Book Review: Dreams and Damn Reality: The Swedish Film Institute

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
Dreams and Damn Reality by Swedish film critic Mikael Timm (Dröm och Förbannad Verklighet) is a welcome book about the Swedish Film Institute in operation the past 40 years. Timm explains how the institute has survived and the politics behind its main role of choosing 20 to 30 films each year for national production. A spooky definition is supplied in the prologue: to institutionalize is to make something a passive recipient of care. The Swedish Film Institute falls under the banner of cultural politics, a foundation that receives a percentage of the box office after a reform made in 1963 called the Film Reform Act. The idea of the institute was to make Swedish films better known abroad and the 60's was a wonderful period enjoying a golden age with films by Ingmar Bergman, Bo Widerberg and Jan Troell. The first managing director was an engineer who designed water purification systems named Harry Schein who had a side career in film criticism. Under Harry Schein's direction, the institute had the task of producing films of artistic quality, films that the public wanted to see. It worked to stimulate film production to maintain the present stable of movie theaters and to see that film imports were not only American. Above all the institute worked to develop a concept that provided artistic and financial results.
Entering the Swedish Film House one can not help to wonder if the import guidelines work. Lining the entranceway are posters of current films in release and usually there is a majority from the USA, the rest films from Sweden and other countries. For example this week its Bad Boys II,Pirates of the Caribbean, The Italian Job Polanski's The Piano, Lars Von Trier's Dogville and Kristian Petri's Details, a Swedish Film based on a play by the dark dramatist Lars Norén. The problem with finding films that the public wants to see and that provides artistic and financial results has plagued the institute since its inception according to Timm. And at present there are alternative production companies with a lot of young talent such as Memfis Film co producers of Von Trier films, and successes like Lukas Moodysson's Show Me Love, Together and Lilya 4-ever-- and Jalla Jalla and Kops by Josef Fares. Funded by the Swedish Film Institute there are still established directors such as Roy Andersson Jan Troell, Colin Nutley Lisa Ohlin and Kristian Petri who continue what Timm calls ' a strong Swedish tradition of psychological drama and kitchen table realism. Films also take after American success formulas and receive funding. Hopefully a balance will be struck with new visionary filmmakers and Swedish traditions.
More Information:
Dreams and Damn Reality: The Swedish Film Institute