Swedish Cinema — Problems and Solutions
Since the establishment of
the Swedish Film Institute in 1963, Swedish movie-making
industry has been mostly government funded. Although the
statute of the Film Institute stated that films striving
for a »certain artistic quality« would benefit from the
support, this quite soon proved not to be the case. Between
1970s’ and 1990s’, most of the films produced were trying
to follow the American commercial filmmaking formula. Of
course, there were several exceptions to the rule, such
as Ingmar Bergman and Bo Widerberg, but even high-profile
artists such as these were not able to work continuously.
However, Swedish cinema would soon be swept by a wave of
change coming from the neighbouring country, Denmark. The
turning point in Denmark came with the appearance of the enfant
terrible Lars von Trier on the national scene and the
formation of the movement called ’Dogme-95’.
The hype that
soon surrounded Dogma-95 turned it into an excellent opportunity
for promotion, both of films and filmmakers. Observing
the rapid transformation of Danish film industry from an
almost nonexistent film production into a tremendous success
in just a couple of years, Swedish filmmakers started to
think of the ways to keep pace. The 1990s’ were marked
by fierce debates over the Danish wonder and Sweden’s failure
to create a respectable film production. One of the reasons
for stagnation was said to be the Swedish Film Institute.
During the 1980s’ and early 1990s’ the Institute was run
by a succession of dull politicians with no real interest
in film. Some of the guilt was also assigned to the National
Film School, which seemed to have a split personality.
On the one hand, the school was striving
to find new Ingmar Bergman, while on the other hand, it
was trying to educate filmmakers who would produce blockbusters
on the grand scale, taking up the commercial competition
with the American cinema. The results were disappointing.
Film distribution was also one of the problems since distributors
centered their activities on Stockholm and on the distribution
of feature films, disregarding other film forms, such as
documentaries, animated and children films. All these issues,
and many more, got the debate going during the 1990s’.
As a result, the Film Institute has modified its regulations
and, in an attempt to provide a determined leadership with
a personal attitude, Swedish government appointed Åse Kleveland
to the job, former Norwegian minister of culture and a
very strong personality. Under his leadership the emphasis
was put on changing the Institute’s image through various
activities, seminars, workshops and free screenings organized
around various themes.
The National Film School started
to enrol students from different cultural and social backgrounds.
A parallel development has taken place outside Stockholm,
where a number of regional film centers have been established.
There, young filmmakers could find support for their first
productions, in terms of financing, script development
and technical guidance. Some of these local centers made
an impact on the national scene, especially »Film i Väst«,
a center located close to Göteborg, on the west coast of
Sweden. Some new producers and young filmmakers were promoted.
After having made several blockbusters, Fares and Moodyson
became the new heroes of Swedish cinema and the leading
figures of the so-called New Swedish Film Wave.
phrase was coined in response to the ’Danish Wonder’. New
feature films, along with a number of important shorts,
documentaries and animations, have opened up Swedish film
to the world. Although Swedish film production is still
developing, things are definitely going in the right direction.
The scene is still very much occupied with the concerns
of the international cinema — many young directors simply
want to make American films! However, in light of recent
developments we are led to believe that Swedish film industry
is taking a turn toward more personal films thus raising
the quality and general awareness of cinema as an art form.
Adam Marko Nord