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 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.