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Sweden’s Göteborg Film Festival, the biggest movie-TV event in Scandinavia, looks set to stage one of the most dramatic experiments in on-site fest screenings in a COVID-19 age, isolating a single film enthusiast on the bleak North Sea lighthouse island of Pater Noster.

There, totally alone, with no iPhone nor even a book, they will watch the festival’s 60 premieres over a week.

Parallel to this, two other exclusive one-person film screenings will take place at two iconic venues in Göteborg: the Scandinavium, one of Sweden’s most popular arenas, hosting the World Ice Hockey Championships, and the Draken Cinema, where films will, as usual, receive their premieres. Otherwise, Göteborg will go totally virtual, its movies playing to online spectators in Sweden.

By way of a call for applicants for the Pater Noster event, Göteborg has just released a promo trailer for what it calls The Isolated Cinema experience on the North Sea rock. In it, a young woman is shipped to the island, brooding black storm clouds on the horizon, with a sense of foreboding building in the trailer’s opening stretches. Left there alone, she walks towards the lighthouse, discovering a red carpet laid along the path. She enters the lighthouse, as religious-toned music strikes up on the soundtrack. The door closes abruptly behind her. “No phone. No friends. No family. No One. But you. And 60 film premieres,” title cards read.

The Isolated Cinema has its origins in a hardening of health and safety regulations for Swedish cinema theaters, said Jonas Holmberg, Göteborg Film Festival artistic director.

When regulations capped attendance in smaller cinemas at 50 spectators, the festival considered staging an on-site event with multiple screenings of individual films. When the seating capacity dropped to a maximum eight attendees, Göteborg decided to turn “a negative restriction into an existential event,” Holmberg added.

The Isolated Cinema marks the latest in a line of experiments – Göteborg has staged a showcase of religion-themed films in a church, mosque and synagogue, and invited male fest goers to watch a film from a gynecologist’s chair.

“With the explosion of screens and moving images everywhere which can be seen in all kind of conditions, we want to have a conversation about not only the films and new filmmakers but also about how we watch films in a new age,” Göteborgl’s artistic director told Variety.

The theatricalization takes the festival’s physical screenings into the realms of fantasy and metaphor. “On Pater Noster, it’s all about the total isolation experienced by so many people the world over this past year,” Holmberg explained.
“The sensation of being utterly alone in the Scandinavium arena or Draken Cinema ties in with the altered relationship people now have to all those places that normally buzz with activity but are now deserted,” he added,

The Göteborg Festival runs Jan. 29 through Feb 8. Its program – one or two titles of which might well give the heebie-jeebies to anyone alone on a bleak island –  is to announced on Jan. 12.

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Jonas Holmberg Credit: Goteborg Film Festival