15 movies that will help you discover Sweden without leaving your couch

Salma Labyad
Salma Labyad - [email protected]
15 movies that will help you discover Sweden without leaving your couch
Max von Sydow in Utvandrarna/The Emigrants. Photo: Pica Pressfoto/TT

From Norrland to Skåne: the Swedish art of depicting the country's scenery through film is underrated. This list will help you discover Sweden even if you are self-isolating during the coronavirus outbreak.


Midnattssolens son (1939) - Kiruna, Lapland

Lovers of black and white movies will enjoy this journey through time and space. "The Son of the Midnight Sun", as the English translation of its title would be, is a documentary-like fiction film depicting Sami traditions and lifestyle in the late 1930s.

Filmed both in Tromsø, Norway, and Kiruna, Sweden the movie features several shots of Lapland landscapes and focuses on conveying to the viewer a picturesque image of the far north. At the time of the shooting, an overwhelming majority of Swedish movies about the Sami people were highly stereotypical – if not condescending – and while Midnattssolens Son escapes from such dynamics, it remains naively quaint and should thus be watched with that in mind.

Kungsleden/My Love and I (1964) - Kungsleden, Norrbotten and Västerbotten

Gunnar Höglund's thriller follows a young man and his romantic interest along their maddening trek through a famous Lapland hiking trail. The whole plot grows and unravels in Kungsleden, creating a hike through the main character's descent into madness. This thriller skilfully combines the melancholy of Swedish psychological drama and the beauty of Norrland under the midnight sun.

Här har du ditt liv/Here Is Your Life (1966) - Boden, Norrbotten

Here is Your Life takes the viewer to rural Sweden to learn the habits and customs of working class Swedes. Based on Nobel Prize winner Eyvind Johnson's loosely autobiographical novel, Här har du ditt liv as it is known in Swedish recounts the coming-of-age story of young Olof Persson, a teenager who struggles to make a living.

The movie explores the meaning of communism for the Swedish working class through the hero's experience in his native northern Sweden. Director Jan Troell’s attention to the scenery and to the artistry of nature makes his work a pleasurable opportunity to visit the small towns of Norrland and meet the 1910s working class.

Director Jan Troell and wife at the 2016 Gothenburg Film Festival. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Ådalen 31 (1969) - Ådalen, Ångermanland

Based on the strikes of the workers of Norrland town Ådalen, Bo Widerberg's romanticized account of the events offers yet another image of 20th century Norrland, this time through violence-struck villages tainted by the ire of protesters. The history and scenic representation of Ådalen unveils a brutal side to Norrland, which is often represented as a quiet, empty land.

Sawmill workers strike in Ådalen, 1931. Photo: SCANPIX SWEDEN

Utvandrarna/The Emigrants (1971) - Småland

In The Emigrants, Jan Troell's brilliant mind adapts Vilhelm Moberg's classic novel to paint a picture of the harsh conditions of rural life in Småland. Through the love story of Kristina and Karl-Oscar, the viewer is brought to Ljuders parish and explores mid-1800s Sweden, before accompanying Swedish emigrants on their journey to the New World.

The portrayal of the epoch is intense and thorough, following Troell's tradition, and the attention to artistic details brought Utvandrarna the fame it deserves. Its sequel by the same director, Nybyggarna (The Settlers), is an equally enjoyable experience.

Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow as Kristina and Karl Oskar. Photo: PRESSENS BILD

Mina drömmars stad/City of My Dreams (1976) - Stockholm

Continuing with the theme of the lives of the Swedish working class, let us now head to Stockholm. In Mina drömmars stad (City of My Dreams), Ingmar Skogsberg gives life to Per Anders Fogelström's popular novel and depicts the struggles of the proletariat in a city heavy with class inequality. Fogelström also narrates the film.

Set in the 1860s, the movies offers pictures of the capital at the budding of its industrialization, with a strikingly different face than that which it has today.

Sven Klangs kvintett/Sven Klang's Combo (1976) - Skåne

Set in a small town in Skåne, Sven Klang's Combo builds the image of the flaming 1950s and follows the everyday life of a Swedish jazz band. The movie will satiate music and jazz enthusiasts, as it features the remarkable performances of musician Christer Boustedt.

