Tuesday, 17 March 2020

A Swedish Love Story (En kärlekshistoria) (1970) and corona

En Kærlighedshistorie
We are now a week into lockdown and while I am personally doing okay, I am used to working from home, the reality of the epidemic is starting to show. Tonight it was announced that malls restaurants, hairdressers etc. will shut down as well. It is getting very quiet around here and at the hospitals the beds are starting to fill. Huge efforts have been made to increase capacity and buy time. Now we will see if it is enough.

To the film… “En Kärlekshistoria” (“A Swedish Lovestory”) is one of the special additions to the Danish edition of the Book. It replaces “Deep End”, which I have previously deplored as a poor choice by the editors. Not that “En Kärlekshistoria” is a bad movie, but I would much rather have ditched “El Topo”. Also, I wonder why the Danish editors found a need to add so many Swedish movies, but they must have thought that there are not enough quality movies from Denmark.

Anyway, “En Kärlekshistoria” is a movie by Roy Andersson, a director who is still active, though there are long and far between his movies. It is one of those movies that are thin on plot but instead serve as a character study. In this case the character must be the country itself in 1970. It seems to take a broad view and presents life as it looks for a group of people representing two families, tied together by a teenage love affair.

This young couple are the prominent characters here. Pär (Rolf Sohlman) is 15 years old and helps out in his father’s garage while Annika (Ann-Sofie Kylin) is “almost 14”. Their love story is exactly as awkward and insecure as you would expect but also sweet and innocent. Only, they are very young. I mean, really young. I kept seeing them as children dabbling in things they are not entirely ready for yet: smoking, drinking, staying out at night and sex. Maybe I am an old prude and the times were different back then (certainly social distance was not a thing…) but I kept feeling icky about them. Annika has not yet anything resembling adult… shapes and Pär has the maturity of, well, a 15 year old boy.

Still, in many ways, their approach to life is far preferable to their elders. Especially Annika’s family is on the verge on melting down and Pär’s is not much better. Annika’s aunt Eva (Anita Lindblom) is in a violent relationship and fluked her dream job. Pär’s grandfather is openly complaining about how lonely he is and Annika’s father, John (Bertil Norström) is disillusioned and suffers a breakdown near the conclusion on the film.

The climax of the movie is a midsummer party at Pär’s parents cottage where Annika’s family are invited. The gaiety is strangely at odds with the meltdown lurking beneath and when John disappear everybody are ready to believe the worst. Except Annika and Pär who are completely oblivious to anything but themselves.

What I liked about this movie was how contemporary it is. It feels like a snapshot of life in Sweden that particular summer. What they do, talk about, drive, eat and worry about. It is not a documentary, but it feels like something close. It has been called social realistic, but instead of zooming in on a particular issue, it aims far wider and becomes more like a panorama. As such a window into a time that was, it is brilliant.

Probably not a movie for everybody, but with a wry, deadpan humor to live it up, I found it more enjoyable that I expected.



  1. How's your little one doing? Is he having cabin fever? One good thing about lock down is we get more time for our movies. But then it's hard for me to concentrate properly. My husband and I are prime candidates. Stay safe.

    1. You have to be careful, Bea. It is really no joke. Here in Europe things are getting ugly and elderly people are vulnerable. My mother has a very low defense against infections of any kind and she has practically barricaded herself. Online shopping is really the solution. We see cars bring food out all the time.
      My son is taking it all better than any of us. He is pleased not having to go to school and so far home schooling still feel novel and exciting. Fortunately children seems to get through all this lighter than everybody else.