern Swedes were planning to pack into one of the other biggest 3D cinemas in the Nordics, the Cinemaxx in Copenhagen.
Others across the country took to social media to demonstrate their excitement, posting photos of themselves in costume, tweeting snaps of their tickets or manipulating profile photos to include Darth Vader masks or light sabres.
The movie's release follows months of teasing trailers that raised more questions than answers, and a Hollywood premiere on Monday from which the celebrity audience emerged smiling but sworn to secrecy.
Disney, which bought the Star Wars franchise from its creator George Lucas for $4 billion in 2012, went to extraordinary lengths to keep the plot shrouded in mystery before the general release.
This secrecy ahead of the launch prompted a backlash against the film's fearsome publicity machine. The French daily newspaper Le Monde boycotted press screenings of the film on Tuesday condemning the “unacceptable…and grotesque” demands made by the studio on journalists who wanted to see it.
The new movie is directed by JJ Abrams, and reviews suggest it is much more in the spirit of the original trilogy, which concluded with the Return of the Jedi in 1983.


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.