Friday, May 09, 2014

Ljuvlig är sommarnatten / [Sweet Is the Summer Night]

Kielot kuiskivat kuolemaa / Kielot kuiskaavat kuolemaa [the Finnish name as printed in the credits]. SE 1961. PC: AB Europa Film (Bromma). P: Sigurd Jørgensen. D: Arne Mattsson. SC: Maria Lang - based on her novel Kung Liljekonvalje av dungen (1957) - Finnish translation by Eero Perkiö / Gummerus: Salamasarja as Kielojen kuningas (1958). DP: Tony Forsberg - b&w - credit texts in red - vidfilm 1,66:1. AD: Arne Åkermark, Bernt Duroj. Cost: Alvar Granström. Makeup: Arne Lundh. M: Harry Arnold. Theme: "Dansen går på Svinnsta skär" by Gideon Wahlberg. "Hochzeitmarsch" from Ein Sommernachtstraum by Felix Mendelssohn. "Celeste Aida" from the opera by Giuseppe Verdi. "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle", the habanera from Carmen by Georges Bizet sung by Elsa Prawitz. S: Nils-Olov Törnberger - Tobis Klangfilm. ED: Wic' Kjellin. Lab: AB Film-Labor (Stockholm).
    C: Karl-Arne Holmsten (kommissarie / superintendent Christer Wijk), Christina Carlwind (Anneli Hammar), Elisabeth Odén (Dina Richardson, Anneli's best friend), Per Oscarsson (Lars-Ove Larsson), Folke Sundquist (Joakim Kruse, Anneli's fiancé), Sif Ruud (Gretel Ström, Anneli's mother), Erik Hell (Egon Ström, Anneli's stepfather), Hjördis Pettersson (Fanny Falkman, flower shop owner), Stig Järrel (disponent / lawyer Sebastian Petrén), Agneta Prytz (Olivia Petrén), Dagmar Olsson (Livia Petrén), Holger Löwenadler (överkonstapel / sergeant Gehlin), Allan Edwall (luffaren / tramp), Sven-Eric Gamble (långtradarchauffören / truck driver), Märta Arbin (Helena Wijk, Christer's mother), Curt Masreliez (docent Ahlgren, pathologist), Elsa Prawitz (Camilla Martin, soprano, opera singer, Aida, Carmen), John Norrman (forest ranger [Carlmark?]), Tekla Sjöblom (Gustava Eriksson), Curt Löwgren ("Matsäcken" / "The Lunch Bag", truck driver), Monica Karlsson (Eva, the truck driver's girl), Julia Cæsar (Camilla's dresser), n.c.: Angelo Zanolli (Mats Norrgård, Anneli's lover-beloved, the Italian artist), Arne Strand (priest). Loc: Nora, Sigtuna, Kvarnbo, Edsviken. Studio: AB Europa Studio (Sundbyberg).
    Helsinki premiere: 30.3.1962, Capitol, distributed by: Suomi-Filmi Oy – VET 59977 – K16 – 2795 m / 102 m - 104 min
    A vintage KAVI print deposited by Suomi-Filmi with Finnish subtitles by Darling Alfthan viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Thriller Sweden), 9 May 2014

The title of the original novel is a quote from Gustav Fröding's poem "Strövtåg i hembygden".
    The novel was included in the book Tusen svenska klassiker / [A Thousand Swedish Classics].
    TV movie: Kung Liljekonvalje av dungen (Ola Rapace / Christer Wijk, Tuva Novotny / Puck Ekstedt, Maia Hansson Bergqvist / Anneli).

This year is the centenary of Maria Lang (1914-1991), and the first biography on her, written by Lena Lundgren and Lisbet Wikner, is called Maria Lang, vår första deckardrottning [Our First Detective Story Queen] (2014). Maria Lang was a Doctor of Literature, a school principal, a prolific author of 47 books written in 1949-1990, and one of the founders of the Swedish school of detective fiction. Puck Ekstedt / Bure, a modern and independent woman, is the heroine and narrator in many of Lang's early books. Kommissarie / Superintendent Christer Wijk is the protagonist of her detective stories, and the location is usually a little town called Skoga, based on Maria Lang's home town Nora. In her debut novel Mördaren ljuger inte ensam / [The Murderer Does Not Lie Alone] (1949) a background to the tragedy is a homosexual love affair. Maria Lang had written her dissertation on the philosopher Pontus Wikner, seen later as a pioneer for the Swedish gay movement.

I read some of Maria Lang's books in my childhood, and I mainly remember that they felt more intelligent and distinguished than the ones by Folke Mellvig.

Parallel to his project of filming Folke Mellvig's Hillman films as a "colour cycle" Arne Mattsson also launched a collaboration with Maria Lang, filming the first two film adaptations of her novels. Lang, herself, was the screenwriter. The first adaptation was När mörkret faller (1960) based on Tragedi på en lantkyrkogård, with Nils Asther in one of his last film roles. Karl-Arne Holmsten got to play both Mellvig's Hillman and Lang's Christer Wijk for Mattsson. There is no Puck Ekstedt in Mattsson's film adaptation; in the 2013 tv adaptation she is the leading female character.

