THE FILM REFORM
The most dramatic catalyst for change in the Swedish film industry was the introduction of television in 1956. By 1963 movie attendance had been reduced by half, leading to an economic crisis and radical reorganization through state intervention. The purpose of the film reform of that year was not only to rescue the industry from financial catastrophe, but also to encourage the production of so-called "quality film" and to recognize the cinema as a significant artistic and cultural medium worthy of government support and serious, professional study. The entertainment tax on film was eliminated, with 10 percent of the money generated by ticket sales instead going directly to the newly founded nonprofit Swedish Film Institute, headed by Harry Schein (b. 1924), which supported selected "quality films" with direct subsidy as well as compensation for financial losses incurred. Through SFI, a film school to train directors, cinematographers, and sound technicians was established in 1964, and in 1969 film studies became an academic discipline at the University of Stockholm.
The effects of the film reform were far-reaching. Though the new system was imperfect (and has been modified periodically), it encouraged artistically ambitious directors by reducing their dependence on commercial success. About sixty feature film directors debuted in the decade following the reform, among them Vilgot Sjöman (1924–2006), Bo Widerberg (1930–1997), Jan Troell (b. 1931), and Mai Zetterling (1925–1994).
Sjöman's Jag är nyfiken–gul ( I Am Curious [ Yellow ], 1967) epitomizes Swedish film of the 1960s in its political orientation, documentary emphasis, collaborative and improvisational method, and sexual frankness. A kaleidoscope illustrating Swedish attitudes toward political and social matters, both at home and abroad, the film intersperses actual interviews with several layers of fictional narrative. Though I Am Curious (Yellow) includes full frontal nudity, Sjöman's primary goal was not to
While Sjöman's post-1960s career faded, Widerberg and Troell evolved in different directions. Widerberg's early films, including Kvarteret Korpen ( Raven's End , 1963), about the dreams and aspirations of a working-class youth, are partly autobiographical; Elvira Madigan (1967), a star-crossed love story that garnered international attention, is a lyrical mood piece, beautifully photographed. In Ådalen '31 ( The Ådalen Riots , 1969) and Joe Hill (1971), the visual imagery remains striking, but Widerberg's focus on individual fates also encompasses a political dimension. Though the overt subject matter of both films is historical—a 1931 labor dispute in northern Sweden in which four people were killed and the legendary Swedish-American labor agitator and songwriter executed in 1915—audiences could draw contemporary parallels. Two Widerberg thrillers, Mannen på taket ( The Man on the Roof , 1976) and Mannen från Mallorca ( The Man from Majorca , 1984), expose corruption in high places, while Ormens vägpå hälleberget ( The Serpent's Way , 1986) depicts the struggle to retain human dignity in the face of poverty and sexual abuse. In Lust och fägring stor ( All Things Fair , 1995), where a woman teacher initiates an affair with a male pupil, Widerberg returned to the personal sphere.
Troell initially gravitated to classic works of Swedish literature that illuminate particular historical epochs. His faithful yet imaginative and visually compelling adaptations include Här har du ditt liv ( Here's Your Life , 1966), a poetic coming-of-age story set in northern Sweden during World War I; the two-part epic Utvandrarna ( The Emigrants , 1971) and Nybyggarna ( The New Land , 1972), about a group of impoverished farmers who leave southern Sweden in 1850 to forge a new life in Minnesota; and Ingenjör Andrées luftfärd ( The Flight of the Eagle , 1982), depicting an ill-fated attempt in the 1890s to reach the North Pole by balloon. Hamsun (1996) and Så vit som en snö ( As White as in Snow , 2001) offer fictionalized interpretations of historical figures, the Nobel Prize-winning Norwegian author who became a Nazi sympathizer and Sweden's first aviatrix. Troell's long, leisurely paced films allow the narrative to evolve organically, largely through evocative images.
Though I Am Curious spawned some exploitation films, mostly for the export market, its predominantly female perspective on sexuality is symptomatic of the shifting cinematic examination of gender roles in the 1960s and beyond. In Lars-Magnus Lindgren's (1922–2004) Käre John ( Dear John , 1964), both romantic partners affirm a connection between physical intimacy and emotional openness. Mai Zetterling highlights female psychology and eroticism in Ä lskande par ( Loving Couples , 1964). Zetterling, an ingenue in films of the 1940s, including Torment , became a trailblazer for women directors, though after the visually experimental Doktor Glas ( Doctor Glas , 1968) she worked mostly in England. Stig Björkman and Gunnel Lindblom examined the social, emotional, and sexual repercussions of divorce for individual women in Den vita väggen ( The White Wall , 1975) and Sally och friheten ( Sally and Freedom , 1981), respectively. Lindblom's Paradistorg ( Paradise Place , 1977) and Sommarkvällar på jorden ( Summer Nights , 1987) recall Zetterling's focus on family constellations and relationships among women. Unlike most contemporaries, Hasse Alfredson (b. 1931) and Tage Danielsson (1928–1985) conveyed social commentary through humor in their creative partnership. Att angöra en brygga ( Docking the Boat , 1965) spoofs Swedish traditions and national types; in Ä ppelkriget ( The Apple War , 1971), folklore creatures assist the local population in an environmental cause. Picassos äventyr ( The Adventures of Picasso , 1978), a send-up of commercial exploitation in the art world, broadened the satirical scope.