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A Scrumptious Scandinavian Smörgåsbord (or Nordic Nosh-up Nirvana)

by Kenji
A Scrumptious Scandinavian Smörgåsbord (or Nordic Nosh-up Nirvana) by Kenji
Click Read More then the green links which appear. You the Living . Apologies to non-Swedes for using the Swedish term to encompass other countries. But hopefully there are plenty of tasty dishes here. “Nordic countries” is probably more appropriate than “Scandinavia” when including Finland and Iceland. List in year order. See also Kuxa Kanema’s great list Fifteen Finland Missing from the site: A Year Along the Abandoned Road A Day in Town ~ Which essential Icelandic films should be added? Nominations please ~~ Carl Dreyer Though not a prolific director, or one whose films were consistently popular with critics nor the public, Carl Theodor… Read more

Click Read More then the green links which appear. You the Living .

Apologies to non-Swedes for using the Swedish term to encompass other countries. But hopefully there are plenty of tasty dishes here. “Nordic countries” is probably more appropriate than “Scandinavia” when including Finland and Iceland.

List in year order. See also Kuxa Kanema’s great list Fifteen Finland

Missing from the site:

A Year Along the Abandoned Road
A Day in Town

~

Which essential Icelandic films should be added? Nominations please

~~

Carl Dreyer

Though not a prolific director, or one whose films were consistently popular with critics nor the public, Carl Theodor Dreyer is considered one of the greatest directors in Danish cinema. His use of compact, almost Spartan storylines combined with austere visuals and quick, close-focus cinematography has had a substantial influence on such later directors as Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson. Orphaned early on, Dreyer’s adoptive parents were financially struggling blue-collar, deeply religious Danes. Though they met his basic physical needs, the strict Lutheran concepts with which they raised him would later figure prominently in his work, which was frequently centered upon provocative explorations of psychological guilt and metaphysics. Dreyer became a journalist in 1910 after failing to make it as a cafe pianist or a corporate bookkeeper. With his tabloid, he wrote celebrity profiles; this helped him connect with the entertainment industry. Two years later Dreyer was writing titles for films from the Nordisk company, which lead him to screenwriting and infrequent jobs editing films. He wrote 23 screenplays before directing his first film, The President (1918), a pretentious but ultimately routine melodrama that was neither a critical nor a box-office success. Dreyer attempted to mimic the episodic structure of D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance in his second feature, Leaves from Satan’s Book (1919). Like his first film, this one was considered pretentious, but despite the film’s flaws, it did contain fleeting glimpses of his future greatness.

Following Satan’s Book, Dreyer sought to escape the financial instability of the Danish film industry and ended up making films in Norway, Sweden, France, and Germany, but try as he might, he was never able to escape battles with his producers and backers many who were said to have considered Dreyer an extravagant, extremely stubborn artist. The reputation was justified as the director considered his films works of art and doggedly refused to cut corners. Dreyer made his first great film, The Parson’s Widow (1920) in Norway with funds from the Swedish company, Svensk Filmindustri. The story is rife with a psychological richness not often found in melodramas. His next film, Mikael, a study of a tormented artist trying to cope with his homosexual desires, was made in Germany. This film too demonstrated Dreyer’s ability to evoke realistic, highly concentrated emotional responses from his actors. It was in France that he made the masterpiece for which he is best remembered, The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), a powerful, imperfect chronicle of the final day in the saint’s life. It was here that Dreyer took one of Griffith’s techniques, the close-up, and created effects designed to capture every nuance of the characters’ conscious and subconscious state. This film took the director over 18 months to finish. With this film, Dreyer attempted to keep the story historically accurate in every way: the script was based on actual trial records, the cast wore period clothing sans make-up and jewelry, the film was shot in perfect sequence, and elaborate, expensive sets were constructed, including an enormous castle with sliding walls to facilitate photography. Unfortunately, though critics adored the film (and still do, as it remains one of the most carefully examined and acclaimed films in the history of cinema), it was a box office flop. Due to a lengthy breach of contract suit with his French producers over a subsequent film, Dreyer didn’t make another film for five years (though he did win the court case).

