Het is vandaag vijftien jaar geleden dat in Stockholm de Zweedse filmregisseur Vilgot Sjöman is gestorven aan een hersenbloeding. Als 81-jarige liet hij een echtgenote van 37 jaar achter en drie kinderen.
Sjöman was born in Stockholm, from a working-class family. Sjöman became a clerk with a cereal company aged 15, but as twenty year old he passed his exam and studied at the Stockholm University. He then worked in a prison while writing plays (none of which were produced). One play became his first novel, “Lektorn” (The Teacher, 1955), which was filmed in 1952 by Gustaf Molander as “Trots”.
After taking up a scholarship to study film at UCLA in 1956, Sjöman worked with George Seaton on “The Proud and Profane”. He returned to Sweden and wrote a study of Hollywood (“In Hollywood”, 1961). Sjöman directed his first film in 1962, “Älskarinnan” (“The Mistress”), with a cast that included actors such as Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow, showing a young woman in love with two men, one older and the other younger. For her role, Anderson won the Silver Bear for Best Actress award at the 13th Berlin International Film Festival.
Sjöman assisted Ingmar Bergman with his 1963 film “Nattvardsgästerna” (“Winter light”). Sjöman’s second film “491” (1964) was based on a novel by Lars Görling and dealt with the issues of homosexuality and juvenile delinquency. It includes a scene in which a girl is raped, off-screen, by a dog.
His fourth film “Syskonbädd 1782” (“My Sister My Love”, 1966) again starred Bibi Andersson and is based on “Tis Pity She’s a Whore”, a 17th-century play by John Ford about incest between a brother and his twin sister.
His most well-known film, “I Am Curious – Yellow”, was a political film that examined Swedish society from a critical, leftist viewpoint, portraying a young working-class sociology student, played by Lena Nyman (rechts op bovenstaande foto), interviewing people about social classes in Sweden. Filmed in a knowing cinéma vérité style, she asks, “Do we have a class system in Sweden?” and receives the reply, “It depends on the people. Undress them, and they’re all the same; dress them, and you have a class system.”
The film also shows the protagonist’s affair with a young man, played by Börje Ahlstedt, and sparked controversy both in Sweden and abroad because of its nudity and realistic scenes of sexual intercourse between the two lovers. Norman Mailer described it as “one of the most important pictures I have ever seen in my life”.
An 11-minute section was cut by the British censor, and copies of the film were seized by U.S. Customs in January 1968 as obscene, and banned as pornography in most of the United States. After the US Supreme Court overturned the anti-obscenity ban on First Amendment grounds, the film was screened in US venues and the controversy surrounding the film guaranteed it large audiences, and it became and remained the most successful foreign film in the US for the next 23 years. Its title, and that of the 1968 sequel, “I Am Curious – Blue”, refers of course to the yellow and blue colours of the flag of Sweden (many years later imitated by Krzysztof Kieslowski with “Trois couleurs – Blue, blanc, rouge”).
Sjöman returned to similar themes in later films. He directed “Till Sex Do Us Part” in 1971, a farce about a young married couple who believe they will die if they have sex, but most of his later films were less successful. He directed his last film in 1995, a biography of Alfred Nobel, entitled “Alfred”. (Wikipedia)