Sånt händer inte här (This Can’t Happen Here/High Tension). 1950. Sweden. Directed by Ingmar Bergman. Screenplay by Herbert Grevenius. With Signe Hasso, Alf Kjellin, Ulf Palme. In Swedish; English subtitles. 85 min.
A young Ingmar Bergman’s stab at the Cold War spy thriller, This Can’t Happen Here (aka High Tension) has been virtually unseen for more than a half century. The film’s darkling atmosphere of espionage, and its on-location photography throughout Stockholm by the great Gunnar Fischer, makes it both a fascinating outlier in the filmmaker’s career and a strangely alluring collision of noir, propaganda, satire, and slapstick.
Throughout his life, Bergman dismissed This Can’t Happen Here as a naïve attempt at anti-communist allegory—he realized four days into shooting that the “lives and experiences” of the exiled Baltic actors playing the film’s refugees were far richer in cinematic possibility than the “unevenly developed intrigue” of the plot—and he refused to let it be included in retrospectives. Today, on the centenary of the filmmaker’s birth, we can judge This Can’t Happen Here for ourselves: Thanks to Svensk Filmindustri and the Bergman family, MoMA presents an exclusive theatrical run of the Swedish Film Institute’s new digital restoration.