There has been intense debate over whether or not the film was loosely based on Swedish baritone sax player Lars Gullin - viewers are welcome to forge their opinion. In any case, Sven Klangs kvintett offers an captivating journey to the Swedish southern music scene of the time.

READ ALSO: 10 new (and old) Swedish films to add to your bucket list

Den enfaldige mördaren/The Simple-Minded Murderer (1982) - Skåne

The beautiful southern region is also the theater for Hans Alfredson's poignant story, The Simple-Minded Murderer. Following the tale of a cleft lipped man finding his solace with a poor family who welcomes him, the movie features an outstanding performance from Stellan Skarsgård. Widely considered one of the best Swedish movies, The Simple-Minded Murderer makes it worth hanging around in Skåne a bit longer.

Director Niklas Rådström. Photo: Stefan Lindblom / TT /

Den goda viljan/The Best Intentions (1992) - Norrland and Uppsala

From Norrland to university town Uppsala, The Best Intentions recounts the story of iconic Swedish movie director Ingmar Bergman's parents. This reflection on love and compromise is an intense dive into the family background of a landmark of Swedish culture, while also showing off beautiful scenery.

Max von Sydow on set. Photo: Dan Hansson / SvD / TT

Jägarna (1996) - Älvsby, Norrbotten

In this crime thriller crafted by Kjell Sundvall, Älvsby in Norrbotten, Norrland, becomes the scene of an eerie murder. The chilling musical theme and the fast pace leave the viewer panting as turmoil seeps through the small northern town and tension thickens.

However, similarly to Midnattssolens son, Jägarna is of a line of movies that fall into the distorted portrayal of the population of Norrland. Once the viewer is aware of the cultural and social prejudice that existed at the time, these movies are a way of remembering some of the clichés Swedish cinema has occasionally perpetuated up until recently.

Fucking Åmål/Show Me Love (1998) - Åmål, Västra Götaland

Lukas Moodysson's Show Me Love sheds light on the lives of teenagers in western town Åmål. In an honest depiction of love and expectations in the realm of teenage woes, the film escapes the stereotypes that come with narrating a tumultuous homosexual romance. The movie brings an interesting immersion into a small Swedish town and spares its audience from overused clichés.

Director Lukas Moodysson with actresses Rebecca Liljeberg (left) and Alexandra Dahlström. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Så som i himmelen/As It Is in Heaven (2004) - Norrland

While the previous movies on this list featured depictions of villages in Norrland under distress, As It Is in Heaven explores the normality of a small, sparsely populated northern village that the hero learns to discover again after years away.

The remarkable acting and soundtrack and, most importantly, the pleasurable photography of the surrounding nature make the movie an enjoyable experience throughout its whole 134 minutes.

Director Kay Pollak. Photo: Heiko Junge / TT

Masjävlar/Dalecarlians (2004) - Rättvik, Dalarna

Shot in Rättvik in Dalarna, Masjävlar depicts the lives of dysfunctional sisters in their seemingly ordinary childhood town. Snowy Dalarna is beautifully portrayed, and the actresses' performances render the movie a captivating experience. Fusing several genres, the comi-tragic movie sets itself free from the stereotypical portrayal of Swedish small towns and carves a solid story.

Farväl Falkenberg/Falkenberg Farewell (2006) - Falkenberg, Halland

Much like Show Me Love, Farväl Falkenberg presents the lives of youngsters in a Swedish town, this time in Halland on the West coast. The movie recalls the pivotal period of young men about to leave their hometown, and plays around with the immaculate imagery of small towns in Sweden that, though pleasant, cannot offer everything a young man expects from life.

It is an emotionally engaging story that viewers who have lived in Sweden will particularly enjoy.

Sameblod/Sami Blood (2016) - Norrland and Uppsala

One can safely say that Sami Blood was the movie Swedish cinema had been waiting for when it was released in 2016. Centered around the life of a Sami girl who dreams of living like the dominant Swedes, it is the most honest depiction in film of the treatment of the Sami during the last century.

In addition to offering breathtaking views of Norrland landscapes and highly recognizable spots in Uppsala, the movie instills growing frustration within the viewer through the unvarnished representation of Sami segregation.



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