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Kim Novak Never Swan in Genesaret’s Lake

The difficulty of turning certain novels into good movies is amply shown by "Kim Novak Never Swam in Genesaret's Lake." The story of a summer that turns out to be both wonderful and terrible for two teenage boys, could have been a Swedish "Stand by Me." Instead, it ends up as a handsome film without the sense of magic that made Hakan Nesser's book such a treat.

The difficulty of turning certain novels into good movies is amply shown by “Kim Novak Never Swam in Genesaret’s Lake.” The story of a summer that turns out to be both wonderful and terrible for two teenage boys, could have been a Swedish “Stand by Me.” Instead, it ends up as a handsome film without the sense of magic that made Hakan Nesser’s book such a treat. Still, the popularity of the book ensured the pic moderate B.O. success locally, during its late September release, but its foreign future is uncertain.

Traveling back to the rural town of his childhood for the funeral of his friend Edmund, Erik (Johan H:son Kjellgren) recalls a summer in the early ’60s, when his mother (Catarina Larsson) lay dying of cancer. Erik (now played by Anton Lundqvist), his father (Donald Hogberg) and older brother, Henry (Jonas Karlsson), all visit her in the hospital, but realize she’ll never come home again.

At school, a new teacher has arrived — the beautiful Ewa Kaludis (Helena af Sandeberg), whom the smitten boys compare with Kim Novak. Her b.f. is Berra Albertsson (Anders Berg), a former athlete who’s become a thug.

Erik and Henry are to spend the summer at Genesaret, the name given to the old summer house the family owns at a nearby lake. Erik is asked if he wants to bring a friend. He chooses Edmund (Jesper Adefelt), even though the two boys don’t really know each other well; during the lazy summer days, the boys become friends.

Henry is also staying at the house by the lake, trying to write a novel. One night, the boys hear the sounds of lovemaking coming from the floor below. Next day, they discover the woman is Ewa.

Berra has started to get suspicious. He beats Ewa and starts to threaten Erik and Edmund. He says he’ll come visit Henry, but one morning Berra’s murdered body is found a few hundred yards from Genesaret.

The film is not a whodunitand, as in the novel, it is never properly revealed who the killer is. (There are several possible solutions, but none is really important.) The basic element of the story is a summer of wonders, among them the discovery of sex, that suddenly turns into a nightmare that will haunt the participants forever.

Though the original author co-wrote the screenplay, writer-director Martin Asphaug has found it almost impossible to translate his prose into an equally captivating cinematic language. The movie adaptations of Nesser’s crime novels work much better; in “Kim Novak,” the loss of his poetic language is too much for the film to bear.

What’s left is a straightforward story of childhood and loss of innocence, well told but without any special smarts to make it a must-see. Though Kjellgren and Adefelt are not bad as the two friends, they don’t come off as naturally as Karlsson does as the elder brother, giving an unbalanced feel to the many scenes in which the three are onscreen together.

Af Sandeberg is fine as Ewa, radiating beauty and sensuality. Her nude love scene is one of the few moments where the film comes close to the novel’s poetry.

Tech credits are fine, especially Philip Ogaard’s widescreen lensing.

Kim Novak Never Swan in Genesaret’s Lake

Sweden

  • Production: A Svensk Filmindustri release and production, in association with Film i Vast, SF Norge, ARD/Degeto. (International sales: Svensk Filmindustri, Stockholm.) Produced by Waldemar Bergendahl. Executive producers, Kerstin Bonnier, Johan Mardell. Co-producers, Guttorem Petterson, Hege Astrup. Directed by Martin Asphaug. Screenplay, Hakan Nesser, Asphaug based on the novel by Nesser.
  • Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Philip Ogaard; editor, Jan-Olof Svarvar; music, Stefan Nilsson; art director, Eva Noren; costume designer, Kicki Ilander; sound (DTS Digital), Dan Widegren, Arttu Kontkanen. Reviewed at Svensk Filmindustri screening room, Stockholm, May 31, 2005. (In Haugesund Film Festival.) Running time: 96 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Anton Lundqvist, Johan H:son Kjellgren, Jesper Adefelt, Jonas Karlsson, Helena af Sandeberg, Donald Hogberg, Catarina Larsson, Leif Andree, Cecilia Nilsson, Anders Berg, Anders A. Rosendahl, Mans Nathanaelsson, Emil Johnsen, Josefin Strandberg.
  • Music By: