Awesome Swedish Movies
2 Nov 2013
Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället)

Director: Ingmar Bergman (1957, Swedish, 91 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (95%), IMDB (8.3), Wikipedia, Amazon.

Watch online: Hulu, YouTube.

Similar movies: death, depressing, old age.

Summary: Wild Strawberries is a great but depressing movie by Ingmar Bergman. The main character is an eighty year old guy who keeps remembering his childhood and early years in flashbacks.

A great movie on old age that is uplifting is Ikiru (1952, Japanese). The main character is Watanabe, who has lived a dull, lifeless existence for over fifty years. Suddenly, he learns that he has about two months to live. He struggles to find meaning in his existence.

I tell my friends that they should watch both movies: Wild Strawberries and Ikiru. Both movies explore the meaning of life: what makes us happy? In Wild Stawberries, the main character does not find answers. In Ikiru, the main character does find answers.


Scenes From A Marriage (Scener Ur Ett Äktenskap)

Director: Ingrid Bergman (1974, Swedish, 283 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (94%), IMDB (8.3), Wikipedia, Amazon, Roger Ebert.

Watch online: YouTube, Hulu.

Similar movies: intense, separation.

Summary: This was the first movie by Bergman that I watched. I really liked it.

The movie narrates the story of a loving couple as their 'perfect marriage' of ten years with two kids disintegrates. The movie is in six parts. It was originally a TV series with six episodes. Each episode showcases the relationship at different points of time, which are several weeks to several years apart.

Many marriages, especially traditional Indian marriages, continue out of a sense of duty and respect for tradition. It is not mutual love or satisfaction that binds the couple together. "Scenes From a Marriage" is the opposite: it shows how a mature Swedish couple continues to love each other even though their marriage disintegrates. The couple keeps in touch for several years thereafter and their mutual fondness only increases, even though both have moved on. As the movie progresses, the man learns of his limitations. The woman goes through self introspection and learns how she was brought up, how her parents shaped her behavior and how her behavior impacted her marriage. She changes herself slowly - the breakup actually emancipates her.

The movie has insights into human behavior, especially in close quarters. There are only two characters! Most scenes are closeups. Dialogues are intense. Wouldn't such a movie be hard to watch? Yes. But the dialogues, storyline and acting in "Scenes From A Marriage" are riveting. Bergman stays away from melodrama. His approach is humanistic and he generates compassion for both characters as they come to terms with their situation and make peace with each other.


My Life As A Dog (Mitt Liv Som Hund)

Director: Lasse Hallström (1985, Swedish, 101 mins)

Reviews: RottenTomatoes (100%), IMDB (7.7), Amazon.

Similar movies: childhood, death, family, illness, intense.

Summary: A beautiful movie! A 12-year old boy named Ingemar is the main character. He is faced with his mother's illness, puberty, relocation to another town and separation from his dog, all at once. In the midst of turbulence, a panorama of joyful, sorrowful and comic moments unfolds in Ingemar's life. Lasse Hallström has handled the storyline well. The movie is delicate, touching and authentic.

Character development is pretty good. Other than the main characters, there are queer townsfolk which add spice. Landscape shots of Swedish homes in snow are gorgeous. The movie won the Golden Globe Award for the Best Foreign Film in 1987.

An ongoing thread in the movie is innocent exploration of sexuality at young age. The scenes in the movie may surprise Indian audiences who have to realize that sexuality is handled very differently in Sweden. For example, an effective sex education program is in place since 1956. Kids who grow up in USA and relocate to Sweden are shocked when they attend these classes. At the same time, they find them rewarding because Sweden's program is more in touch with reality than the equivalent US program. Straight Facts about the Birds and Bees in US News, 2007. RFSU is the organization behind Sweden's sex education programs.


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