My mind was taken back this weekend, to my last visit to Stockholm in 2017. In particular, to Gröna Lund, the amusement park on Djurgården, located on one of the central islands of the city.
Although you would normally associate the idea of an amusement park with a story that is light and fluffy, the film Swoon (original Swedish title “Eld & lågor”) tells a far deeper story of crime and corruption, as the original owners of the park, and a nearby park across the road competed for customers in the 1940s.
It was one of a couple of films I attended this weekend, and was part of the annual Scandinavian Film Festival in Sydney.
In some ways, Swoon had the feel of “Moulin Rouge”. There were moments of hyper-reality, and modern pop songs from the likes of ABBA and Bon Jovi were taken back to the 1940s in style to provide the film’s backdrop.
Amidst the crime and corruption, there was also a love story between a man and woman from the competing families. And there was the story of Lennart, a brother who was homosexual, who has an interesting story also. In the midst of the love story there was also darkness, both in plotline, and cinematically with most of the scenes set at night.
The film was released only a few months ago in Sweden, and so it was great to have it showing at this year’s festival.
The Man Who Played With Fire
Even more “dark” was the documentary film, “The Man Who Played With Fire”. Though best known around the world as the author of the “Millenium” trilogy, Stieg Larsson was also an active researcher and activist against the political extreme right wing in Sweden. This film goes deeply into the story of why he was so interested, what he and others did, and, more fundamentally, what caused the rise of neo-Nazism (in the 80s and 90s in Sweden), and how it has been transformed.
The film describes the relative “failure” of neo-Nazism and right wing terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s, the large-scale bombings of (for example) Bologna, were replaced by day to day violence against immigrant communities, the establishment of “Viking Rock” to fund the movement through CD sales, and an increasingly mainstream (dress icely, cut your hair short) “outward appearance” which would eventually see political parties like “Sweden Democrats” end up with parliamentary representation.
Throughout all this, Stieg Larsson (and others) were writing books, newspaper articles and appearing in the media, warning about the rise of neo-Nazism. Though I have a long-term interest in Swedish politics and culture, I had no idea there was such a story of violence (including bombings and murders) occuring during this period.
The film was about 100 minutes long, and it was compelling throughout.
The White Crow
And then today I also went to see “The White Crow”, the biographical film about Rudolph Nureyev. Beyond a scant understanding that he was one of the great dancers of his generation, and had defected from the USSR, I had little previous knowledge of his life story.
A story which began as he was born on a train in the 1930s. Though his family was poor, he had a natural talent, and eventually became of the USSR’s great dancers. The film portrays his curiosity of the outside world from a very young age. The film jumps back and forward between his early life, his life in Leningrad, and finally, his life in Paris.
I enjoyed the film very much. It’s visually very beautiful, and the ballet, of course, is superb. But of course, there’s also the complexity of his life story that also intrigues, and made me come home immediately, and read as much as possible as I could about him.