Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, Under
the Sun (Under solen) is an unassuming, delightful film,
one that explores love, loneliness, and friendship through the lives
of three people in rural 1950s Sweden. Olof is a kind and gentle soul
who depends on his younger friend Erik to help him around the farm,
especially since Olof doesn't know how to read. It's still a lonely
life, though, and one day Olof decides to do something about it: he
places an advertisement in the newspaper for a housekeeper. A young
woman housekeeper, to be exact... and "photograph appreciated."
And so we meet Ellen, a beautiful and slightly mysterious woman from
the city, who becomes an important part of Olof's life very quickly.
Under the Sun is very much a character-centered film, and it
rewards our interest in the characters by developing them over the
course of the story into three-dimensional, compelling people. Olof,
Ellen, and Erik are complex characters who reveal more of themselves
as the story progresses; Olof and Ellen become more and more
sympathetic, and Erik less so, but in all three cases, we discover
more of their depth as the film goes on, so that by the time the film
concludes, we really understand who these people are and why they do
what they do.
The story of Under the Sun is fairly straightforward, in the
sense that the narrative develops naturally from beginning to end,
without any artificial twists or turns in the story; however, it's
not in the least predictable. Without a lot of fanfare, Under the
Sun sets up a situation with several elements of uncertainty, and
because the characters are interesting and sympathetic, we look
forward to resolving those uncertainties. The natural tension in the
story increases as it comes nearer to its end, because we start to
see that the story could end, quite naturally, in several different
ways. What will become of Olof and Ellen? What's her secret? To what
extent is Erik just taking advantage of Olof, and to what extent is
he a genuine friend?
The film is framed by a quote from Ecclesiastes, that there is
"nothing new under the sun," and presumably the film's
title comes from this. I was never able to figure out exactly what
this referred to, or how it connected to the story; similarly,
I'm not sure what the significance is of the recurring images of the
airplane flying across the open sky. One aspect of the title that
does come across is its reference to the endless daylight of the
Swedish summer: everything that takes place in Under the Sun
takes place in daylight. It's an interesting reminder that we are in
a different place, and adds to the charm of the film.
In the end, Under the Sun wraps up everything in a quite
satisfying manner. As a love story, it works very well because it
lets the situation develop naturally, and lets us come to care about
the characters at our own pace, with no manipulation of our emotions.
And because it's a very character-centered piece, with excellent
performances all round, Under the Sun is the kind of film that
merits repeat viewing as well, with the lovely music and
cinematography just adding to the enjoyment of this lyrical film.
Under the Sun has received a very nice transfer from New
Yorker Video. The film's original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1
is preserved, and the image is anamorphically enhanced. If you're
inclined to take the excellent image quality for granted, just take a
look at the trailer that's included on the DVD: you'll discover that
Under the Sun has been given a thorough restoration and cleaning for
its DVD release. The print is clean and free of any dirt or flaws;
edge enhancement is minimal; and colors look great. The film's warm,
rich color palette comes across very well here, with natural and
To complete the high-quality treatment of Under the Sun, the
English subtitles are optional.
The Swedish Dolby 2.0 soundtrack offers a very pleasing audio
experience for Under the Sun. Dialogue is always clear and
natural-sounding, and the lovely musical score by Paddy Maloney
perfectly complements the film. Optional English subtitles are
The only special feature here is the original theatrical trailer for
the Sun is a very pleasing film, one that offers a charming,
character-centered story that develops naturally from beginning to
end. The 118-minute film is well paced, always developing nicely and
moving on at an unhurried but steady pace. The excellent anamorphic
transfer to DVD puts the final touch on Under the Sun; I'll
give it a strong "recommended."