Monday, May 28, 2012

Once Upon a Time in Sweden: Stenansiktet (The Stone Face, 1973)

This Swedish oddity was produced by sleaze-maestro Inge Ivarson (Bel Ami, Justine & Juliette, Flossie, Language of Love and a ton of other sex-classics from Sweden) and directed by edgy dramedy-director Janne Halldoff, shot on location in Skärholmen, the famous concrete-suburb to Stockholm. Stenansiktet is very far from Ivarson's other movies, but the themes is as usual controversial and stuff you would never see in a movie about young teenagers in the US (for example).

Jan Blomberg is Harry, a social worker deeply involved in trying to make Stockholm and especially the suburbs a better place for humans. After his baby boy died in a freak accident on a playground - the ground being asphalted and easy for the kids to hurt themselves on - his wife gets a nervous breakdown and is committed to an asylum. Harry wants to change stuff, but the politicians won't listen to him. One day, after getting attacked by a gang of 13-15 year old boys he realizes that they can work for him, kidnapping corrupt and evil politicians so he can kill them in the safety of his own home!

An idea that originated in the sixties (in Sweden) was to build enormous areas of concrete living facilities for the workers to live in. Only live in. Work during they day and then go home, watch TV, sleep and then work again. Everything should be concrete and asphalt. This, of course, turned out to be a very bad idea. People need something else than a cube to live in. They need to live also. Gone was the nature, the parks, the playgrounds - left was a miserable state of humanity. Bored kids turned to drugs and violence and the parents sat at home brainwashed by the TV. After this huge mistake the government tried desperately to fix this, but the problems still are there - which especially during the last eight years has widen the class inequalities to alarming levels. Culture and creating is evil, work and slavery is good.

Stenansiktet (which literary means The Stone Face) is a lot about this, but also a story about the kids, growing up more and more cynical. When watching Stenansiktet it reminded me of everything from Bo Widerberg's Mannen på Taket, Kids, A Clockwork Orange and Roy Andersson's A Love Story. The location in Skärholmen makes the movie almost look futuristic, in that realistic seventies way with big concrete walls and house, underground parking lots and big empty squares.

The acting is very uneven, but Blomberg is great as Harry - both oozing of friendly goodwill and a dark undertone of being a manipulating psychopath. Interesting enough the only ones how looks through is the kids, which gives hope for the future.

I'm not sure how much Stenansiktet could attract non-Swedish viewers, but if you find a way to see it, give it a shot. It's satire, social-realism and often also quite funny. It's not out on DVD what I know, but many years ago Klubb Super 8 released it on VHS.

And how is Skärholmen and the rest of the concrete suburbs today? Nowadays its a lot better, the criminality is still there but the people are fighting for making it a better places, the squares are filled with vendors who sells fruits, vegetables, everything you need - and here we can only thank one group of people: the immigrants.

Without them these places would be dead. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too bad SVT didn´t show this when Halldoff passed away....I always wanted to see it.

Vem älskar Yngve Frej (1973)up next..?

Nice review ninja....