First impressions:
    1. There is still the sense of a well-made studio-era production in this movie. Arne Mattsson is an assured cinematic storyteller. The large cast of characters is deftly introduced, the milieu is established convincincly, and the suspense around the whodunit plot is carried excitingly. The large cast of characters is also a large cast of suspects as the disappearance of Anneli is a total mystery for almost everybody, and the police has no plausible angle to start with. Finally it turns out that Anneli has been living a secret life with an Italian painter, yet she has been persuaded to accept an arranged marriage. Mattsson's way of blending the present with the past in sophisticated flashbacks can be compared with Alf Sjöberg's Fröken Julie.
    2. Ljuvlig är sommarnatten is prime evidence to a theme which has kept intriguing me: the cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. Everything is set for the biggest possible wedding in the small town, but then the bride disappears on her wedding day during a brief shower of rain on her way to the florist. (I digress: there may be no cancelled wedding in the oeuvre of Yasujiro Ozu, but his entire late period can be seen as evidence for the solution that weddings should be cancelled. I'm thinking about the final image of Banshun / Late Spring). Here a memorable shot illustrates the theme. When it turns out that Anneli is missing and the wedding will be cancelled there is a tracking shot backwards to the empty church.
    3. Karl-Arne Holmsten is a reliable Christer Wijk. Elisabeth Odén is impressive in her debut role (her entire film oeuvre was for eight Arne Mattsson films in 1961-1965). Per Oscarsson is perfect for the original hermit character of Lars-Ove Larsson. Folke Sundquist was an Arne Mattsson regular, discovered for the cinema by Mattsson in Hon dansade en sommar; here he gets to play the rich heir, the frustrated fiancé. Two formidable veterans, Sif Ruud, and Erik Hell, get to play the difficult roles of Anneli's parents. Another pair of great veterans is Stig Järrel as the lawyer who has an affair with the florist played by Hjördis Petterson. Holger Löwenadler, yet another great veteran, plays the sergeant here; internationally we remember him best as the harassed but dignified Jewish tailor in Louis Malle's Lacombe Lucien. Allan Edwall is memorable in his bit role as a tramp. Christina Carlwind in her debut film role is beautiful as Anneli, but the character, seen mostly in flashbacks, does not have an unforgettable presence. I was wondering what David Lynch might have achieved with this material (cf. Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks).
    4. This is Tony Forsberg's debut as a cinematographer of feature films, fully professional, and with a fine sense of nature. Ljuvlig är sommarnatten is a visually rich achievement, with daytime scenes, nighttime scenes, sunlit scenes, and rainstorm scenes. There are moments of aching beauty in the scenes shot in the woods and on the meadows. The film was shot on location in Maria Lang's hometown Nora.
    5. The sense of nature is an expression of Anneli's true and secret love. The lily of the valley (liljekonvalj in Swedish, kielo in Finnish) is the central image. The direct translation of the title of Maria Lang's novel would be "The Lily King of the Grove", and of the Finnish title, "King of the Lilies"). The lovers' meeting place has been in deep forest "where there is beautiful only when the lilies blossom". The killer had thought that the artist was only Anneli's lover, but he was more, her beloved for whom Anneli was prepared to leave everything (the Swedish terms are "älskare" and "älskade").
    6. There is too much dialogue.

The used vintage print looks like it has been struck from the negative or a source close to it. The print does justice to the refined nature photography of Tony Forsberg. The colour stock for the red letters in the credit sequence has faded. A few frames are missing, but the print is complete in duration. Shot for 1,66 widescreen, we screened this in Academy, and it looked better that way at Orion.

Our programme note of 198X edited by ST

Nuori tyttö katoaa ruotsalaisessa pikkukaupungissa muutamia tunteja ennen häitään. Seuraavana aamuna hänet löydetään murhattuna ja häävieraisiin kuuluva rikoskomisario Christer Wijk saa tapauksen tutkittavakseen. Maria Langin salapoliisiromaaneille on tyypillistä keskitetty toiminta, hyvin piirretyt tyypit, taitavasti punottu juoni ja tunnelmallinen miljöö, mitkä piirteet tekevät hänen kirjoistaan hyvää aineistoa elokuvaan. Arne Mattssonin ohjaajaura parhaana vaiheena pidetään yleisesti 1950-luvun alkupuolta (Hän tanssi kesän, 1951; Salka valka, 1954), mutta myös 1960-luvun jännityselokuvissaan hän pystyi tekemään hiottua työtä.

Maria Langin alkuteoksen kiinnostavimmat puolet liittyvät rikoksen takana oleviin pimeisiin, väkivaltaisiin puoliin ihmisluonnossa. Silti kirja on "vain dekkari": luonnekuvia ei kehitellä, ne jäävät juonen koneiston sieluttomiksi nappuloiksi. Mattssonin elokuvassa sen sijaan nämä marionetit heräävät henkiin, ja loppukehittelyissä on aitoa dramaattista voimaa.

Tuttuun tapaansa Lang on sijoittanut tapahtumat pikkukaupunkiin ja tuttuun tapaansa myös Mattsson osaa vangita miljöön tehokkaasti kuviinsa. Atmosfääri elää vahvana. Uuden kuvaajansa Tony Forsbergin avulla Mattsson näyttää miltei rakastuneesti tallentavan pientä järveä rikkinäisine rantoineen ja kumaraisine, vääntyneine puineen. Pikkukaupungin idylliset kujat ja talot muodostavat erinomaisen kontrastin arvoituksellisille tapahtumille ja taitavasti ladatulle tunnelmalle. Kehittelyssä ei ole kuolleita kohtia, mutta kylläkin riittävästi pieniä harhaanjohtavia viitteitä epäilysten hajottamiseksi ja jännityksen ylläpitämiseksi. Henkilögallerian monet hahmot heräävät henkiin nopeasti mutta varmasti piirrettyinä ja tulkittuina. Eräät näyttelijäsuoritukset tekevät episodeista sinänsä nautittavia: Per Oscarsson originellina erakkona, Allan Edwall lyyrisenä kulkurina, Holger Löwenadler poliisina.

- Robin Hoodin (1961) & Henry G. Gröndahlin (1962) mukaan 198X ST

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