Review of En kärlekshistoria (1970)

Moving picture, 115 minutes

A boy who’s recently turned 15 goes with his family to see his widower grandfather at the hospital. Asked when he’s getting out, the grandfather declares, with great emotion, that he isn’t. He plans to stay, because he has realized that the world outside isn’t built for lonely people. On that same day, in the café outside the hospital, a girl who will soon turn 14—and her family—is celebrating the release of her aunt. That melancholy aunt, herself trapped in an abusive relationship, is perhaps the only adult close enough to adolescence to watch and wish as the boy and girl find they are often looking at one another. It becomes a spring and summer of mopeds, smoking, first love, careful overtures, a first kiss, complications, cuddling and consummation among consenting minors who can take care of themselves. The young are sublimely happy, while all around them, adults fall deeper into a pit of stale anguish and irrecoverable dreams.

The title means “a love story”, and it is. The international title is A Swedish Love Story, but it’s more pubertal, on a brilliantly multi-generational middle-class backdrop, than it is Swedish. This is the emotional core of “Balettprimadonnan” (1916) without the melodrama.

Some brief cuts in this film are ingenious. Rarely does live-action cinema have the guts to use actors who are practically as old as their characters for something like this, and they add a lot here. The giddy idealization of their pubescence tries to get along with the more profound and still more skillfully rendered realism of the rest of the world. A clash is inevitable. Sometimes the contrast is used productively, as when a noisy train tarnishes the first kiss without power to break it, but compromise damages the film. On the other hand, maybe I’m just jealous; it is the kind of childhood’s end everyone dreams of.

References here: Fucking Åmål (1998).

fiction moving picture