With Norwegian hits “Headhunters” and “Trollhunter” following in the footsteps of Sweden’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” Scandinavian cinema is on a high, both in its international profile and in the confidence flowing through its filmmakers.
Within the region, market share for local films is rising, while exports are booming on the back of the Nordic crime wave. “Scandinavian crime has become a trademark,” says Stine Helgeland, executive director, promotion and international relations at the Norwegian Film Institute.
Nordic filmmakers, such as Baltasar Kormakur, Tomas Alfredson, Nicolas Winding Refn, Lone Scherfig and Susanne Bier have made the transition to international movies, while veterans Lasse Hallstrom and Bille August have returned home to join in the Scandinavian renaissance.
A new generation of auteurs is coming along behind. Names such as Joachim Trier, Sara Johnsen, Lisa Aschan and Ruben Ostlund are winning acclaim and prizes on the global fest circuit.
The profile of Nordic films is also bolstered by a growing legion of actors with eye-catching roles in Hollywood movies, including Mads Mikkelsen (“The Three Musketeers”), Noomi Rapace (“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”) and Mikael Persbrandt (“The Hobbit”), as well as Stellan Skarsgard and his sons Alexander and Bill, who is Sweden’s Shooting Star at the Berlinale.
All this success is the result of a coincidence of factors, including the snowballing popularity of Scandinavian crime novels, and an increase in state funding, alongside a greater focus on rewarding films for market results, and on backing bigger-budget projects.
The Nordic film industries benefit from a collective strength in the international marketplace.
“If a Danish project is embraced by the world, it is going to help Norwegian and Swedish projects as well,” says Rikke Ennis, CEO of sales company TrustNordisk.
Yet Scandinavians are often surprisingly reluctant to watch each other’s films. Overcoming that resistance imposes a commercial discipline upon Nordic filmmakers, which helps their films to travel further afield.
“We are really trying to focus on finding blockbusters that travel around the Nordic countries, because if a film works across all the Nordic countries, I’m 120% sure it will work internationally as well,” Ennis says. “It’s much more difficult to get a Danish film to work in Sweden, or the other way round, than in Benelux, for example.”
The vitality of Scandinavian cinema will be on display at Berlin in the festival’s official selection and the European Film Market, with a range of projects that stretch from high art to the most commercial genres, and often seek to combine the two .
Nordic moment in sun | Buyers push for films with strong theatrical value | Scandi smorgasbord