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‘Bergman internationalised the Swedish film industry’

The government of Sweden is showcasing films of the iconic Swedish Filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman at the ongoing International Film Festival of India. The Consul General of Sweden in Mumbai, Ulrika Sundberg speaks to NT BUZZ about the project, the filmmaker and his films among other things

RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR

  1. Can you tell us about this project of the Ingmar Bergman Foundation, taking his works around the world?

It a joint project with the Swedish State. It is envisaged towards celebrating the 100th birth anniversary of Bergman, this year. We are running it in our 140 missions all over the world. We are bringing Bergman to the world to highlight him not only as the cultural person of Sweden but a film director of international repute. It is also aimed towards showing his works to the new generation; though filmmakers like (Roman) Polanski and (Martin) Scorsese were influenced by Bergman, he is not so well known among the contemporary film directors.

  1. Which is your favourite film made by Bergman?

My personal favourite is ‘Smiles of a Summer Night’ as it not only showed the lighter side of him but also how through dialogues one could be funny. Then again, if you look from his cinematography, there is ‘The Seventh Seal’ and the one which is opening the Bergman package at the International Film Festival of India, ‘Wild Strawberries’. There is yet another film, which they have not selected. It’s called ‘Hets’ and is about his relationship with his headmaster and how the school system looked in Sweden during the 1930s and 1940s. It actually created a lot of debate. Bergman had the beauty of extracting things from his personal life and putting them at the general level so that everyone could relate to it.

  1. There were also other influential Swedish filmmakers like Roy Andersson, Lasse Hallström, Lasse Åberg and Lukas Moodysson…

They were younger and came much later. I think Bergman made the Swedish film industry international. Before him it was limited to very few countries, maybe Germany or so. He internationalised our film industry so that people in Japan, the US, South Africa… were looking at his films. He also created possibilities for others like Roy Andersson and Lukas Moodysson to actually try to attempt to be international.

  1. How is the contemporary film making scene in Sweden, especially with young filmmakers like Tomas Alfredson?

It’s striving. We have become extremely international. Of course, the internet helps… The YouTube… Creating the strength for the producer or the director is no more in the hands of the Swedish Film Institute and now our pictures go directly to consumers, if one wants. So the filmmakers feel much more empowered today than they ever have been. We also have a lot of female directors coming up now, which is quite a shift, as our film industry used to be quite male dominated. Now up to 70 per cent of the Swedish film work is done by women and it also means the women’s issues are highlighted as also interpreted in different way. So we have created a niche for ourselves and we see a new trend in our film industry, wherein expressions or feelings of half of our population that is female, are not excluded from our cinema.

  1. You have a Swedish Film Institute, which was founded in 1963 to support and develop the Swedish film industry…

Ingmar Bergman’s production house was very much at the source of setting up this film institute. His productions and their success triggered the setting up of this film institute. Now, it is very much interacting with the rest of the world. We also invite lot of foreign film directors and film producers to come and co-operate with Swedish films. I think, if you look at the programme of the institute as regards the film productions, there are Swedish, Italian, Japanese, South Korean, Tunisian… all kinds of productions. It’s really a globalised industry today.

  1. What about Indian films being shot in Sweden and vice versa?

We are very much working on that and we have had a couple of Indian productions shot in Sweden, though not a major breakthrough yet. We also have Swedes, who come here at different locations in India. However, one of my briefs is actually try to develop this aspect. So we are here at the International Film Festival of India because this is one of the networking platforms to create interest for each other.

  1. What about Indo-Swedish film co-productions?

It is happening. We are collaborating with the Indian Embassy in Stockholm on this aspect. There are a lot of such co-productions going on between Marathi and Swedish films, but you know, this is very much carried by individuals and the personal chemistry has not occurred between different filmmakers and artists. One of the things we have being looking at is try to create tax cuts for foreign film productions in Sweden. We didn’t have that for a long time now unlike other countries. We will introduce this facility; I hope this for the next year. I just need the new government to take a decision.

  1. Do you watch Indian films, especially Bollywood movies?

Of course! One can’t be in India without watching Bollywood films. However, don’t ask me, if I have a favourite one here. I like them, but I also see the difference. I mean, it’s the nice contrast to our films. Indian films are very romantic and they have very nice entertaining side, as against the Swedish films, which portray personal traumas. If we take Bergman’s films, for instance, which are projection of his own personal life or relationships he was in, then they might have a less lighter side on the issue of romance as seen in Indian films.

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