Seeing Sweden

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks visiting Stockholm in 1924 (Mary och Doug besöker Stockholm), from

Just launched on our lucky world is, an online archive of Swedish film, produced in a collaboration between the Swedish Film Institute and the Swedish National Library. Over 300 films have been made available so far, dating from 1897 to 1996, and another 300 are promised for this year.

The site is in Swedish only, but easy enough to navigate, with simple search, categories, timeline and browse options. The Bioscope recommends clicking on any search option, then using the decade categories on the bottom left-hand side of the page to navigate films from the silent period. There is one from the 1890s, three from the 1900s, fourteen from the teens, and fifty-three from the 1920s. You will then find a mixture of actualities, newsreels, animation films, travelogues and amateur films (fiction films are few overall, and there are none for the silent period), of varying lengths. Each film comes with video player (with full screen option), catalogue data, description, and links to the Svensk Filmdatabas (the Swedish national filmography) or the Swedish Media Database, both of which we must make the topic of another post soon. There are assorted Web 2.0 tools, including pinpointing the film locations via Google Maps (‘Visa karta’).

The King of Sweden meets the King of Siam (Thailand) at Logårdstrappan, in Konungens af Siam landstigning vid Logårdstrappan (1897)

So what can we find there? Well, there is the first native Swedish film, Ernest Florman’s Konungens af Siam landstigning vid Logårdstrappan, showing King Oscar II of Sweden meeting King Chulalonkorn of Siam on 13 July 1897. There is a phantom ride rail journey in 1911 from Narvik to Riksgränsen, a protest meeting against the government’s defence policy held in 1914, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks visiting Stockholm in 1924, a delightful 1926 film showing author Selma Lagerlöf at home and studying a filmstrip from Victor Sjöström’s The Tower of Lies (1925) based on her novel, several issues of the 1920s newsreel Paramountjournalen, beautiful colour footage of Stockholm in 1927, and much more. The subject is not so much Swedish film as Swedish life on film, documenting a changing society in the clearest and most engrossing terms. It is a really fine discovery tool for Swedish social history. Set aside the language barrier and go explore.

Acknowledgments to Iestyn Hughes’ continually useful Tatws Newydd blog for the intelligence about the site.

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