The beauty of Nordic cinema

Tom Jolliffe travels to the Nordic cinema landscape …

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Every film nation tends to have a particular strength or period that is very distinct for creative output and that sees them producing a unique work. In Japan, there was an episode of samurai movies and one of the ghost stories. There has been neo-realism and horror in Italy. There has been an avant-garde cinema in France and also quite a huge amount of very cool Gaul infusion films. Favors the tendency to cheeky crime movies and so on …

When it comes to Nordic cinema, each nation, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and Norway certainly has its own unique eccentricities, but there is overwhelming consistency between each of the best works. The area has a lot of the same atmosphere and cold winters, so often in the background of movies (especially thrillers). Likewise, there is a clear tendency towards introspective figures and a wealth of oppression. This was something particularly common in an era that brought us Carl Theodore Dreyer, who gave us The passion of Joan of Arc (of course, in a quiet cinema, the lack of dialogue instinctively focuses very visually on the characters ’feelings and showing rather than narration) and Ordet.

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One of the biggest icons in the film is still Ingmar Bergman. A director with faith, guilt, oppression, remorse, and emotional distance. As a director, although he has films with an incredibly intense dialogue, he was also a master at telling stories through the faces of characters or telling part of a story. The rest was left to the audience to unravel, and whether we’re watching Max Von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Harriet Andersson, or another Bergman steep, we got excited to watch the mother of the brand without saying anything or saying one and clearly thinking about the other. In terms of this visual storytelling, creating the perfect canvas for the actor to work on, Bergman has never been surpassed, and has rarely been adapted.

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The film, which really started my interest in Nordic cinema, came later, but like most films in the area and a frugal approach to dialogue, it was indebted to the legacy created by Bergman. The movie was Give the right one In. A stunning vampire film that removed a set of genre expectations, but in a haunting, reflective and poetic way. It was so unlike what you would have gotten from an American film (outside of the art-house or indie area), with a delayed pace and breathing space, so that young Actors could create moments of introspective thinking. These moments that draw you in where the premature reaction of American studio theater may have been to shorten the scene, add to the dialogue instead of telling rather than showing, or liven up the dynamics with more disturbing editing. American studio theater at the time was probably what I had watched more than anything else. The movie blew me away.

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The color palette of these films is often wintery. Cold colors and browns. Cut through occasional ambers (but without feeling warming). It creates a kind of distance that attracts us instead of expelling us. It’s fascinating. In Get right in, Tomas Alfredson is not afraid to let us guess the look of the context or the scene in general. It does not need to be specified. Next year, Girl with a dragon tattoo had a similar effect and traveled incredibly well. It confirmed my interest in seeing more (initially from Sweden). The mystery of dark murder was not afraid to dig into very dark corners. There are, of course, several infamous scenes, and the character Lisbeth (played exceptionally by Noomi Rapace) is fascinating. Both films inevitably received a remake of Hollywood. Let me in proved to be solid, though clearly unclear. David Fincher fairly with him Dragon Tattoo the remake really managed to get a Nordic feel to the proceedings and borrowed a lot for the kind of self-examination that the original did so well. Nevertheless, the latest versions of Hollywood often don’t get a true master to control the procedures. See Nolan Control Insomnia, a revived great Norwegian film always with the excellent, Stella Skarsgard (more on that later) or Scorsese, who makes a Hong Kong classic Hellish things, with Departures.


