By William Wolf


The highlight of the ambitious series giving New Yorkers a look at latest examples of cinema from Sweden, in addition to retrospective treasures, among them films going back to silent days, was the closing night attraction, “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” The crowded Walter Reade Theater, where the series was screened, testified to the enormous interest in this film, the second of the screen adaptations based on the novels of Stieg Larsson, whose “Millennium” trilogy became popular world-wide after his death. The film of the first of the three, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” has already been released and has churned further interest.

“Northern Exposures: Social Change and Sexuality in Swedish Cinema, 1913-2010” (April 16-May 4) was a program presented in a collaboration of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Swedish Film Institute and the Swedish Institute. The Film Society offers such special series year-round.

“The Girl Who Played With Fire” turned out to be laden with violence, even more than in its predecessor. But it was equally fascinating, with the intriguing role of the feisty computer hacker reprised by actress Noomi Rapace. She is again haunting in her screen demeanor, and this time she becomes increasingly involved in physically fighting for her survival. The role of journalist Mikael Blomkvist is once more filled by Michael Nyqvist.

A cover-up is again at the core of the story, spiced with odd characters, including a giant of a man who is impossible to kill no matter how much of a beating he takes. You can also say that about Rapace’s character, although she comes mighty close to perishing this time.

The film is action-packed and carries a viewer along on a suspense ride, just as the first one did. After the screening, director Daniel Alfredson made an appearance and fielded questions from Richard Peña, Program Director of the Film Society. Alfredson covered ground on the making of the film, but said he couldn’t comment on questions about the making of the first one in the series, as he did not direct it.

As for the opening night film, “The Girl,” this was a work very much the opposite from the Larsson adaptation. A charming nine-year-old (Blanca Engström) is at the center of the story. An aunt agrees to baby-sit, but then disappears with a boyfriend and the youngster is left to her own devices. But she is very resourceful and inquisitive, and we are taken along on her journey of discovery. In the process we learn something about life in Sweden. The film was directed by Fredrik Edfelt, who attended.

One impressive achievement that accompanied the series was a stunning Ingmar Bergman exhibit in the Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade titled “Ingmar Bergman: The Man Who Asked Hard Questions.” Within a horseshoe arrangement of a sprawling still photograph representation of Bergman’s home island, a multi-sided video and sound projection set-up showed clips from his work and interview material. One needed time to gaze at the clever installation, which was informative and visually captivating.

Various Swedish directors, including Henrik Hellström, Stig Björkman and Babak Najafi, came to New York to accompany their work and help promote interest in their films as well as Swedish films in general.


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