• Datum 16-01-2014
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Write anything, she says, write a poem, whatever you like…
So: I’m borrowing the title of a newly written play, drawing huge audiences at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm: what is ‘The Mental State of Sweden’? A series of interviews with people from all walks of life have been transformed into a play which comments on the social realities of unemployment, the deterioration of social security systems, the increasing tensions between immigrants or refugees and ‘ethnic’ swedes, and the deepened class differences in what was once considered a secure model society.
At the same time the play, in its own humorous way and form, literally tears down the wall between a prestigious, protected stage, the designated caretaker of the classics, and opposes it to the outside society which rushes into 2014, the Super Election Year. Populist, basically racist parties all over Europe are gathering forces to make their presence felt in the European Parliament. In Sweden their counterpart is eagerly disguising its fundamental inheritance from the extreme right, hoping for an even more deciding role after the parliamentary elections this fall. They are running into unexpected diffilculties, as thousands of Swedes all over the country have taken to the streets and manifested their strong antiracist and antifascist convictions. In this context: what might be the mental state of official film in Sweden?
It’s mainly celebrating.
Fifty years of Film Institute and the mixed economy of film support, a strange and (at least up to yesterday) rather well-­functioning mixture of trade, industry and cultural policies.
Fifty years of national awards.
A slowly increasing percentage of women film makers, the goal being 40 percent.
Awards and attention at festivals, though not always translating into commercial sucess.
And the filmmakers strive on, too many in the ever leaner mainstream of Swedish crime stories — the Millennium trilogy has a lot to be held accounatble for — or meager adaptations of national bestsellers to the screen. But as Marguerite Duras once said: "It’s because of the lack of things you speak." I’m not calling for films which, like the play at the Dramatic Theatre, cut right into the ailments of todays society. For that, the process of filmmaking is too slow and difficult to fund. Yet there are voices that have been heard through the common rustle of films seemingly put on endless repeat.
Mia Engberg’s Belleville Baby is a film (or is it? She uses all formats known in the entire history of moving images) which digs into the fine print of memories and a long lost love. Anna Odell’s Reunion also transcends the borders between documentary and fiction, as she creates and recreates her memories of painful school years of bullying. In 2013, those were the best Swedish resons why films still deserve to be made and can, as they say, make a difference.
Despite the fact that none of them would pass the ridiculous and insufficient Bechdel test.

Eva af Geijerstam is film critic for Dagens Nyheter, Sweden’s largest newspaper