Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) would have been 97 this week. He is amongst the most acclaimed Nordic filmmakers such as Carl Theodor Dreyer, Aki Kaurismaki, Roy Andersson and Lars von Trier. I was in Sweden for the first time last month. I also saw a bit of Rygge, Norway and Copenhagen. I’ve yet to see any films by Dreyer or Kaurismaki. I saw Colin Nutley’s House of Angels last week, it takes place where I was in the south of Sweden. It has a charming ensemble feel and reminded me of the community in Betty Blue. Roy Andersson has made only five feature films since 1970, his first A Swedish Love Story is about group of teenagers and their dysfunctional parents. Once again it was an element of charm, somewhat less so. Songs from the Second Floor and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence are full of charm, dark humour, and are precisely staged, Andersson’s own world of surrealism and intrigue.
The best Ingmar Bergman film I’ve seen is Scenes from a Marriage (TV version), it’s been several years since I’ve seen it, it a perfect masterwork to illustrate Bergman’s view of cinema as theatre and not literature which he opposed screen adaptations of. Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme 95 movement was experimental and avant-garde. Festen is masterpiece of family tension and tracking camera moves. The Hunt made by Vinterberg fourteen years later is another film that explodes, it made me so angry, Mads Mikkelsen was never been better. Von Trier’s E-Trilogy had me drained, Europa has some great moments of slow motion and black and white to colour, not to mention one of Eddie Constantine’s last films. The Element of Crime intrigued me at its beginning, Epidemic veered into madness by the end, it even had its own theme song. Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark, Dogville and Melancholia are his masterpieces. They are all about a woman in trouble, von Trier’s alter-egos. The women are sometimes catholic, their worlds are Old Testament.
I haven’t seen enough films from Norway, Iceland and Finland. I found Sweden to be a world away from Ireland, full of trees, directness and national pride (many houses fly the Swedish flag).