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Biography

Austrian-Swedish writer, intellectual, director and founder of the Swedish Film Institute. Born in Vienna. Came to Sweden in 1939. Died in Djursholm, Stockholm County. Central Executive Officer at the Swedish Film Institute 1963-1970 and 1972-1978. Married to the actress Ingrid Thulin.-As the architect behind the reforms to film policy which resulted in the Swedish Film Institute, Harry Schein is one of the most influential figures in Swedish film history. He was also one of the most controversial.Harry Leo Schein came to Sweden as a lone Jewish refugee child...

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Biography

Austrian-Swedish writer, intellectual, director and founder of the Swedish Film Institute. Born in Vienna. Came to Sweden in 1939. Died in Djursholm, Stockholm County. Central Executive Officer at the Swedish Film Institute 1963-1970 and 1972-1978. Married to the actress Ingrid Thulin.

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As the architect behind the reforms to film policy which resulted in the Swedish Film Institute, Harry Schein is one of the most influential figures in Swedish film history. He was also one of the most controversial.

Harry Leo Schein came to Sweden as a lone Jewish refugee child in 1939. By the age of sixteen he had already worked as a laboratory assistant at the Wenner-Gren Institute for Experimental Biology and had become a student at the Stockholm Technical Institute. He became an expert in water purification and took over a company active in the field. When that company was sold in 1960, he became financially independent.

By that time Schein was a well-known figure both in politics and the arts. In the 1940s he had joined Clarté, a socialist group independent of party politics which attracted intellectuals. Between 1948 and 1956 he wrote film reviews for Bonniers Litterära Magasin, and he married Ingrid Thulin in 1956. Subsequently a member of the Social Democratic party, Schein was able to combine his knowledge of finance and cinema with his political contacts to negotiate a film policy reform which came into force in 1963. Schein himself became the first head of the Film Institute.

The aim was that a percentage from cinema ticket sales should go to the Film Institute, which would feed some of the money back to the film industry in the form of funding for quality films. The reform also involved the establishment of a film school. As Schein had planned, the measures were effective in changing the Swedish film landscape.

At the same time Schein failed to forge links with the new young filmmakers who benefitted from the reform. A highbrow intellectual who had a tendency to sound arrogant, his comments in debate could be extremely cutting. Where the CEO of the Film Institute was concerned, the radical young filmmakers of the 1960s tended to feel browbeaten. Many felt that he had amassed too much personal power, and his good contacts with the likes of Olof Palme and Ingmar Bergman made him appear like an establishment man. Harry Schein's time as head of the Film Institute gave rise to numerous arguments with the young movers and shakers of Swedish film. The tone of those arguments could be rancorous.

On 29 November 1977 an article signed by 42 directors was published in the newspaper Expressen under the heading "He decides too much".  This directors' revolt undermined Schein's position. The non-socialist coalition which had come to power in 1976 after a long period of Social Democrat government did not extend Schein's appointment as expected, and he subsequently resigned in February 1978.

Schein continued to be seen and heard both in the arts and in business. He was, for example, the head of the Swedish Investment bank from 1983 to 1987, and, ever a brilliant stylist, he was a highly regarded writer and debater. He published a number of books – the first of which was "Har vi råd med kultur?" ('Can We Afford the Arts?' 1962) – in which his autobiographical writing and collections of articles were never short of thought-provoking opinions.

Mårten Blomkvist (2011)

(translated by Derek Jones)

Awards

Prize Stockholm 1994 (hedersdoktor vid filosofiska fakulteten vid Stockholms universitet)
Festival Award Sorrento 1978 (Vittorio De Sica-priset)
The Robin Hood Plaquette (Swedish Film Critic) Stockholm 1978
The Guldbagge Award Stockholm 1970 Special Achievement
The Swedish Film Academy's Silver Plaquette Stockholm 1969
Chaplin Magazine Award Stockholm 1963

Films

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