Over the years, of course, there have been great exports of actors from the Nordic countries. I mean, Dolph Lundgren is, from the beginning, a Swedish giant. In addition, the aforementioned Skarsgard (and his descendants, currently doing very well) and one Mads Mikkelsen (and indeed the aforementioned Rapace). Initially, he had a breakthrough in collaboration with Nicolas Winding Refn, who has an eclectic mix of native Denmark, Europe, Asia and classic American film, and a distinctly high-contrast color palette that makes him a little different from a few Nordic contemporaries. Then Mikkelsen hit it with his really big bad turn Casino Royale, an absolutely perfect role for an actor from a film background who specializes in such a complex internalization. Mikkelsen is the epitome of a perfect Nordic drama and thriller actor who is so well personified Hunting (Denmark), a relentlessly uncomfortable, scary thriller that makes him look like a preschool teacher accused of being abused. It had everything you would expect from great Nordic thrillers, a cold atmosphere, the fascination of the countryside (there are many movies moving away from big cities to show more remote communities, and all the dynamics that can bring), thoughtful pace and all the struggles to include emotion when all just wants to break out. Most of these movies usually have some kind of reactive moment, some kind of explosion, and waiting for those moments just adds to the fascination. Plus, it dealt with the subject in a blunt way you’ll probably never see in the mainstream of American or British film. It was a bold filmmaking and certainly a challenging role for Mikkelsen.


Here is another part of a Nordic film that I have also enjoyed. Character actors are leaders more often than it seems. There doesn’t seem to be a tendency to throw an awfully handsome movie starring or enchanting taste for a month. They like to portray unconventional or more mature characters and sometimes with cruel honesty and a tendency to hit a melting note towards the end. You could look towards Danish director Lars Von Trier as a special sommre expert who brings this bold mentality to his films, whether he’s making them in his home country or anywhere else. A good example of something Dancer in the dark, his gloomy, crushing, and absolutely embarrassing drama (with gorgeous Bjork). You just wouldn’t get it in Hollywood, especially as a musical. Usually it’s the character first, and with the actors who can tell the story without words.


Speaking of good character actors, Swedish exports of Stellan Skarsgard have been in so many great movies around the world. He has also been involved in several Norwegian films and played something outside. In order of disappearance sees him as the newly crowned citizen of the year. A successful example of immigration and integration and accepted into his remote winter community. As Nils, he takes care of the Snow Plow and keeps the roads open. After her son dies from a drug overdose, Nils is sure something is wrong and soon finds out that her son was murdered, leading to revenge. The black comic thriller features all those great features. There are delays between the characters, or they feel separate. In addition, one of the specialties of many Nordic films is the uniquely lying sense of humor that permeates this film particularly well. Skarsgard, like so many Nordic leaders, is the nature of a few words, and has reached the point of an explosive reaction as he takes revenge one at a time and works his way through the criminal organization that killed his son. Again, it’s slow burning, very intentional. The city, the conditions, the appearance of everything is such a big part. Settings are so important in these films because they create special conditions for the character’s existence and shape the character and story. Again, this seems to be part of why remote settings seem to go (see another great Norwegian thriller, Hevn as another example where the regulation becomes a sign in itself). Cinematically, these cold, steep, often snowy landscapes look stunning in film (often also filmed in widescreen).


Another great film that was definitely full of oppression was the recent Icelandic thriller White, white day, which was received with excellent reviews. A man loses his wife in a car accident and soon realizes that he may have a relationship. He begins to slowly unravel, already suffering from isolation and grief. His wife’s relationship thinks with her and grows like a cancer until she finds her behavior increasingly dangerous. It’s a clear slow burn with all the things you would expect from a movie theater in the area, and a perfect example of creating great features and honesty. There is also no particularly cut and dry resolution, which, when the rest is not dull, extremely dark, is common to Nordic drama / thrillers. It cuts like a reality where the pain doesn’t just go away like in the movies. The best thing some of these characters can hope for is acceptance and tolerance for their condition. We can sometimes capture moments like these rather than the final beginning, middle, and end, especially when the ‘end’ is left so open (going back Huntingwith a numbing, raw and honest ending).

What are your most popular Nordic films? Tell us on our social channels @ flickeringmyth …

Tom Jolliffe is an award-winning screenwriter and passionate kinefile. He has several films on DVD / VOD around the world and several releases to be released in 2021, including Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and War of the Worlds: attack (Vincent Regan). You can find more information on the best personal site you will ever see …

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