In a dark and desolate part of northern Norway, the harsh and unforgiving Thor Brekanæs, an all-powerful local magnate, learns that his wife previously took another lover and that their first son, Vasil, belongs to someone else. After she gives birth to their second child, Aslak, he throws her out and urges her to kill herself, which she does. Twenty-five years later, Brekanæs still broods over his shame. Aslak, an imbecile, is cared for by Brekanæs’s young god-daughter Thora, whom Brekanæs intends to wed to his protégé Swein, the son of a poor tenant farmer whom he has taken under his wing. But Thora and Vasil have long been attracted to one another, and when Vasil returns, having dropped out of law school to become a poet, the engagement is called off.

Brekanæs is enraged at the defiance of the bastard he has never accepted or cared for—but before he can act against Vasil, the old man is murdered, his head crushed with a rock in the desolate moraine valley. Vasil is immediately suspected of having slain the unforgiving patriarch. Directed by Anders Wilhelm Sandberg (Denmark, 1924). 103 min.

Film Historian Vito Adriaensens will be introducing the films screened from 1 to 3 February.



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

About Vito Adriaensens

Film Historian Vito Adriaensens will be introducing the films screened from 1 to 3 February. Vito is the author of the upcoming Velvet Curtains and Gilded Frames: The Art of Early European Cinema, and teaches Early Cinema at Columbia University.

He is on the Executive Committee of Domitor, the International Society for the Study of Early Cinema, and recently wrote on the marvels of Swedish Silent Cinema for Kosmorama, the journal of the Danish Film Institute.



Photo Credit: Det Danske Filminstitut, København

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