Morten’s Scandinavian Film Favorites

DIS Copenhagen faculty member, Morten Egholm, has more of his Scandinavian film favorites to share. Explore these expertly chosen, must-see films representing the Scandinavian countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.  

Denmark: Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)

Melancholia (2011) - IMDb

Of course, we can’t have the Scandinavian film blog running for a month without recommending at least one film by the big Danish provocateur and enfant terrible, Lars von Trier. If you feel a little scared – or just skeptical – of entering the dark and often bleak world of Lars von Trier, his psychological science fiction drama Melancholia from 2011 is the perfect place to start. But be warned: If you find this film too dark and disturbing, you probably shouldn’t go further with his other films. Kirsten Dunst plays a woman suffering from severe depression during her wedding and during the final days of human’s existence. The planet Melancholia, metaphorically reflecting our protagonist’s state of mind, threatens to collide with our good planet Earth and bring an end to the world as we know it.

Finland: The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Juho Kuosmanen, 2016)

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki [2016] – The Existential ...

Okay, last week he recommended a Finnish film in black and white, and here he goes again! Can it get more artsy-fartsy and highbrow for our Scandinavian film blogger? Oh, yes it can, because The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is a charming mixture of a sports movie and a romantic comedy that appeals to everyone. The film takes place in 1962, with a beautiful black and white cinematography it tells a simple, but touching story about a world that seems to be determined to turn a young guy into a sports hero. But Olli Mäki, our young protagonist, is more concerned about a young, sweet girl he has just met. Who will win the battle: love or the brutal career in the boxing ring?

Iceland: Virgin Mountain (Dagur Karí, 2015)

More adventures in localization: Icelandic film's poster gets ...

Last time I recommended Icelandic Dagur Karí’s debut feature Noi the Albino from 2003. This time I would recommend you to explore his latest feature, the touching, multiple award winning deadpan comedy from 2015, Virgin Mountain. The film tells the story about an introvert and often bullied late-bloomer, the 40’s something Fusí, who still lives with his Mom and spends most of the day playing with war toys. He is a good-hearted man that eventually dares to start a relationship with a woman when he is pushed out of his daily comfort zone. But will it be like a classic romantic comedy? Look out for the especially deadpan and especially funny scene where Fusí, for the first time, drives his love interest home – you have never seen Dolly Parton’s Islands in the Stream used in a more unfamiliar context!

Norway: I Belong (Dag Johan Haugerud, 2012)

I Belong (2012) - IMDb

Comedies describing embarrassing and awkward everyday situations (like in The Office and Curb Your Enthusiasm) have been a strong trend in Scandinavian cinema and television in the 21st Century. One of the most original takes on this subgenre came with Haugerud’s film from 2012. We get three stories taking place in contemporary Oslo where a female protagonist is standing in an everyday ethical dilemma that seems harmless on the surface, but has crucial consequences for the path in her future life. A nurse find it difficult to tell a young trainee that she isn’t careful enough with the hygiene (more relevant problem than ever), an old translator of serious literature is forced to translate a book she detests, and a woman with economical problems is offered a humiliating charity gift that is just as difficult to say yes as no to. All stories told in a way we can all relate too, and we all can’t help finding a bit funny in all their painful grotesqueness.    

Sweden: Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)

Picture of Songs from the Second Floor

“You have never seen a film like this before. You may not enjoy it but you will not forget it!” That was the legendary American film critic Roger Ebert’s very precise characterization of Roy Andersson’s modern classic from 2000. It could sound boring: a film running for 95 minutes with only 46 shots and with no clear protagonists. But it isn’t! Through a series of extremely beautifully composed and original tableaus, Andersson is giving us an absurd, but also very funny portrait of a number of people stuck in their life in a contemporary Stockholm. The closest we get to having a protagonist is this old guy Kalle (played by an amateur, Andersson met when he was standing in line in IKEA) who’s so broke he burned down his furniture store to get the insurance. The scene where he stands in the metro on his way home to tell his wife about his misery is perhaps the strongest emotional scene made in a Scandinavian film in this century.

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.

Get Some More Scandinavian Culture

>> Morten’s last Scandinavian Film Favorites

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