Swedes at the Oscars

An article by
Henrik Ekwall, Analyst at the Swedish Film Institute
Ingrid Bergman with the Oscar she received for The Autumn Sonata

This year’s Academy Awards ceremony marks the sixteenth time a Swedish production competes to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, this time with the internationally celebrated The Square by Ruben Östlund. How do our chances look? One to four, if you crunch the numbers.

Swedish productions and efforts have 19 wins out of 78 nominations, which yields odds of winning of 24 per cent. But there is a lot more that speaks in favour of Ruben Östlund’s latest film. Best Foreign Language Film is in fact one of the three categories in which Sweden has been most successful, if you look at total number of Oscars won. Three Swedish films have been awarded an Oscar in said category, all on Ingmar Bergman’s account: The Virgin Spring, Through a Glass Darkly and Fanny and Alexander. A nomination for Best Cinematography would also have looked promising. Linus Sandgren and Sven Nykvist have together been awarded three times in this category. Not to mention sound editing; the sound-savvy Swedes Per Hallberg and Paul N.J. Ottosson have so far enjoyed a total of five Oscars thanks to their achievements in Swedish as well as foreign films. However, Sweden has never scored an Oscar for Best Picture, despite having been nominated for both Utvandrarna and Cries and Whispers. So, in a way – considering the odds – it’s lucky the dialogue in The Square was deemed to mostly be in Swedish and Danish (even though a fair share is in English).

The past decade has also been the most successful decade yet for Swedes at the Oscars. So far, a total of 7 Oscars has been awarded Swedes and Swedish productions. Alicia Vikander won an Oscar as supporting actress in The Danish Girl; Per Hallberg and Paul N.J. Ottosson won a total of four Oscars in sound design and sound mixing for their efforts in the films The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall; Malik Bendjelloul wrote, directed and produced the best documentary of 2012 – Searching for Sugar Man – and Linus Sandgren won the Best Cinematography award after having shot La La Land – all in all: A winning streak that Ruben Östlund isn’t likely to break. A nomination during the 1930s, however, would have looked less promising, the 1930s being the only decade so far during which not a single Swede or Swedish production was awarded an Oscar.

Something that also speaks in your favour if you’re Swedish and happen to be nominated for an Oscar: being male. Roughly two thirds of all the Swedish Oscars have been awarded to men. Also, within the categories Best Foreign Language Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Design, Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short Subject, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Picture, the numbers are 100 per cent in favour of men. Although, Ingrid Bergman stands out as the Swede with second most Oscar nominations, as well as – in a tie with Per Hallberg, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ingmar Bergman – the most awarded Swede. She won three Oscar statues in total (unless you count Ingmar Bergmans Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award as an Oscar, in which case Ingmar Bergman would total four Oscars). And if you look at the respected Honorary Award, the numbers surely lean in favour of Swedish women contenders – the stats so far: 100 per cent Garbo.

The ten most successful Swedes at the Oscars (awards and nominations pooled, including honorary awards):

Seven Swedish Oscar-favourites