Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday Movie Picks--Scandinavian Language Movies


Big problem here. I haven't seen many. And I regret that, especially that I've only seen two Bergman films (one...listed below, the other...Wild Strawberries...which I didn't love). I have yet to truly LOVE a movie of any of the Scandinavian countries. But, when you've only seen a total of four, the odds just aren't there.

Let's face it:  I'm American. And I always go to American films first. The problem is that there are SO MANY movies produced here in my home country, I can hardly keep up with everything I want to see. That makes it doubly hard to see a lot of World Cinema. I try to get to the foreign language critical darlings each year but even that is a challenge.

So, I offer you, on this Thursday, three quick picks as part of Wandering through the Shelves Thursday Movie Picks, movies I've seen that fit the category but that I can scarcely say I love, or even remember that well.

Here are my picks:

Persona 
dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966

Language: Swedish

I remember finding this movie wholly fascinating, disturbing, impeccably shot, perfectly performed. But that is seriously it. It's been almost ten years. Would love to re-watch, and I need to see more Bergman, in general.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 
dir. Niels Arden Oplev, 2009

Language: Swedish and some English

While it pales in comparison to David Fincher's darker, moodier, more polished English language version, it does have Noomi Rapace, who is every bit as good if not better than Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, quite simply one of the most compelling characters in modern fiction.

In a Better World 
dir. Susanne Bier, 2010

Language: Danish with some Swedish, English, and Arabic

I'll direct you to Four Ways a Best Picture 2010 for my full thoughts. I found this movie quite effective most of the way through but expected a stronger ending and felt a bit let down. It's solidly well-made though and brilliantly performed by a cast of top-notch Scandinavian actors.


21 comments:

  1. Bergman is totally worth the time. I've seen a few and haven't been disappointed once (although there are ones that are more difficult to sit through than others). He's really kind of amazing - yes he can be dark and impenetrable and pretentious, but each of his films are exquisitely performed and have a core of emotion so real and relatable that makes them completely watchable.

    I will stand up for the Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo being a better film than the American version, which is too long, too cold, and too in love with Lisbeth. And Rapace's performance is MILES beyond Mara's, although I concede that may not be entirely her fault.

    I haven't seen any of Susanne Bier's films. I really need to, but like you said, there are so damn many movies out there. I try to mix it up between English and foreign language films but I usually do default to my native tongue.

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    1. Yeah. I'll get to Bergman. I know it's a must. And it's a must I want. I just love David Fincher's cold, calculated aesthetic. You seem not to. I remember us talking over The Social Network once as well. I am likely to call all of his movies masterpieces. I just love his style. I think Rapace is great, probably better than Mara. Even still, Mara rocked that character, and I'd give her the Oscar over Streep in The Iron Lady in damn day.

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  2. Okay ya got me I haven't seen any of these, though I've been working on seeing more Ingmar Bergman's films. Persona just seems so intense I've never been in the mood for it when I ventured into his cinema. Sorry to hear you didn't care for Wild Strawberries, as you'll see I felt quite differently.

    I wasn't that crazy for the American version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to seek out the Swedish one. I remember In a Better World being discussed by during that series but as you said and Daniel echoed there are SO many films to see and I also default to English language more often when given the choice.

    Although I'm kicking myself now because the Danish film Gertrud which was recommended to me came in the mail last night and I didn't have time to watch it! It would have worked so well today! GRRRR!!

    My Scandinavian film viewing is very limited and my picks are a sort of fractured Bergman theme including both Ingmar and Ingrid.

    Wild Strawberries (1957)-Lovely reverie about looking back at life and the memories that come unbidden. Approaching 80 Dr. Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström), a retired doctor and professor, a remote man with a cold demeanor is traveling from his home in Stockholm to Lund to accept an honorary degree. Originally intending to fly he decides to drive instead accompanied by his daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin), a journey of a day. Along their way the people they meet and stops they make, including the doctor’s childhood summer home, lead him to evaluate the man he was and the one he has become. My favorite Bergman film.

    A Woman’s Face (1938)-Ingrid Bergman plays Anna Holm, a woman whose facial disfigurement has led her to become a blackmailer out of bitterness. The ruthless leader of a gang, she has no compassion for anyone until one of her victims turns out to be married to a renowned plastic surgeon giving Anna the opportunity to change her life. However the long tentacles of her former accomplices don’t want to let her go. Solid drama was remade a few years later by MGM with Joan Crawford.

