Notwithstanding Suzanne Reuter’s exclamation in Yrrol – en kolossalt genomtänkt film (Peter Dalle, 1994), Swedish cinema is full of love and relationships. It is difficult not to get emotionally involved, even as a member of the audience.
It is an indisputable fact that love shows up in close to one hundred per cent of all the stories we see on film. That might not be so surprising if you subscribe to the poetic view that it is somehow the meaning of life, or the prosaic one that it is a support system for the biological need to procreate. Maybe the proportions of love in cinema are slightly different in Sweden, since we produce so many crime thrillers with older cops whose main romantic activity is getting a call from an aggrieved ex-wife. But our younger, hunkier actors do tend to manage an entanglement or two.
Whether it be an action movie or a thriller, or maybe even a ghost story, there will be someone to try to win, win back, or lose. It’s like you can’t roll credits after having saved the life of the Prime Minister without having also included a really torrid embrace and kiss. Or your dream partner falling off a cliff – or moving to Sundsvall, depending on genre.
Although us Swedes are famous for ”Swedish Sin”, we may have just as many issues with Swedish Love. We are both pragmatic and dramatic, a quiet people who thaw out around Midsummer, and maybe we don’t quite know how to approach stories of love. Do we want to be intellectually reserved? Or fervently passionate? Therefore, our romantic comedies tend to be rather dark – Mamma pappa barn (Kjell-Åke Andersson, 2003) was promoted as a comedy, but actually contains a violent accident with a small child – and our romantic dramas sometimes require a sedative before the lights go down in the movie theatre. (I’m just going to say Bergman, and leave it at that.)
It’s difficult to pick and choose from the love-packed Swedish film oeuvre. Both because it is overflowing, and because it’s difficult to decide what actually qualifies. The film tips below all represent a tradition, but stand out because of their superior execution.
The Components of Love
(Note: The sum is greater than 100%, since love is neither logical nor quantifiable.)
Pounding Hearts on the Silver Screen
Almost too easy, maybe. The title does half the work. But Roy Andersson's cinematic debut about two teenagers is deservedly a classic, both generally and more specifically as a love story. That trembling, confused uncertainty which you can keep feeling for all of your life, but later learn to intellectualize and try to suppress.
Much the same as A Swedish Love Story, with teenage infatuation and fluid status divisions. But this time in a story about two girls discovering themselves and each other, each at their own pace. This film gave many people, both young and old, that magical feeling that their story was suddenly being told.
Many kinds of love in one house – both because the commune is planned that way, and because it doesn't always turn out the way you expect. Free love is hard, conventional love is hard, everything is hard. But beautiful.
Maybe an unexpected film series on this list. But main character Stig-Helmer is proof that nice boys do get to kiss beautiful girls - even if he doesn't keep any relationship going from one movie to the next. Love is never the main story, and that is actually an advantage, a good reminder that you don't need grand gestures and explosions in order to get to make out.
Most of the other tips on this list are about romance, but there are also stories about other kinds of love. Hotell is about a person healing and growing in their relationship to someone else without it being The One Big Love. Lisa Langseth's painful story of a breakdown is about honesty and lies and about getting very close to someone, but not quite.
It's always a great idea to go on a cottage vacation with another couple! Especially if one couple argues all the time, and the other couple is juuuust perfect and has a woooonderful relationship. More so if Peter Dalle is the director.
No, not the TV series about the goody-two-shoes reverend and his family. Hasse Ekman plays a radio celebrity who is almost undone by his fame, and meets a doctor who is, of course, entirely immune to his charms. And who can resist someone who can resist you?
Despite the title, love may not be the main ingredient of Mai Zetterling's amazing cinematic debut – or at least it is not the lofty goal. It's just as much about women, about history, and about what history does to women.