These days it seems there are almost as many movies set in Sweden as there are Billy bookshelves in college dorms. The original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books and movie series kicked off a thirst for all things Scandinavian.
Headhunters, a Norwegian noir, was a big hit recently at the Toronto International Film Festival and Let the Right One In placed vampires against a snowy, stark white Swedish backdrop.
This weekend the Americanized version of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo opens, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the roles Swedish superstars Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Repace made famous. Shot in Sweden, the movie promises open landscapes, the crunch of snow underfoot and even the odd fjord.
Suddenly, it seems people are hungry for movies from Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but there has always been a smorgasbord of cinema available from that part of the world.
No discussion of Scandinavian cinema can be complete without mentioning Ingmar Bergman. Woody Allen named him “the greatest film artist since the invention of the motion picture camera,” and Francis Ford Coppola called him “my all-time favourite.”
If you haven’t seen The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries, you should; they are both classics. But you have undoubtedly seen movies inspired by or parodying Bergman’s work.
His famous Seventh Seal scene of Death playing chess has been mimicked in everything from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey to Woody Allen’s play Death Knocks, which features a man playing gin rummy with Death.
More recently a Norwegian mockumenary called Troll Hunter earned praise from critics all over the world. One writer said this Blair-Witch-style story of cave-dwelling trolls and the government-sponsored hunters who track them was “destined to be a classic of its kind.”
Another said, “You’ll want to catch this clever movie before Hollywood ruins everything with a dumb remake.”
Denmark has a thriving film industry. Since 1956 they’ve entered 40 flicks for Best Foreign Film consideration at the Academy Awards.
At last year’s Oscars Susanne Bier’s drama In a Better World beat Canada’s entry Incendies to take home Best Foreign Film.
The best-known Danish films of recent years have been made by Lars von Trier, the distinctive and controversial director of Breaking the Waves and this year’s Melancholia. As well known for his depressed behaviour as he is for his films, Von Trier once said, “Basically, I’m afraid of everything in life, except filmmaking.”