    Sawdust & Tinsel (1953)-As a ragtag circus troupe makes its way through the bleak Swedish countryside conflicts arise between the members of the group. When they arrive in the town where owner Albert’s ex-wife lives he seeks reconciliation leading to bitterness from his present mistress who becomes involved with an actor with designs of his own leading to misery for all. Dark and unsettling but that’s Bergman for you.

    Honorable Mention-Cries & Whispers (1972)-Heavy, heavy Ingmar Bergman drama of recrimination and the acrid damage caused to relationships by long buried resentments. Two sisters gather at their childhood home to await the death of the third desperately ill sister. While they fail to reconnect to each other or their mortally ill sibling their maid seems to be the only person in the house who is capable of offering comfort and empathy. Color is used heavily to convey the oppressive mood of the picture although sometimes too much so, by the end you feel like you’ve been living inside a tomato for ninety minutes. Still an intricate, interesting drama.

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    1. Of course, I've seen Wild Strawberries and claim not to have enjoyed it, but I will admit that I watched it over a decade ago while I was laid up on pain pills after a major surgery. I may not have been in it. Even still, I remember not being blown away. I will probably try it again. Cries and Whispers I will certainly see one day. Bergman is on my list.

      Your others are unfamiliar, and it's hard to say if I'll ever get to them. Lol.

      Thanks for sharing.

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  3. You should definitely try to watch more Scandinavian films, there are a lot of great films that come from that region. I saw Persona a while back too, I need to rewatch it because I don't remember much.

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  4. Yeah...I'm pretty behind on my Bergman as well, only seen three of his films which are Persona, Cries and Whispers and The Seventh Seal.

    I liked to check out In a Better World as Susanne Bier did a great job with The Night Manager

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    1. Susanne Bier is an interesting one. I'd like to see quite a few more of hers.

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  5. As I suspected TGwtDT is very popular this week. Rightfully so, it's a fantastic film. Haven't seen the other two.

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    1. Right on. I think you did see In a Better World though for Four Ways. In fact, I know you did. Lol.

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  6. Don't worry I know what you mean about finding the time. I actually haven't seen any Bergman films GASP SHOCK HORROR! But one day I will, I just haven't yet. I have so many foreign films (and English language films too) that I;ve bought and wanted to see but as they demand a little extra focus, it takes longer to see them.

    I completely forgot about TGWTDT - brilliant film, great trilogy even. I;ve not see the others but Susanne Bier was sort of 'big' when I was in college. My friend loved her films. The only one I saw of hers was Things We Lost in the Fire.

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    1. It's a time consuming endeavor this movie obsession.

      I never saw the sequels to TGWTDT. Probably will at some point. I keep hoping Fincher will make the other two with his cast! May never happen.

      I really want to see more Susanne Bier.

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  7. I picked Persona and even though it is wonderfully shot I just feel like he was on some drug trip:) I have only seen the English version of Tattoo which I love but haven't seen the original. Don't know the third one at all.

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    1. The camera work in Persona is great. Agreed.

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  8. I haven't seen ANY Scandinavian movies. In fact, I've only seen about 5 foreign-language movies overall. (I know, that's really bad for me).

    I loved the English version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's definitely one of David Fincher's 3 best films (along with Zodiac & The Social Network).

    There were only 2 films that came to mind when I thought about Scandinavian movies that I need to watch: the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, & the original Swedish version of Insomnia, with Stellan Skarsgård. (Sadly, I haven't seen the English version of Insomnia, with Al Pacino & Robin Williams. That's one movie I need to watch).

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    1. Also, since you mentioned Ingmar Bergman, a few films of his that I need to watch came to mind: The Seventh Seal, Fanny & Alexander, Cries & Whispers, & Scenes from a Marriage.

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    2. I actually haven't seen much either, man. No worries. I seem to watch more French films than any other foreign language. Start there...you need Godard's Breathless and Truffaut's 400 Blows immediately. Italian films generally don't work for me as well. I really love the contemporary Mexican stuff from Innaritu and Cuaron. I highly recommend their Spanish language stuff.

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  9. Love Persona and In A Better World! I wasn't crazy about the Dragon Tattoo movies, even though Noomi was great.

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    1. Nice! I am right there with you.

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  10. I've been meaning to watch the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo since forever, but never did because I didn't have enough motivation. I think I'll check it out for Noomi's performance. I'm reading the book again and I completely agree with you, Lisbeth Salander is such a compelling character!

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    1. Those books are so much fun to read. Salander is the reason. Plus, those plots are just so entertaining.

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