Few directors can freeze the moment like Jan Troell. He has been enriching Swedish cinema with his own very special brand of film-making for almost half a century. Troell has been praised and criticized but has continued to tread his own path — that of a visual poet. Troell’s upcoming Truth and Consequence (Domen over död man) is the story of newspaperman Torgny Segerstedt, one of Sweden’s fiercest critics of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Jan Troell. Photo: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Troell
Why did you become a film director?
“I was sucked into it. It wasn’t something I’d dreamt about. Dreaming of life as a film director was totally unrealistic in those days. But I started taking still photos when I was 14 and cinefilming when I was 19. In those days, TV needed plenty of material so you had a good chance of getting your short films accepted.”
Almost 40 years have passed since your international breakthrough with The Emigrants (Utvandrarna). How has Swedish cinema progressed since then?
“The Emigrants was produced by a single company, which was common practice back then. For my new film, we have 24 financiers. So it’s no easy matter getting all the pieces to fit. It’s harder to reach decisions nowadays; more people have to believe in a project’s commercial chances. In the 1960s and early 1970s it was easier to make films that were not immediately marketable. In Sweden today, police films and comedies dominate.”
Many of your films are set in the past, around the turn of the last century, and are often based on real people and events. Why is that?
“I find it exciting to try to resurrect an event out of the past: being part of something that’s already happened is a godsend. And the late 1800s and early 1900s appeal to me as a period, both visually and in terms of content. This period also coincides with the advent of photography so there is plenty of material to fire the imagination.”
You’re now 79 and will soon embark on a new feature film. How long do you intend to keep going?
“It doesn’t seem so long ago I was being called young and promising — time really flies! But I want to keep going for as long as I have the strength, as long as I can. Although I do have a feeling that if I’m going to get through my next film, I’ll have to start exercising a bit.”
What do you like most about Sweden?
“If you compare us with other countries, we’re a politically stable place, I’d say. And we have high ideals — although we may not live up to them.”
Torun Börtz is a Swedish freelance journalist.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
Translation: Stephen Croall
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