29 January 2004 | scharnbergmax-se
The Only Swedish Cinéma Noir Movie Ever Produced
If the actors had talked French, 'Wild Birds' might have been compared to cinéma-noir movies such as 'Quai des brumes', 'Le jour se lève', 'L'épave', 'Justice est faite', 'Gibier de potence'. And users liking or disliking such films may be expected to like or dislike this one too. Many persons in the just mentioned French movies could aptly be called 'wild birds'. - In cinéma-noir movies there may be one or two murders or suicides. But even the murders might be more tragic than repulsive. Another more central but less explicit theme is the impossibility of love in this world. - 'Wild Birds' shares all these features, despite the fact that it is based on a Swedish novel, whose writer could never have suspected that it would be filmed, nor what kind of a movie would result. - Some experts think it is a Romeo & Juliette story. I have finally decided to disagree. Basically I would say that two worlds meet for a brief experience of happiness ended by a violent tragedy. - In one world the unhappy prostitute (Ulla) finds a drunken young man (Nisse), who had previously failed in various occupations. She takes him home. They will never have sex. Rather, her feelings are like those for a younger brother (and indeed, her younger brother is dead). The next day Nisse moves into the small apartment next to hers. The previous tenant was a piano teacher. A complex tragedy (shown in the movie) explains why the apartment had just become vacant. - Ulla has no literal pimp. Instead the leader of a gang visits her now and then and receives its tribute. But the main occupation of the gang is middle-sized stealth, not least from the stores in the harbour. Ulla becomes very distressed when Nisse joins this gang. - The central person from the other world is a young girl (Lena), who is living together with her younger sister in a large villa. Her father is the captain and her fiancé the first mate on the same boat. Probably, the mother of the sisters is deceased. - Lena feels confined, almost imprisoned, by the life she is expected to live: bearing children, bringing them up, probably becoming a housewife, and many other things she can hardly put into words. - When her piano teacher has failed to show up for several weeks, she goes to his apartment, where Nisse lives now. Together they ask Ulla what became of the piano teacher, and she tells one half of the tragedy. None of the persons on the screen will ever learn the other half, although the audience will. - It is not just that Nisse and Lena fall in love. She is revived by this relationship, and fundamentally changes her view of life. Suddenly she no longer perceives it as a dreadful fate to bear children etc. - if doing so together with Nisse. But their love is doomed. - Readers should not expect a more exciting development or a more surprising end, than what is customary in French cinéma-noir movies. Nevertheless, I will not deprive them of the possibility of viewing this film with fresh eyes. - Nisse's part is played by Per Oscarsson. For half a century no Swedish actor could match him in depicting neurotic personalities. - I anticipate an objection: if this movie is so excellent, why is it not significantly more renown? Now, first, the film was much appreciated in many South American countries. Second, Hollywood has more than once offered jobs to the director (Alf Sjöberg). But he entertained the private moral that it is the duty of an artist to stay in the place where he found himself, and to do the best of the situation. And he has indeed done his best. Newton said that as a scientist he was standing on the shoulders of giants. As a director Ingmar Bergman certainly stood on the shoulders of another giant, viz. Alf Sjöberg.