DIS Copenhagen faculty member, Morten Egholm is back with more Scandinavian film favorites! Morten Egholm teaches Scandinavian cinema at DIS and he’s chosen five films to share with you, representing the Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Dive into Scandinavian culture with these cinematic classics.
Denmark: Queen of Hearts (May el-Toukhy, 2019)
The most debated, praised, and award winning Danish film for many years. A controversial story about the successful lawyer Anne, who in her job idealistically helps children and teenagers who are victims of domestic violence, but in her private life uses her power position to seduce her 17 years old stepson. The film never tells you what to think or who to sympathize with, but insists on just presenting the ethical and emotional dilemmas as they happen and develop in all their complexity. With this film, May el-Toukhy (and it’s actually only her second feature) delivered one the most original takes on all the current heated discussions on gender identity and power abuse.
Finland: Concrete Night (Pirjo Honkasalo, 2013)
Pirjo Honkasalo based this coming of age drama about violence and masculinity on a novel written by her female partner Pirrko Saisio. In a time span of 24 hours, we are following, Simo, a sensitive, sexually insecure, dreamy 14 year-old as he becomes more and more emotionally influenced by his older, criminal, and nihilistic brother. Most of the film is in black and white, but don’t let that scare you away. The highly expressionistic cinematography is some of the most stunning you have ever seen in Scandinavian cinema, strongly influenced by the early films by Lars von Trier.
Iceland: Noi the Albino (Dagur Karí, 2003)
The third coming of age drama in this week’s selection. In Dagur Karí’s debut feature from 2003 we follow the everyday life of the pale, introvert slacker Noi (the Icelandic version of Noah) who is dreaming about leaving the small Icelandic village where he lives alone and isolated with his grand mom. If you are in to deadpan humor and liked my Finnish and Icelandic recommendation from the last selection you will find this film hilarious. Most of the time it’s like watching an artsy, introvert, deadpan Nordic version of an American sitcom from the 80’s. Promise me not to miss what – in my opinion – is the funniest bank robbery scene made in film history!
Norway: The Bothersome Man (Jens Lien, 2006)
A man with no name arrives in the desert. We don’t know where he comes from, but he is picked up by a truck. He is brought to a modern, sterile city where everything is arranged for him: an apartment, a job, and a female partner. Everyone seems content, but nobody talks about anything with depth. Our protagonist develops an existentialist crisis, but is it possible to escape this perfect world? The Bothersome Man gives us a scary, thought-provoking, but also at times funny nightmare vision of the perfect Scandinavian welfare state that has given people everything – except something to live for. It’s like if David Lynch or Wim Wenders went to Scandinavia and made an adaptation of a Sartre novel.
Sweden: Sami Blood (Amanda Kernell, 2016)
The Sami people is the big indigenous group spread over Finland, Norway, and Sweden. They have a relatively rich tradition for making – or at least being the thematic focus of – Scandinavian films. Amanda Kernell’s film about the suppression of the Sami people in the 1950’s is a strong and thematically universal coming of age story about how difficult it can be to stay true to your roots if you belong to a marginalized, cultural minority. The film gives a beautiful portrait of a culture that in many ways is dying out, and the young Sami actress, Lene Cecilia Sparrok, who is playing the struggling 14 years old Ell -Marja, gives an unforgettable performance.
Morten Egholm has a PhD in film history and a master’s in Scandinavian Literature, Film, and Media Studies from University of Copenhagen. He has been teaching at DIS since spring 2008, mainly film classes, but also a couple of literature classes. He lives in the ‘Fuglebakkekvarter’ in Frederiksberg with his family and a huge collection of books, DVDs, and Blu-rays (oh yes, those formats still exist!). His main interests are watching (and analyzing) film and T.V. shows (old and new), reading classical European and contemporary American literature, and playing FIFA on PlayStation with his two sons.