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Here Is Your Life
Here Is Your Life is the feature-film debut by acclaimed filmmaker Jan Troell (Everlasting Moments). The film is based upon a semi-autobiographical work which was written by the acclaimed Nobel Prize winning author Eyvind Johnson. Produced by co-screenwriter Bengt Forslund, the film is a coming of age story set in Sweden and during the first World War. It explores the story of Olof Persson (Eddie Axberg) as he journeys through life and becomes a young man.
One thing that immediately separates Here Is Your Life from a typical coming-of-age film is that the story focuses largely on the work experiences of Olof Persson. From the beginning the story, Troell shows Olof beginning manual-labor work and the process he goes through. The film also showcases the way in which he rejects certain types of jobs and will traverse from one form of work to another because of working conditions of the time or because of being disinterested in the type of work offered to him. This is an interesting element of the film that is rarely seen in cinema.
The story is also set against the backdrop of society with a reflection of the poverty in which the characters live. The film also reflects changes in society (such as the focus on the traveling film presentations which Olof helps with as a projectionist in one passage of the story). During Olof's travels, he gains a lot of different life experiences: some of them good, some of them bad, and all of them being things that ultimately help to form who he is and his interests in philosophy and politics (which grows over the course of the story). He reads, learns, and becomes self-educated. Olof seeks out education on his travels.
Lastly, the film also spends time focusing on Olof's interest in having relationships with girls. Through these experiences, Olof goes through highs and lows through those around him and experiences another part of growing up. He even has a relationship with a circus gypsy. The screenplay focuses on how this is part of his journey. It explores a variety of cultural views regarding relationships during this time-period in Sweden as well.
The music by Erik Nordgren (The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries) is remarkable. It was a big element of Here Is Your Life. Nordgren was a huge collaborator of Ingmar Bergman and his work on the film was important to the poetic style of filmmaking. The costumes by designer Knut Nylen do a good job of presenting the poverty of the time-period.
The screenplay by Bengt Forslund and Jan Troell presents a lengthy story but it is a well-told one. The character of Olof Persson is interesting and so is the long journey he takes. Both of these writers did an excellent job of telling their story. Filmmaker Jan Troell worked on this production in several capacities: as the film's director, cinematographer, editor, and co-writer. His work certainly was essential.
Troell's directing is slow but thoughtful. He brought forth an array of good performances from some of Sweden's most famous actors (with greats Max von Sydow and Gunnar Björnstrand) and newcomers as well. As an editor, the film is kept lengthy but well-paced. In crafting the cinematography he did an amazing job with making things visually excellent. The black and white photography is stunning and the occasional mixing of color into flashbacks was unique.
Ultimately, Here Is Your Life is a story of a boy getting older and starting to become a young man. It is a story of his journey too. Many coming-of-age films are made about the topic. This one is unique for its heavy focus on the type of work Olof does. It is also interesting because it reflects Sweden's culture during the early period of the 20th century. Troell crafted an excellent film that holds up remarkably well and that holds cultural significance for Swedish filmmaking.
Here Is Your Life arrives on Blu-ray from Criterion with a stunning presentation which preserves the theatrical exhibition ratio of 1.66:1 widescreen. The film received an impressive 2K digital restoration. The film looks almost flawless with only minor issues of print dirt on the scan in fleeting moments... this is a near-perfect presentation with almost no issues at all.
The black levels are lush and detailed, the image is remarkably crisp, and detail astonishes. Film grain looks natural. It's hard to imagine anyone finding this to be a disappointing transfer of the film. Criterion's 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded image is absolutely superb. This release should be regarded as one of the best catalog Blu-ray presentations of the year.
Here Is Your Life is presented on Blu-ray with impressive uncompressed PCM mono audio. The release features a new English subtitle translation. The audio quality impresses with good dialogue clarity. The score music composed by Erik Nordgren sounds surprisingly good given the age of the elements. The audio comes from a 17.5 mm print and is presented in 24 bit depth.
The release comes packaged with a leaflet featuring an essay by film scholar Mark Le Fanu about the film.
On disc supplements include: An Introduction by filmmaker Mike Leigh (4 min. 41 sec.), a conversation between director Jan Troell and film historian Peter Cowie (33 min. 48 sec.) an Interview with actor Eddie Axberg (15 min. 47 sec.), and an interview with the producer/co-screenwriter Bengt Forslund (14 min. 55 sec.)
Lastly, the release also includes a lengthy short film originally made for the anthology film 4X4: Interlude in the Marshland (30 min. 10 sec.) - The 1965 short was directed by Troell and it stars Max Von Sydow. The short is based on a story by the author who wrote the novel which became the basis for Here is Your Life.
Based on the novel Romanen om Olof by Eyvind Johnson, Here Is Your Life is a famous film from one of Sweden's acclaimed filmmakers: Jan Troell. It arrives on Blu-ray from Criterion with a stunning 2K restoration and some quality supplements. It is an interesting and unique coming-of-age film worth seeking out.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.