His next film, 1931’s Vampyr (his first talkie), an exploration of the thin opaque veil between reality and the dream world, was independently funded and utilized a non-professional cast of actors. Though considered by many modern critics as a horror masterpiece, critics of the day disliked the film, and the public too stayed away. Dreyer was devastated by the two failures and did not make another film for ten years. Instead he went back to journalism until 1942, when he attempted a comeback with a short documentary. It was during 1943, the apex of Nazi occupation of Denmark, that he made his next classic, Day of Wrath. Though the film is outwardly a chronicle of a religious witch-hunt, it contained many subtler comparisons to the behavior of the Nazis, and Dreyer fled Denmark for Sweden where he remained, making another film, until the war was over. Upon his return to Denmark, he was unable to find a backer for his next film and therefore began making government-sponsored documentaries. Ten years later he created two more classics Ordet (1955) and Gertrude (1964). When he died, Dreyer was preparing to make a film about the life of Christ.
(Allmovie.com)

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a narwhal

Woe is Sweden (a tale with a moral, following the sad defeat of Sweden to Russia at football in 2008- repeated in our 2009 film world cup).

And so it came to pass that a land of midsummer light was filled with darkness and despair. And a terrible huge rumbling roar, the sound of great weeping and gnashing of teeth, broke forth from the shores of Gotland to the great Lapp Gate twixt the towering peaks; from the waves of the Baltic shores, to the glowing waters of Tannforsen and the furthest northern reaches of the roaming moose.

“Can it be, father” cried a young boy, amid the wailing, jostling throngs in the vast cavernous halls of the Gothenburg fish market, “that these our brave men must return from afar with heads bowed and hearts filled with gloom? For did i not see with my own eyes, barely 7 moons past, these same warriors rout the descendants of Alexander and Aristotle? Did they not feed on the sacred smulltronstället in the moonlight beside Lake Vättern, as have our forefathers before battle, since the dawn of time? And did you not say that our race is foremost beacon of enlightenment for the rights of humankind and the banishing of poverty and pestilence? And did not the renown of Gustavus the Great entice even the majestic narwhal to pay homage in the capital?

And did not cunning Carolus Linnaeus cast down his enemies into eternal disdain by naming weeds after them? And is ours not the noblest prize after which the people of all nations strive? And what of Henrik the Hardy, who endured the cold and crags and hunger of Sonfjället and Stora Sjofället for 40 nights as could no foreigner? Or Magnus the Magnificent who slew the invading ten thousand trolls from Tromso with his bare hands? Or Erik the Erudite whose fame spread far and wide, and whom the lustful ladies of Latvia confirmed his pen/is mightier than the sword? And are not Swedish men all equally endowed? And did you not tell me of more recent heroes, of Bibi the Beautiful whose compassion cured the mute actress, of Ingrid the Good who beguiled the bogeyman and conquered the lava flows of far Stromboli, of Stenmark the Supreme, master of the snowy slopes, of Bjorn the Brave who bettered Mad Mac the redhead on the green field of Wimbledon, and Josephson the Just who saved the world by the simple power of prayer, at the price of his own sanity? Oh father…!” And he could contain himself no longer.

To which his father, shedding a tear at the sight of the boy’s anguish and confusion, replied, “My son, know this; the tongues of men, even those we trust, cannot always speak true. Only yesterday, even before our sad nation’s tragedy, i was confronted with life’s futility.” For this dapper bearded man, a distinguished professor of linguistics at Uppsala University (bearing an uncanny resemblance to the professor in Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be) , had been grappling with translating lines from some foolish Anglo-Saxon book concerning a hyena who drank too much bovril and made a laughing stock of himself. “But when”, he continued regardless of this infantile interruption, “i saw our compatriots fall by the wayside against the men of Rus, i remembered the lesson taught us by the divine Ingmar (God rest his late lamented soul!); that truth and wisdom come only through trials and suffering. And you and i, my son, will be all the finer and stronger for it. And so are we blessed.”

~~

My Favourites:
Persona
Gertrud
Through a Glass Darkly
Stolen Death
Dogville
Miss Julie
Day of Wrath
The Sacrifice
You the Living
The Abyss
Drifting Clouds

~

Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki

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