25 April 2006 | jluis1984
Beautiful Old School Drama...
"Magnetisörens Femte Vinter" or "The Magnetist's Fifth Winter", is a movie crafted in a style that seems lost these days. It is a slow paced drama with touches of romance and a bit of fantasy set in a small Swedish town in 1820. The slow way the film carefully unfolds the story is very different from the modern films and has more in common with melodramas of the 60s and 70s. It is definitely an Old School style of film-making that, while at first sight it may seem outdated and slow, it fits perfectly the tone and mood the filmmaker Morten Henriksen wants for his film.
Based on the novel by Per Olov Enquist, the movie is about the arrival of a mysterious stranger to a small village in Sweden. The stranger, Friedrich Meisner (Ole Lemmeke), claims to be a "magnetist", able to cure what medicine can not cure using his powers. Dr. Selander (Rolf Lassgård), the most respected physician in town, is reluctant at first and considers Meisner a fraud, but after witnessing what seems to be a miraculous cure, he decides to take his blind daughter Maria (Johanna Sällström) to see if Meisner can cure her. Dr. Selander's assistant, Dr. Stenius (Gard B. Eidsvold), becomes angered at this decision as he watches a romance in bloom between Meisner and Maria, whom he wants for himself.
Henriksen takes its time to explore the characters of the story with great detail, but still the movie is never boring or tiresome. His camera-work and overall style of film-making is very reminiscent of the classic European melodramas, but still he has a distinct mark of his own. The movie is a great take on the typical plot of an isolated town turned upside down by a mysterious stranger.
The acting is mostly good, with Rolf Lassgård giving a great performance as the sympathetic Dr. Selander. His great ability is displayed as he goes from a sheer reluctance to believe in Meisner to a devotion to the man who cured his daughter. Gard B. Eidsvold is great as Stenius, and portrays the bitterness and jealousy of a man obsessed with proving that Meisner is a fraud. However, the true star is Ole Lemmeke as the charming Meisner, a man with a dark past and surrounded by the mystery about his powers, but who can't help but falling in love with the Doctor's daughter.
Despite its apparent low budget, the movie looks very good and really captures the feeling of an old town in North Europe. The cinematography may not be as lucid as in other films, but still makes every frame as beautiful as a postcard and it makes the best of its snowed locations.
Probably the main flaw of the movie is a the same its major merit, its slow pace and rhythm may turn off viewers not used to this kind of movies. However, it makes a very rewarding experience as the plot is captivating and very well constructed. Also, I have read reviews stating that Johanna Sällström's performance is the weakest link in the cast; I think she did a good job although it is true that she is overshadowed by her counterparts.
To summarize, "The Magnetist's Fifth Winter" is a movie unlike most modern melodramas. It is done in an old school style that is rarely seen these days. While its slow pace may be a turn off to many, I think this movie is an overlooked gem and one of the best Swedish films of the 90s. 8/10