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The Swedish Challenge: Silent Cinema - A Norway Lass/Synnöve Solbakken

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Scandinavia House

58 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10016

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Synnöve Solbakken and Thorbjörn Granliden are children from neighboring farms, one wealthier than the other. Despite attempts by the devious farmhand Aslak to convince Thorbjörn that Synnöve is in league with the trolls, the two become friends and, as they grow older, fall in love. Synnöve’s parents, who belong to a very conservative denomination, find Thorbjörn unsuitable for her, while his rival Knud does what he can to get him into more trouble — and at the midsummer celebration, Synnöve makes Thorbjörn promise to change his ways. But while Synnöve is up in the mountains working at her family’s summer pasture, the schemes of the evil Aslak will threaten both their love and Thorbjörn’s life. Synnöve Solbakken is one of two films based on works by the Norwegian Nobel Prize Laureate Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Directed by John W. Brunius (Sweden, 1919). 111 min. with English subtitles.

ABOUT THE SERIES:

2017 marks the centennial of the start of what has become known as the “Golden Age” of Swedish cinema. This “Golden Age” is commonly regarded in film history as the Swedish film industry’s artistic peak in the years following the success of Victor Sjöström’s Henrik Ibsen adaptation A Man There Was (Terje Vigen), which premiered in January 1917. It is associated with films with large budgets and artistic ambitions, based on acclaimed literary works, and mostly set in a rural milieu, with location anchoring the action in the Scandinavian landscape. These films were often referred to as “national films” because of their reliance on national literature, national landscape, and national costume. There has been a tendency, however, to focus accounts of the Swedish “Golden Age” exclusively on the films made by Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, leaving out all other Swedish directors who made films in the same style. Many wonderful films have thus slipped from view because they do not match this overly narrow conception of Sweden’s film history.

This two-part film series, which will continue next year, is built around the argument that the first Swedish “Golden Age” films constituted a significant challenge to filmmakers in the neighboring countries, as well as in Sweden itself — aesthetically, commercially, and culturally. By showing a variety of important but lesser-known Swedish “Golden Age” films in combination with artistically connected films from the surrounding countries, we’ll emphasize how the Swedish films functioned as a catalyst in the other Nordic countries for the conception of what a national cinema is and should be.

Special thanks to the Danish Film Institute and the Swedish Film Institute and Pordenone Silent Film Festival.

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Scandinavia House

58 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10016

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