When Pär (Rolf Sohlman) meets Annika (Ann-Sofie Kylin) something magical happens! At first the two teens do not quite know what it is - they have never been in love before, they do not know how to react. But as time goes by it becomes apparent that Pär and Annika were meant for each other. Slowly but surely their parents also begin to see what everyone else already knows.
One of the greatest films of its decade director Roy Anderson's En Kärlekshistoria a.k.a A Swedish Love Story (1970) is a surprisingly mature effort at describing teenage love to those who have never experienced it. Honest, sweet, and beautifully shot this is also a film that captures marvelously the spirit of a country on the verge of a massive economic crisis.
The greatest strength of this picture, a key element that will reappear in Anderson's later works, is the meticulous character exploration made possible by long and devoid of unnecessary glamour takes. The director's camera is frequently focused at accentuating different aspects from the main protagonists' personas that would have likely escaped the viewer's attention. A simple twitch, sigh, or glance is typically treated with utmost respect. Logically, such enormous emphasis on detail provide Anderson's work with a near documentary feel, a sense of intimacy many directors are incapable of achieving.
In A Swedish Love Story the attention to detail is enormous! From the moment it becomes obvious that Pär and Annika will have to endure the suspicious looks of those around them Anderson's camera begins to treat them differently. After a short introduction the audience sees that even though they are teens who think and act according to their age their emotions (joy, anger, fear, etc) reveal a different side. Pär and Annika become adults!
I have seen Anderson's film more than a dozen times and each time I return to it I am always shocked to discover how incredibly honest its depiction of teenage love is. There isn't any sugary sentimentality here, there aren't any hidden moral lessons to be learned, and most certainly there isn't any of the rancid teenage kitsch contemporary filmmakers are fascinated with. This is as pure of a film about love as you will ever see!
Furthermore, A Swedish Love Story is also an incredibly...Swedish film! With the risk of sounding cliché I must admit that I could hardly recall another film that manages to juxtapose so many themes representative of the Swedish state from the early 70s (competitiveness countered with liberalism, class awareness, etc) within its narrative. Not surprisingly Anderson, an outspoken social critic, spends a great deal of time caricaturing many of the values cherished by his countrymen.
Finally, A Swedish Love Story is a film about those who believe that cinema is about capturing what words can not describe! Certainly as far as human emotions are concerned! It is also a film that has that special ability to bring back to life memories most of us might have forgotten!!
In 1970 the film was nominated for Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. At the same festival the film won the prestigious UNICRIT Award (Roy Anderson) as well the Journalists' Special Award.
How Does the DVD Look?
As mentioned earlier I have seen this film more than a dozen times and up until a few years ago I still had a VHS in my collection I brought many years ago from Europe. I always wanted to write a tiny review for this disc just so that people know it is out there but never managed to. So, here we are...
The image presentation is one of the strongest I have seen for a film this old. Splendid!! Beautifully-restored, with a great detail, great contrast, and a marvelous color-gradation this Swedish disc is the complete package. In. fact, I could hardly think of anything worthy of discussion here, everything is of exceptionally high-quality.
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and enhanced for widescreen TVs when blown through a digital projector the image remains solid, without even a tiny flicker, providing the viewer with a great panorama of images. There is hardly a smidge of edge-enhancement and if not for a bit of digital noise in two scenes from the first half (and I am being enormously picky here folks) I would say that this film will never ever look any better!! PAL-encoded, Region 2.
How Does the DVD Sound?
The Swedish producers have gone the extra mile here as well and the results are once again spectacular. Presented with a Swedish DTS and DD tracks the disc sounds phenomenal. Crystal clear and very easy to follow dialog is complimented by a wonderful soundtrack which obviously shows a great deal of restoration work. Now, with this being said I must admit that I am not particularly crazy about the DTS track but truth be told it is a remarkably well done mix. The disc comes with optional Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, and English subtitles. The English subtitles are practically perfect without any grammatical mistakes whatsoever!
Before we proceed I must state that this R2 DVD is entirely English-friendly – from the main interface, which can be set in English, all the way to the commentary by the director which is also subbed in English.
This being said, what you will find on this disc is: a Filmography section which actually offers clips from Anderson's films in chronological order. This is a very neatly done section which provides a visual illustration to the director's work and as implied before every film clip arrives English-friendly. Next, there is a great Commentary by the director of the film which is also entirely English-friendly (you have to choose the subs from the main menu). This extra alone is worth the price the disc comes with – a great, insightful and very though-provoking piece that sheds plenty of light on the film as well as the social conditions at the time, the political climate in Sweden, the cultural significance the film had, etc. Terrific commentary!! Next, there is a full-blown Making Of which is quite different from what we are used to seeing. Instead of technical information (which the extra still provides) here we have a great historical analysis that puts the film into context as well as Anderson's evolution as a director. Finally, there is a tiny piece titled Filmkronikan, 1970 which dissects the film's message and serves as some sort of an introduction. I guess that it was meant for Swedish television given its purely informative character.
Even though it was Anderson's Sånger från andra våningen a.k.a Songs From The Second Floor (2000) that won the director international acclaim (the film won the Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival) A Swedish Love Story is the film I always thought was the director's best. It meant so much to me during the years!
The DVD produced by Studio 24 is frankly one of the most intelligently-done releases I have had the pleasure reviewing. Entirely English-friendly, with a marvelously restored print, great and meaningful extras, and finally a gorgeous design this is easily one of the Top 5 films-DVDs in my library. DVDTALK Collectors Series!
This review was made possible with the kind assistance of Xploited Cinema.