The first five minutes or so of “Livet efter döden” (“Life after death”) are fairly bleak. The film opens with a close-up shot of Elsie Hammarlunds talking to a friend on the phone telling them about the recent death of her husband. I started to watch the film last weekend, but soon decided I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind for something that was potentially so sad.
And indeed, there are some very sad moments in the film: in particular the moment when the 83 year old gets dressed up in her wedding dress (such memories!) and when she visits her husband’s grave and you note the inscription has the birth and death date of her husband, and right next to it, on the same headstone, you see Elsie’s name and birth date (with the death date waiting to be filled in).
But there are some real moments of joy also. She comes across as a fairly independent sprightly individual, and the film documents her trip back to Australia after 25 years since she lived here. We learn in the film that, at the height of the Russian submarine crisis during the 80s (the last time a Russian sub was spotted in the Stockholm archipelago), she and her husband moved here, fearing the cold war, and the possibility Sweden could have become part of the Soviet Union. One of her children still lives here. In fact I met her at the Swedish Church Christmas fete (julmarknad) in Sydney last weekend, and that’s how I learned about the film.
The film starts and ends in Sweden, and throughout the middle she comes to Australia. There are some really wonderful moments from her visit to Australia, both lovely and sad, as she visits her daughter and old friends. Elsie travels independently and loves chatting to strangers, charming them, and often engaging them in a conversation about Jesus.
She also revisits some of the great tourist spots of Sydney. Clearly the connection to Australia remains strong, as her home in Sweden seems full of tourist reminders, including a musical stuffed koala that plays “Waltzing Matilda”.
I wish I’d seen the film earlier, as I’d like to have recommended it to you. It only has a day or two left on the Swedish TV website before it expires. A fair bit of the film is in English, and even if you don’t speak Swedish you can possibly guess the rest. But even so, the language isn’t so important.