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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022

Winter term gets a little "Sweder"

Author: Sarah Shaikh

The Ingmar Bergman film series sponsored by Brainerd Commons, the Scandinavian Student Organization and the Film and Media Culture Program has brought the best of Swedish Culture and Film into a month long adventure. The series began on January 6 with one of Bergman's most famous films, "Summer With Monika", and has been a huge success.

Ingmar Bergman is one of the most influential contributors to modern cinema. His work has won numerous awards and accolades from the international film community. The series is the brain child of Astri von Arbin Ahlander, a senior film major and a former co-president of the Scandinavian Student Organization. Since she arrived at Middlebury three years ago, von Arbin Ahlander has continually strived to bring Swedish culture to campus. She has always wanted to expose Middlebury to one of the great Swedish film personas. "I could not graduate without having a tribute to Bergman," said von Arbin Ahlander.

Filip Odquist '07, president of the Scandinavian Student Organization and a sponsor of the month long event, affirmed the importance of von Arbin Ahlander's efforts. "The Scandinavian Students Organization sponsored the Bergman film series in the interest of promoting a different facet of Swedish culture. While most students recognize trademarks such as IKEA, H&M and Absolut Vodka, few know of Sweden's rich cinematic history and culture. The organization hopes that the film series sparks both an interest in Swedish Cinema and a curiosity of Scandinavian culture." Fellow Swede and co-president Sebastian Paulsson '09.5 reiterated this point. "I think it is a great opportunity for other students at Middlebury College to see some of the great things Sweden has to offer in the realm of film and obviously Ingmar Bergman is one of the most influential people in that realm," stated Paulsson.

When she initially proposed the series, von Arbin Ahlander met with much skepticism. "Many were worried that attendance at the screening would be sparse during J-term," said von Arbin Ahlander. Yet, since the inaugural screening at the beginning of the term, all the screenings have been well attended by a combination of students, faculty and members of the wider Middlebury community.

Many students have become "regulars" at these screenings and have taken an active interest in learning more about Bergman. These students have reveled in the opportunity for a new cultural and intellectual experience. "As a non-film major, I think it is important to see the origin of modern films and the way these films emulate the classical masters. The caliber of intellectual stimulation Bergman films evoke is much higher than that of modern films," said Will Martin '07.5. Similarly, Thomas Heitkamp '06.5, supported these sentiments: "All we ever do is watch American cinema on this campus, and I was excited to try something knew, even though I came to Bergman with a some what sub-optimal opinion after seeing his film 'Cries and Whispers.' Seeing the development of his film portfolio has been really valuable and has given me a new appreciation for Bergman and 'Cries and Whispers,' a film that I had initially disliked. It has been really nice to be able to contextualize Bergman's work in the world of film."

The next film in the repertoire, "Franny and Alexander," showing in Dana Auditorium on January 25th, is what Bergman had claimed would be his last big film for the silver screen. This internationally renowned film tells the story of two children, Franny and Alexander. After their father dies, their mother remarries a stern and tyrannical bishop. The children seek refuge in the strange household of their grandmother's lover, the Jewish merchant Isak. "This movie is a portrait of Swedish society at the turn of the turn twentieth century."

"As a film major having a class that focuses on one director has been very interesting. You are really able to see the development of the filmmaker through his or her portfolio," said von Arbin Ahlander. The success of this series has encouraged the film department to organize similar showcases for future J-terms, which will focus on a specific artist.