Bo Widerberg (Sweden, 1930), already a novelist, began making films in the
style of the French nouvelle vague that sounded like antagonizing the
dominating Scandinavian school of Ingmar Bergman and his followers.
His early films were more focused on the social aspects of middle-class lives
than on the private aspects; less abstract and more realistic.
After the TV movie Pojken och Draken (1962), co-directed with
Jan Troell, Widerberg made
Barnvagnen (1963), about the conflict between a young couple and their parents;
Kvarteret Korpen/ Raven's End (1963), about the frustration of a young man raised in an anemic working-class neighborhood and his escape to the big city;
Karlek/ Love 65 (1965), both erotic and existential, his most "Bergman-ian" film, about the crisis between a director and his wife;
Heja Roland (1966), a lively comedy in which a young employee working in the advertising business revolts against the cynical methods of the profession.
These are all realistic social stories.
His first commercial success was Elvira Madigan (1967),
based on the real, famous, tragic love story of a Danish circus performer,
in which two lovers (a poor girl and a rich aristocrat) are persecuted until
they commit suicide.
His masterpiece Adalen 31/ Adalen Riots (1969), based on a historical event, returns to his favorite working-class milieu with a historical epic influenced by Soviet social realism.
Widerberg mixes populist spirit, lyrical tone and baroque visuals.
The film is set in the sawmill district of Adalen during the strike of 1931
in which five workers were killed by the soldiers.
We are introduced to a happy family: a young couple and their three boys.
In the morning Harald, the father, and the two older boys, Kjell and Ake, leave for their errands.
The older boy, Kjell, works for the sawmill's owner.
One day the owner and his wife drive to the train station to pick up their
daughter Anna, who is coming home for the summer holidays. They drive back
in their car and stop briefly to watch the workers who are on strike.
The wife Hedvig remarks that she admires their endurance.
The rich family then drives away to their big mansion.
The girl is excited about her vacation.
Kjell plays the trombone in the town's marching band and also plays jazz with
four friends who accompany his best friend Nisse on trumpet with home-made instruments.
Harald rescues a friend who is the victim of a cruel joke by the other workers,
and they discuss the strike that has been going on for several weeks.
Ake plays with other children a dangerous game that consists
in jumping from the roof with wings made of cloth, trying to fly like Icarus,
until Ake breaks a leg.
The owner's wife Hedvig is kind to Kjell: she teaches him about the French impressionist painters.
Kjell soon meets and befriends Anna.
Anna's father has a problem: he needs to deliver a big order to the USA and the ship is waiting in the docks, but the workers refuse to go back to work.
Harald would like to have sex with his wife but she rejects him because they cannot afford a fourth child.
Nisse practices hypnosis on a female friend, reading instructions from a book,
and tries to take advantage of her while she has her eyes closed, but fails miserably.
Kjell and Anna fall in love and have sex.
Days later her father sees that she is reading a medical book. What he doesn't
see is that she's studying the anatomy of the vagina.
Her father is calling workers from another town, willing to break the strike.
When the townfolks see the strangers at the factory, anger erupts.
A march is organized and the demonstrators attack the strikebreakers at the docks, and the police do not protect them.
While the workers are fighting, Anna tells Kjell that she is pregnant.
Later she tells her mother.
Harald sees the protesters escorting an injured strikebreaker and takes him
under his protection. Harlan takes him home and washes his wounds, but angry
protesters attack him home, breaking the windows with stones.
Harlan helps the man escape and then tell the crowd that invades his house
that he is supposed to violence, but they mock his arguments.
The mother takes Anna to have a routine check while her father is busy
devising a strategy to fight the workers.
The townfolks watch in desbelief (and singing the "Internationale") as the
train unloads dozens of soldiers, summoned by the police chief to protect
Nisse has finally mastered the art of hypnosis and manages to hypnotize a
pretty girl. He then undresses her carefully.
Harlan, his wife and Kjell join the demonstrators stationed in front of
the building protected by the soldiers. Harlan uses his wife's mirror to
annoy the soldiers, reflecing the sun into their eyes. Many children imitate
him until the soldiers turn their back on the crowd and the crowd declares
victory and walks away. But they return, in larger number, and Nisse is forced
to abandon the naked girl to join the band that accompanies them with communist
Hundreds of men march solemnly towards the barracks of the strikebreakers.
The soldiers have prepared machine guns.
Unbeknownst to the protesters the county board has ruled in their favor and a telegram has been just received with the order to dismiss the strikebreakers.
The telegraph man walks in front of them on his way to deliver the telegram.
The soldiers order the protesters to stop, and they start shooting.
Harald and Nisse are killed. A funeral is improvised, with the workers
carrying the bodies of the dead back to their homes.
Meanwhile, the mother has tricked Anna into believing that she was just having a routine check when in fact the mother had arranged for an abortion.
Now Anna's father is remorseful, pretending to be shocked that people were
killed, and kicks the soldiers out, but the chief reminds him that he paid for it.
Kjell tries to see Anna but her father tells him of the abortion, and claims
that he didn't know about his wife's decision.
Sirens are howling all over town to mourn the dead, and Kjell joins the concert activating one
of the sirens. While he is doing this, he meets one of the organizers, who
recognizes him and tells him that his father was wrong to condemn violence.
The organizer tells him that the sirens are not a call to avenge the dead but a
call to unite in a general strike.
Kjell, still under the influence of Anna's mother, retorts that education is also important.
Then Kjell reproaches his mother who is still grieving.
He tears up his father's old shirt that still has the blood stains, and set
out to clean up the house. And he makes his mother smile again.
At the end of the film we are informed that the events of that strike caused the government to fall and ever since a socialdemocratic party has been in power.
Joe Hill (1971) is the biopic of a charismatic leader of the workers in
the USA, a Swedish immigrant who was persecuted and eventually sentenced
to death for a murder that he did not commit.
After the inferior Fimpen/ Stubby/ The Butt (1974),
Widerberg adopted a more Hollywood-ian style for
the crime thriller Mannen pa Taket/ The Man on the Roof (1976),
inspired by Friedkin's The French Connection (1971), while attacking
Victoria (1979), an adaptation of Knut Hamsun's 1898 novel,
En Handelsresandes Dod (1979), an adaption of Arthur Miller's drama "Death of a Salesman" (1949)
Missforstandet (1981), an adaptation of Albert Camus' play "Le Malentendu" (1944),
Linje Lusta (1981), an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' play "A Streetcar Named Desire",
Widerberg directed the crime thriller Mannen fran Mallorca/ The Man from Majorca (1984), which is basically a sequel to The Man on the Roof, and loosely related to a political scandal that rocked Sweden in the 1970s.
Ormens vag pa Halleberget/ The Serpent's Way (1986), an adaptation of
Torgny Lindgren's novel (1982), about a disgusting landlord of the 19th century who forces a tenant to pay rent with sex and his son who does the same to her
daughter until he gets brutally punished;
Vildanden/ The Wild Duck (1989), an adaptation of Ibsen's play,
the family drama Hebriana (1990), based on Lars Noren's play,
Efter Forestallningen (1992), from Bengt Bratt's play,
Widerberg's career ended with the erotic
Lust och Fagring Stor/ Great Lust and Beauty/ All Things Fair (1995),
about the relationship between a married female teacher and an under-age male student in 1943.
Bo Widerberg died in 1997.
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