Friday, December 05, 2014
WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Maid in Sweden
This is something I’ve mentioned during previous Winters of Discontent, but it bears repeating in light of this evening’s offering: the worst thing an exploitation movie can do – its cardinal sin – is to be boring.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dan Wolman’s ‘Maid in Sweden’.
Let’s quickly waltz through the film’s basic dynamic: cosseted small town girl Inga (Christina Lindberg) goes to spend the weekend in with her sister Greta (Monica Ekman) who has relocated to the big city and is living in sin with douchebag boyfriend Casten (Krister Ekman). Casten is initially resentful of Inga’s intrusion into his love-nest and decides to palm her off onto his artist friend Bjorn (Lief Naeslund). Subsequently, he begins to covet Inga only for his overtures to be discovered by Greta.
All of which sounds like it should occupy the first half hour or so, a curtain raiser to an examination of the bonds of sisterhood, male sexual rivalry impacting upon the bonds of friendship, and the temptations of the city at night weighed against the simpler existence of rural life. Not so. That synopsis, dear reader, is pretty much the life in its entirety.
And it’s dull.
How dull? Take the opening credits sequence: Inga journeys by train from the country to the city; there are vignettes of her parents reluctantly seeing her off, and Greta awaiting her arrived; there are endless shots of Lindberg staring out of a carriage window; there are interminable cuts to aerial shots of the train ploughing through the Swedish landscape. It’s as if, having hired a helicopter for the afternoon and filmed a train making its entire journey, they wanted to make sure every bit of that chunk of the budget was onscreen. The whole misbegotten sequence is scored to horrible folk music and clocks in at ten minutes. This in an 80 minute movie!
It doesn’t get much better once Inga arrives. There are endless scenes of Inga and Greta traipsing around urban locations; endless scenes of Casten being a twat; endless screeds of dialogue in the bland interior of Greta and Casten’s apartment. Occasionally, Inga peels off a skin tight jumper or dons a low cut number to remind us why Lindberg got the part.
The Inga/Bjorn thing doesn’t happen till halfway through the movie, when the latter inducts her into the pleasures of the flesh in the most ambivalent scene since Del Henney paid a call on Susan George in ‘Straw Dogs’; but whereas Peckinpah’s film deals in a psychologically coherent analysis of the human capacity for violence, Wolman’s is just plain trash. Whereas Peckinpah’s most notorious scene in ‘Straw Dogs’ has a genuine emotional dynamic at its centre, Wolman’s is just plain distasteful. And once he’s crossed this particular threshold, rather than the film being yanked out of its inertia, it just settles back into dullness again.
Made the same year as ‘Exponerad’ (a.k.a. ‘Exposed’) and only two years before ‘Anita’, ‘Sex and Fury’ and ‘Thriller – A Cruel Picture’, it’s as if the Christina Lindberg of those movies and the Christina Lindberg of this one are two different people. The damaged, vengeful icon of ‘Thriller’; the emotionally devastated nymphomaniac of ‘Anita’; the out-of-her-depth Lolita in ‘Exponerad’; the dangerous siren in ‘Sex and Fury’ – all of these were committed performances that prove Lindberg was more than just a pretty face and a figure that could make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window. In ‘Maid in Sweden’, she’s just an object. And that’s the film’s biggest disappointment.