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Svensk director, film teacher and cinematographer. Born in Stockholm. Died in Danderyd.-Is there any other Swedish filmmaker who had such an eye for images as Arne Sucksdorff? The combination of beauty and symbolism in Sucksdorff's images ensures his films a place among the most notable in cinema history. Not without reason did André Bazin compare Sucksdorff with Luchino Visconti.Sucksdorff made documentaries, or nature films, but he was not content simply to observe nature. Instead, he used and shaped it according to his purpose or needs. Much depends on...

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Biography

Svensk director, film teacher and cinematographer. Born in Stockholm. Died in Danderyd.

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Is there any other Swedish filmmaker who had such an eye for images as Arne Sucksdorff? The combination of beauty and symbolism in Sucksdorff's images ensures his films a place among the most notable in cinema history. Not without reason did André Bazin compare Sucksdorff with Luchino Visconti.

Sucksdorff made documentaries, or nature films, but he was not content simply to observe nature. Instead, he used and shaped it according to his purpose or needs. Much depends on trick photography and props, and his films are often so tightly directed that it is debatable whether they are documentary or fiction. But this should not be taken as criticism. Sucksdorff was an artist, albeit an artist with an ecological bent, and if one regards his films as stories, as character studies, such as Trut! ('Gull!,' 1944), and as expressed opinions rather than as educational in purpose, he becomes easier to get to grips with.

Sucksdorff began his career with a series of short films about Sweden, yet he soon began to expand his horizons. Some of his best films, such as Vinden och floden ('The Wind and the River,' 1953), are from India. Yet Sucksdorff's films are understandably very much of their own time, and there is a romanticised, almost naive tone to those works which spotlight cultures other than his own. Even though his intentions were good, they often have an air of exoticism.

Towards the end of his career he moved to Brazil, where he remained for upwards of 20 years. One reason for the move was that his only genuine fictional feature film, The Boy in the Tree (Pojken i trädet, 1961), was a major flop with audiences. It placed Sucksdorff in financial difficulties to the extent that he no longer believed he had a future as a filmmaker in Sweden. In Brazil he taught at a film school and got involved in environmental issues, especially the struggle to save the Amazon rain forests. He also made the film My Home Is Copacabana (Mitt hem är Copacabana,1965) in Rio de Janeiro.

He made only four feature length films in all, of which the two most impressive are The Great Adventure (Det stora äventyret, 1953) and The Flute and the Arrow (En djungelsaga, 1957), and even though his fame today is built on these, his short films are also of the same calibre. One of them, Symphony of a City (Människor i stad, 1948), was the first Swedish film to win an Oscar. Sucksdorff's style is characterised by impressionism, and as time went by his narrative imagery became more independent, to the extent that a narrator's voice became unnecessary. Some of his short films are lit as if they were horror movies, but more typical are his images of hazy sunlight through blades of grass, mist over water and raindrops on asphalt. Images and sequences such as these are what confirm to us that Sucksdorff was more a poet of the cinema than an out-and-out documentary filmmaker.

Fredrik Gustafsson (2011)

(translated by Derek Jones)

Awards

The Guldbagge Award Stockholm 1994 Creative Achievement
Stockholm 1965 Best Director My Home Is Copacabana
Swedish Film Society Prize Stockholm 1962 The Boy in the Tree (diplom)
Stockholm 1954 (hedersdiplom)
Festival Award Cannes 1954 Det stora äventyret (hedersdiplom)
Swedish Film Society Prize Stockholm 1948 (plakett)

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