The Scandinavian Connection

Friday, October 23, 2009, 1:30 p.m.

Theater 3 (The Celeste Bartos Theater), mezzanine, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building

Includes the following films:

  • Ingeborg Holm

    1913. Sweden. Directed by Victor Sjöström. With Hilda Borgström, Aron Lindgren. A widow is sent to the poor house, and her children are boarded out to foster families. When her youngest child fails to recognize her, she breaks down and is committed to the insane asylum, until her oldest son presents her with a photo of herself as a young woman, and she regains her wits. Based on a play by Nils Krok, a member of the poor-relief board in the city of Helsingbord, the film provoked an unexpected sensation, and was dubbed “unwholesome cinematography.” Sjöström’s company tried to get off the hook by saying that the film depicted conditions in rural areas, not Stockholm, but argued for film’s social responsibility in “arousing sympathy for the less fortunate members of society.” Here Sjöström again anticipated Griffith, who was later to make similar arguments for the cinema’s potential to change the world. The debate ignited by the film (which proved to be a commercial success) did, indeed, fuel modernization of Swedish relief laws. Silent, with Swedish intertitles. Approx. 65 min.

  • The Abyss

    1910. Denmark. Directed by Urban Gad. With Asta Nielsen. Silent, with Danish intertitles. Approx. 30 min.

Throughout film history the northernmost countries in Europe have produced many artists of note, and their films often reflect the traditional austerity of Scandinavian society. Although Urban Gad (Danish, 1879–1947) achieved only modest success as a director, he discovered (and later married) Asta Nielsen, who was the first international film star. The first of their nearly three dozen films together was The Abyss, which displays an eroticism far removed from that of Nielsen’s American rivals. Sweden’s Victor Sjöström (1879–1960) was arguably the first great European director, and he and his friend Mauritz Stiller, a Finnish Jew, turned the Swedish company Svenska Bio into one of the most important film companies in the world. Sjöström’s Ingeborg Holm displayed a mature psychological intensity and complexity not previously seen in the cinema.

In the Film exhibition An Auteurist History of Film

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