But the legacy of Swedish cinema is not enshrined in black and white, nor can its apex be found on dusty VHS tapes. Swedish film production is stronger than ever, and growing. And Stockholm is at the heart of it all.
“Stockholm has a long and proud film tradition as well as an incredibly strong current film scene,” says Anette Mattsson, CEO of Film Region Stockholm-Mälardalen, a public-private partnership which stimulates film production in the area.
“And In recent years Stockholm has risen to become an even stronger film region, with the capacity to co-produce both national and international film and TV.”
Modern directors like Roy Andersson, Tomas Alfredson, and Lasse Hallström have received international acclaim, and many of the hottest actors in Hollywood right now – Alicia Vikander, Alexander Skarsgård, and Joel Kinnaman just to name a few – also call Sweden home. Stockholm continues to foster talent, in front as well as behind the camera.
“The Stockholm region is where you find the majority of those who work in the Swedish film industry,” says Mattsson. “Stockholm is a hub for highly skilled individuals and companies operating the creative and cultural industries. You will also find an extremely exciting synergy with the Stockholm tech scene and one of the most impressive gaming clusters on the planet.”
And the international film scene is taking notice of what Stockholm has to offer – not just in terms of skill, but in raw film resources. The city is home to 80 percent of advertising and film professionals, and boasts four full-on film studios, several post-production companies, plus a range of recording studios and a thriving computer games industry with leading game creators.
“Stockholm is about access – in terms of time, space, creativity, and finance,” Mattsson explains. “From a location point of view Stockholm is quite unique. There aren’t many major cities in the world where you can travel 500 years within an hour.”
In Stockholm, she says, you can be standing in an old city centre surrounded by 17th century architecture one moment, and an hour later be in the outskirts of the archipelago comprised of 30,000 stunning islands. A half hour’s drive can take you from a modern urban setting to dark forests and farmlands filled with cottages and castles.
“This broad range of highly accessible environments is hard currency from the perspective of film production,” Mattsson says. “Time is money, and good locations add production value.”
Indeed, for producers like Anita Oxburgh filming in Stockholm makes everything easier – and not just because her latest film, Stockholm My Love, took place in the city itself.
“In Stockholm you are very close to everything,” Oxburgh says. “It’s a small world, and it’s easy to build up networks. And physically you are very close to all your film workers. It’s easy to build up great teams here.”
The film Stockholm My Love, directed by Mark Cousins and starring Swedish singer Neneh Cherry, has been described as a "city symphony", and follows the main character - an architect - as she wanders Stockholm's historic streets.
“Stockholm is a very attractive place,” Oxburgh says. “I love the fact that it’s a horizontal city with big sky and lots of water. It’s not as overcrowded as many cities, and you can get that big city feeling and beautiful views a lot easier than in some other places.”
The actual production was completed across the course of a week – and the whole process was remarkably smooth, Oxburgh adds.
“It was very easy. We had a lot of help from the regional film commissioner, who paved the way for all the permissions we needed,” she recalls. “It was a very good experience altogether, and Christopher Doyle, a world-renowned cinematographer, was very impressed with the Swedish crew.”
Cousins and Doyle are far from the only filmmakers dazzled by the merits of Stockholm’s growing film scene.
“There are several exciting film productions in Stockholm right now,” says Mia Uddgren, who also works at Film Region Stockholm-Mälardalen.
“We’re coproducing a film with Alicia Vikander called Euphoria, shot last summer and to be released next year. And another exciting film to be shot in the next few weeks is starring Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, and Christian Slater.”
Uddgren adds that Stockholm also has famous post-production facilities, where the likes of Walking Dead and Game of Thrones have been edited.
“Our combination of extremely reliable, efficient, and creative crew is hard to find,” she says.
And the city of Stockholm has decided to truly focus its lens on the film branch. The city recently started a new public film fund, called Film Capital Stockholm, designed to attract international film production to the Swedish capital.
Production companies interested in filming in the city can receive co-financing from the fund, in addition to existing private and public funds.
The fund is already co-producing Aniara, a film adaptation of a work by Nobel literature laureate Harry Martinson.
“We are also aiming for Swedish production rebates for national and international film within a year,” Uddgren adds.
“With these production rebates, more Swedish films will be produced and we will be able to attract major international film productions to Sweden and Stockholm. And then…the sky is the limit.”