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Ten new (and old) Swedish films to add to your bucket list

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Ten new (and old) Swedish films to add to your bucket list
Still image from the movie Sami Blood. Photo: Gothenburg Film Festival
14:28 CET+01:00
Irish film writer Peter Larkin lists his top picks of movies screened at this year's Gothenburg Film Festival.

As a volunteer at the 40th Gothenburg Film Festival I heard that the film most audience members were eager to see was Sami Blood (Amanda Kernell, 2016). It was awarded the prize for Best Nordic Film at the festival's Dragon Awards, the largest film cash prize in the world.

It concerns the minority Sami people in northern Sweden in the 1930s and their struggles through life, focusing on one girl Ella-Marja (Lene Cecilia Sparrok), as she is cut off from society.

READ ALSO: 30 Swedish movies you must see before you die

Another Swedish film, Beyond Dreams, had its world premiere and received the Audience Award for Best Nordic film. It is a coming-of-age story set in modern Swedish suburbia. Both Sami Blood and Beyond Dreams feature stunning performances from ensemble casts and will have general Swedish releases in March. 

The Ex-wife is a comedy of manners about Swedish family life and all of the difficulties of taking care of children after a divorce; it receives a general Swedish release on February 17th.

The festival had a classics section which included The Phantom Carriage (Sjöström, 1921) directed by the acclaimed Victor Sjöström, also an actor who is perhaps best known to international audiences for playing the professor in Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957). The Phantom Carriage is said to have been a major influence for Bergman, particularly The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957) and also interestingly, Stanley Kubrick had the film in mind when he made The Shining (Kubrick, 1980). Screenings at Göteborgs Konserthus featured a live music performance of the film's score.
 
Also playing in the classics section in the beautiful one-screen cinema Capitol was The Secret Friend (Marie-Louise Ekman, 1990) which has been digitally restored by the Swedish Film Institute and shown in collaboration with Cinemateket. It is a film about anxiety and cross-dressing, featuring a wonderful central performance by Ernst-Hugo Järegård and a music score by Abba's Benny Andersson.
 

The critically acclaimed and popular Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) was also screened as part of the festival's Jubileumsretrospektiv. It was the first Swedish film I saw that wasn't a Bergman movie. I first saw the film nearly ten years ago upon its initial release in my home country of Ireland in 2009; it was sitting on the shelf of a local mainstream video rental chain.

The film concerns two 12 year old kids in Blackeberg, suburban Stockholm in 1981. The boy Oskar (Kåre Hendebrant) is being bullied at school; the girl Eli (Lina Leandersson) is in fact a 200 year old vampire. The Australian film critic Adrian Martin has said that the most important aspect of a filmmaker's brilliance is how he or she creates separate visual templates for day and night. The Insider (Michael Mann, 1999) is a great example of this and Alfredson in Let the Right One In (see trailer) uses sharp bright contrasts in the night scenes that give the film an almost hypnotic flair.

There was also great diversity in the films selected that were directed by women. A selection of last year's Swedish films such as Kiki (Sara Jordenö, 2016) and Alena (Daniel di Grado, 2016) were also in retrospective as well as many short films such as I Will Always Love You, Kingen (Amanda Kernell, 2016) and The Fire (Liselotte Wajstedt, 2016).

The Göteborg Film Festival proudly celebrated its 40th year in which 457 films were shown from 83 countries across 11 days. 2018's festival promises to bring just as many joys and surprises.

Guest blog written by Peter Larkin. Read his blog here.

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