From old black-and-white atmospheric movies by classic directors like Ingmar Bergman to modern masterpieces of the 21st century, Sweden has a rich history in the world of cinema. Here’s a look at five of the country’s greatest-ever films that you need to watch.
Big laughs and artistic merit don’t always go hand in hand, but that’s not true of Lasse Åberg’s masterpiece Sällskapsresan. Since the Swedish movie’s release in 1980, it has become a firm favourite of one generation after another, and many of the film’s catchphrases have become commonplace amongst Swedes. The hilarious movie follows the protagonist Stig-Helmer embarking on a holiday. But before he can go, he has to try to conquer his fear of flying. He visits the renowned-psychiatrist Dr Levander for help, but it’s not long before Levander has scammed Stig-Helmer into smuggling money abroad. Swedish people often cite the film as being their all-time favourite movie, so it’s no wonder it has spawned five sequels, and even a musical.
Ingmar Bergman is one of the most accomplished and influential filmmakers that ever lived, and many of his films have the potential to make it on to this list. His 1957 film The Seventh Seal may be Bergman’s most famous movie but Wild Strawberries, which came out in the same year, is arguably Bergman’s best picture. The Swedish drama explores philosophical themes like human existence and introspection, and it borrows ideas from Strindberg’s A Dream Play and Shakespeare’s King Lear. The plot follows a 78-year-old physician as he takes a long car journey from Stockholm to Lund while meeting a variety of hitchhikers along the way. During his trip, the doctor experiences daydreams and nightmares that make him re-evaluate his life. Wild Strawberries is not just considered one of the best Swedish films ever made. It’s also regarded as simply one of the greatest films of all time.
The Emigrants is a 1971 film that tells the story of Swedes in poverty who emigrate from Småland to Minnesota in the mid-19th century. Based on the novels of Vilhelm Moberg, the epic film includes significant events from US history. But it’s the intimate portrayal of people in poverty travelling to a new world to better themselves, while facing troubles and hardships along the way, that makes The Emigrants so appealing. Featuring an ensemble cast including Liv Ullmann and Max von Sydow, this Swedish-made movie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1971, and four more Oscars the following year.
Songs from the Second Floor
Written and directed by Roy Anderson, this 2000 Swedish black comedy doesn’t follow the usual rules of narrative. Instead, it presents a series of disconnected events, such as a man who has just been fired after 30 years and a man who carries charred documents in a plastic bag on a subway. The people featured in this absorbing picture all have their own goals, but their purposes change as the story proceeds. Songs from the Second Floor also contains many quotations from the Peruvian poet César Vallejo.
Let the Right One In
This 2008 movie is the best-known Swedish film of the 21st century. The romantic vampire horror picture is based on a 2004 novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. The story, set in the early 1980s, sees a lonesome 12-year-old boy in a suburb of Stockholm befriending a vampire child. This dark and mysterious gem of a movie was a box office sensation in many countries around the world and received acclaim from audiences and critics alike.