Films past

A Mother’s Fight /Thora van Deken The Swedish Challenge: Silent Cinema

Photo Credit: Svenska Filminstitutet, Stockholm

$12 ($7 ASF Members)
Series Pass $45 ($30 ASF Members)

When Thora van Deken is called to the deathbed of her divorced husband, Squire Niels Engelstoft, and finds that he has bequeathed a substantial part of his estate to the foundation of a nursing home rather than to their daughter Esther, she pleads with him to revoke his will — but he dies before any changes can be made. So Thora takes the matter into her own hands by stealing the will and taking over the estate as Esther’s guardian, claiming that the will was burned in agreement with her late husband before he died. As rumors spread, Thora stands firm, committed to maintaining control of the estate on behalf of her daughter at all costs. But when Esther falls in love with the young idealistic pastor Bjerring, despite her mother’s preventative efforts, all Thora’s work may have been for nothing.

The film is based on a short novel written in 1900 by the Danish 1917 Nobel Prize laureate Henrik Pontoppidan, Lille Rødhætte (Little Red Riding Hood), which was adapted for the stage in 1914, retitled Thora van Deken. Directed by John W. Brunius (Sweden, 1920). 85 min.



About the Series

2017 marks the centennial of the start of what has become known as the “Golden Age” of Swedish cinema. This “Golden Age” is commonly regarded in film history as the Swedish film industry’s artistic peak in the years following the success of Victor Sjöström’s Henrik Ibsen adaptation A Man There Was(Terje Vigen), which premiered in January 1917. It is associated with films with large budgets and artistic ambitions, based on acclaimed literary works, and mostly set in a rural milieu, with location anchoring the action in the Scandinavian landscape. These films were often referred to as “national films” because of their reliance on national literature, national landscape, and national costume. There has been a tendency, however, to focus accounts of the Swedish “Golden Age” exclusively on the films made by Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, leaving out all other Swedish directors who made films in the same style. Many wonderful films have thus slipped from view because they do not match this overly narrow conception of Sweden’s film history.

This two-part film series, which will continue next year, is built around the argument that the first Swedish “Golden Age” films constituted a significant challenge to filmmakers in the neighboring countries, as well as in Sweden itself — aesthetically, commercially, and culturally. By showing a variety of important but lesser-known Swedish “Golden Age” films in combination with artistically connected films from the surrounding countries, we’ll emphasize how the Swedish films functioned as a catalyst in the other Nordic countries for the conception of what a national cinema is and should be.

Special thanks to the Danish Film Institute and the Swedish Film Institute and Pordenone Silent Film Festival.

To purchase a series pass for “The Swedish Challenge,” click here.

Films in the series include:

A Norway Lass /Synnöve SolbakkenTHU—JAN 25
A Mother’s Fight /Thora van DekenFRI—JAN 26
Gypsy Anne /Fante-AnneSAT—JAN 27
Love’s Crucible /Vem dömerSAT—JAN 27
Anna LiisaTHU—FEB 1
The House of Shadows/Morænen—FRI—FEB 2
The Bride of Glomdal /Glomdalsbruden—SAT—FEB 3

Edvard Munch By Peter Watkins
MIAMI New Nordic Cinema