SCANDI is an exhibition of notable contemporary Nordic cinema and iconic cult films. For nine years now, Scandi has been kicking off the Czech and Slovak cultural year at the end of January. For nine years, we have tried to find a representative film from every Nordic country. For nine years, with your help, we have been exploring what it is about films from Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland that appeals to us so much. And for nine years, we have been pushing for greater distribution of Scandi films in cinemas, on VOD platforms, and on television.
The Nordic film phenomenon just seems to resonate with people. By extension, it also adds to the popularity of Nordic music, literature, architecture and other art forms. It is not, therefore, just about the film itself. For many, Scandinavia is a brand in its own right. A kind of civilised exoticism. An exciting combination of societal order, liberal freestyling, snowy silence, pre-civilisational mystery, protestant restraint, the terror of the majority and correctness, but also freedom, eroticism, primordial impulses, and the geysers of creativity. Nordic means humour in the most serious of moments and the seriousness with which every good joke closes. Both Ibsen and Bergman, not to mention Östlund, Poppe, Vinterberg and Jón Kalman Stefánsson, have all worked with this wonderful mélange of ideas. We would be overjoyed if you also characterised our choice of films for Scandi similarly.
After nine years we could already make an attempt at a definition. What is the ideal Nordic film from the audience perspective? What do Czech and Slovak cinemagoers most respond to? Let’s try to answer this, conscious of the risk that this might be more marketing instruction than critical analysis. When choosing a film for Scandi, we are looking out for at least one of the following thematic, filmmaking, stylistic and production qualities.
We are looking for WEIRDNESS. The quirkiness of the characters, ideally strange men, total oddballs with whom you would never share your house but who are – thanks to their reluctance to abandon their eccentric lifestyle – ultimately likeable. We are able to identify with them. Us in particular, a nation of under 15 million. We love our Good Soldier Švejk types. They tussle with us through absurd and irritating humour. And they are also against the world machine, something we don’t understand, and which eats away at us. This year, if you want to see an oddball, be sure to catch the Norwegian film Everybody Hates Johan or indeed the female version who’s sick of herself in Sick of Myself.
We are looking for a clear GENRE, well-defined and coherent – such as crime, noir, comedy, tragicomedy. The clearest are also the best. The genre is an ambassador of a serious thought which might otherwise smother us in a heavy-going drama. The genre is what fat is to vitamin D. They can be more easily digested together. Such as the ‘dominatrix’ mother in the stylish Finnish horror Hatching, who grinds her husband and son into the ground and in doing so moulds her daughter in her own image. Or in UFO Sweden, where a group of, again, oddballs search for aliens but where the real story is the touching father-daughter relationship.
We are looking for the courage to talk about TABOO. A tradition which even predates Bergmann, but which is still a way of measuring the thinking behind current Nordic cinema and television. A taboo is something that everyone knows about, but no one talks about. They stay politely silent. For this, there is nothing better than the Danish offering Nothing. Be prepared to be shocked. It starts with an innocent high school game but ends with a needle through your conscience. We can also include the Norwegian film Possession: Altogether a deromanticised horror fresco from the end of the last century. Spoiler alert – do you know how many graveyards our houses are built on?
We are looking for an EPIC, the film’s literature, script, something that doesn’t take its foot of the gas, but pulls you along ideally with a strong literary origin and ready-made readership. The literature must inspire the direction, mise-en-scène, and camera work in order to unfurl breath-taking images on the big screen. An epic film must have someone to drive it forwards, a destination, a character, a dream, a setting or a mystery. Take The Emigrants, for example, our opening film about Swedish emigrées. It is hard to imagine that 150 years ago, Sweden experienced the last of the great famines and that millions of Swedes, along with Slovaks and Czechs, fled to America. The Emigrants reminds us that although the countries and destinations change, the motives remain the same. A hundred years ago it was us, a couple of years ago it was Syrians, and now it's Ukrainians. You will also enjoy the literary inspiration of another Swedish historical romance and costume epic, Burn All My Letters as well as the amazing, modern Icelandic saga Summerlight... and Then Comes the Night.
We are looking for a Nordic CULT film. Last year we presented an almost complete selection of the first Swedish silent movies, this year it will be the Pusher trilogy. At this year’s Scandi, world-famous Dane Nicolas Winding Refn will be putting on a renewed première of Pusher 1, 2, and 3, spanning the years 1996-2005, which are in equals parts WEIRD, GENRE-based, TABOO, and EPIC, but in particular, CULT. For us, it thus outlines how we are going to build a cult following for next year’s Scandi. And as if that wasn’t enough, Tony from 1996’s Pusher was Mads Mikkelsen’s first feature film role. After his debut in the first film, he reprised his role as Tony in Pusher II. I’m sure I don’t have to convince you that Mads is a bonafide Nordic CULT hero.
One of our dear colleagues wrote in her review of Scandi that we were missing a programming director and that it is only a kind of ‘peppered’ distribution. We thank her greatly. Our great value is in fact the real ability to find and acquire films before distributing them widely. First at festivals, then in cinemas, then on VOD platforms, and finally on television. Film Europe’s acquisitions and distribution are permanent dramaturgy. We have no way of getting out of it. Scandi and Be2Can are their event introduction. We are ‘peppered’ distributors and we are proud of it. Scandi is a strong concept with great films. With all due respect to the profession, this isn’t some kind of incongruous hashing together of dramaturgical padding, something that no one will remember after the show. These films they will remember.
Welcome to Scandi 2023.