Scandinavian multi-hyphenates blaze new trails in filmmaking

LEVAN AKIN
Expectations are high for the debut feature from Swedish newcomer Akin, following his award-winning short film “The Last Things.” Produced by Erika Stark, and screening at Stockholm as a work-in-progress, “Certain People” sees a group of haute bourgeois friends — liberal, well-read, bohemian — turning savagely upon an outsider, a gameshow hostess who turns up unexpectedly to one of their parties. Akin describes it as a social study (“We wanted to investigate what part class plays in Swedish society today”), and the result is likely to ruffle feathers among arthouse auds at home and abroad.

JALMARI HELANDER
Back in 2003, Finnish director Jalmari Helander managed to pull off a viral sensation avant le lettre with his short film “Rare Exports Inc.,” about smugglers hunting down an unusually resourceful Santa Claus. He expanded the idea two years later with another short, “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions,” which upped both the comedy and the goofy violence. The (high) concept practically begged for longform treatment. His feature debut, “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” not only boasts a bigger budget, but also, perhaps, reps the first step in a possible franchise.

FREDRIK HEINIG
Best-known for his collaboration with writer-director Johan Kling (on 2007’s “Darling” and this year’s “Trust Me”), Hening and his production shingle St. Paul Film have moved into big-budget territory with the apocalyptic thriller “The Steel Spring,” starring Stellan Skarsgard as a cop trying to discover the causes of a plague that’s laid waste to his homeland. Adapted from a 1968 novel by Per Wahloo (half of the husband-and-wife team behind the classic Martin Beck detective series), the film’s vision of an alternate world, and its combination of location shooting — both in Scandinavia and the Middle East — with CGI effects, promises one of next year’s bigger Euro B.O. draws.

THOBIAS HOFFMEN
A stop-motion animated movie about a bunny rabbit . . . must be cute, no? Not quite. Hoffmen’s debut feature, “We R Animals,” (screening in the fest as a work-in-progress) is in fact a darkly comic look at exploitation, which sees Snow White the bunny escape from a sadistic pet store into an even bleaker world, where she winds up turning tricks for a sleazy, drug-addicted feline. More “Meet the Feebles” than “Wallace & Gromit,” its maker describes it as “a funny, twisted, kick-ass movie, something that’ll make you laugh and maybe question your morals at the same time.” Maybe best leave the kids at home.

MIKKEL MUNCH-FALS
Once known (and, apparently, somewhat feared) as a film critic for Danish TV, Munch-Fals this year made a successful transition to feature film writer-director with “Nothing’s All Bad,” an ensemble drama focusing on four lonely souls: a lonely widow and her cancer-stricken daughter, and a father and son each wrestling with sexuality issues. Acclaimed on its premiere at San Sebastian for its unsparing treatment of difficult subject-matter, it reveals the busy 39-year-old (he’s also director of the Odense film fest) to be one of Denmark’s most promising new talents.

MARIA KARLSSON
Hired to adapt the first volume (“Easy Money”) of Jens Lapidus’ hard-boiled “Stockholm Noir” trilogy, Karlsson was faced with the screenwriter’s usual dilemma: strict fidelity to the text, or loose interpretation? “I wanted to keep the raw, realistic tone, but I decided early on not to focus too much on being loyal to the book for its own sake,” says the 32-year-old scribe. “And Lapidus was actually very supportive of this.” The result proved a local box office smash, and was acquired for the U.S. by the Weinstein Co. — while Warners have has snagged U.S. remake rights; an English-language version is set to shoot next year, with Zac Efron starring.

TOVA MAGNUSSON
The actress — most recently in Fredrik Edfeldt’s “The Girl,” a Variety Critics’ Choice film for 2009 — Magnusson has also been carving out a second career as a director. Her second theatrical feature, the political comedy “Another Four Years,” follows a young, handsome, charismatic left-wing leader, struggling with a wave of negative press and voter-disillusionment (sound familiar?), who finds unexpected solace in the form of a homosexual affair with a member of the opposing party – a move that, if nothing else, promises to put the “bi” in bi-partisanship.

ANDREAS OHMAN
As a teenager, Andreas Ohman watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia” and decided upon a career as a filmmaker. A decade later, the first-time helmer is repping his homeland in the race for foreign-language Oscar with “Simple Simon,” a dramedy that follows a 18-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome on a mission to find his older brother a new girlfriend. Despite its potentially daunting protagonist (Simon’s dislikes include “feelings, other people and romantic comedies with Hugh Grant”), the pic has garnered considerable affection from auds. “I think you can joke about most things in life, as long as you do it in the right way,” says Ohman.

OLA SIMONSSON & JOHANNES STJARNE NILSSON
The phrase “musical thriller” is mostly discouraging. But Simonsson and Nilsson’s “The Sound of Noise,” which preemed in Quinzaine at this year’s Cannes, is only the latest and grandest example of their ongoing fascination with the collision of music and cinema, one that began with their 2001 short “Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers.” Both self-taught filmmakers (Simonsson is a composer, trained at the Malmo Conservatory, while Nilsson’s background is graphic design), the Swedish duo have bought an idiosyncratic, anarchic sensibility to their work — imagine Steve Reich scoring “The Baader-Meinhof Complex.”

PAL SLETAUNE
Norwegian genre maestro Sletaune attracted a loyal fanbase with his 2005 feature “Next Door,” a creepy, pared-to-the-bone chiller, set in adjoining apartments, that echoed the Polanski of “Repulsion” and “The Tenant.” Now the 50-year-old writer-director — once notorious for turning down the chance to direct “American Beauty” (he didn’t consider the script strong enough) — is completing his highly-tipped new feature “Babycall,” a tense, typically unsettling study of anxious motherhood, starring breakout star Noomi Rapace (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) .

ALICIA VIKANDER
The 22-year-old Vikander was r
ecently nominated for the Rising Star Award for her lead performance in Lisa Langseth’s feature debut “Pure,” which also took the best feature prize at the recent Pusan film fest. Playing a self-destructive young woman, lured into a stormy relationship with an orchestra conductor, she demonstrated a range and presence that belies her years. Hardly surprising, given that she’s been onstage with the Gothenberg Opera since she was seven, and also has a decade’s study at the Royal Swedish Ballet under her belt.

ALSO IN THIS FEATURE:
Tyro talent tops lineup | Fest honorees | Up Next

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