Intimidated by the Swedes and Danes

Bharadwaj Rangan:

For the longest time, I was intimidated by Swedes. What kind of people were these that their cinema yielded only the Bergman oeuvre? Even we had art filmmakers, forbiddingly grim craftsmen like Ritwik Ghatak and Mani Kaul, but we had, at the same time, channels of escape in the works of Manmohan Desai and SP Muthuraman. But these Swedes – didn’t they crave mindless escape? Just how formidably intelligent were they? Did they tuck in their children with bedtime readings of Kierkegaard? (Yes, he was Danish, but this entire essay could be reconfigured to accommodate the Danes as well, those glacial cousins of the Swedes, given that the moviegoers of Denmark, to our eyes, appeared to be weaned singularly on Carl Dreyer’s masterworks.) And just how depressed were they? When the phrase “dinner date” translates to meatballs followed by a screening of Persona, did the couple stand a chance for happily-ever-after?

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