Tuesday, December 2, 2008

If you've ever been tempted to exaggerate just a little on your resumé, you owe it to yourself to see the Swedish film Underbar och Älskad av Alla (Wonderful and Loved by Everyone). Bella is an actress who is receiving money from unemployment. When she's notified that her benefits are about to run out, she decides that drastic action is called for. She does a little work on her resumé (ahem) and sends it out to every casting director and agent in Sweden. In addition to being an actress, she also claims to be a champion fencer and an acrobat. By an amazing coincidence, Ingmar Bergman happens at that moment to be casting a new play. This version of Twelfth Night will involve (wait for it) acrobatics. The director is thrilled to find Bella, who has the unhoped for credentials -- an actress who is also a trained acrobat. She is told from the beginning that her part in the play will involve wall flips, no-hand cartwheels, and rolling down from the ceiling in a piece of fabric. Bella, thrilled to have an acting job at last, feels that she'll have no problem learning these moves in the four weeks or so before opening night.

She immediately contacts a coach, who charges her money she really doesn't have for acrobatic instruction. Her lessons all involve turning somersaults on the floor. When, after several expensive, somersault-filled lessons she expresses a desire to "move on", her coach quits in disgust. She continues to put off the play's trainer, who wants to see her acrobatic skills in action.

In the meantime, she starts an affair with a popular Danish actor. Predictably, Bella's exaggerations catch up to her, and the boyfriend turns out to be something of a creep. Still, Bella's good nature and positive attitude are undiminished in the end, and she's able to at least exact a hilarious revenge on the odious jerk.

This film was based on a popular book by Martina Haag, who plays the leading roll of Bella in the film. Also, the movie turned out to be something of a "who's who" of Swedish film culture, with appearances by Björn Kjellman, Marie Richardson and Thomas Hanzon. There's also an amusing daydream sequence in which Bella totally blows away the actor Mikael Persbrandt and the director Kjell Sundvall with the one line she's given in the latest Beck film. But the best part of all is that my favorite Swedish actor, Reine Brynolfsson, has a major part in the film. He's actually playing himself and has been cast as Sebastian in Twelfth Night. Bella is cast as mainly for her acrobatic skills, but also because she is going to play Viola (Sebastian's twin) and she supposedly has a resemblance to Reine Brynolfsson.

I first discovered Reine Brynolfsson while living in Sweden. A kindly elderly neighbor lady had invited us over to "fika" (drink coffee and eat cookies). I cannot stand coffee of any kind, but I tried to be polite and choked down a cup. When I had my head turned for a moment, she filled the cup up again ("påtår", or "top up"), and I had to drink that cup, too! For the next two days, I was incapacitated, what with the severe stomach pains and the vomiting and all. So, there I was, stretched out on the couch, clutching my midsection, when what gorgeous creature should appear before my eyes but Reine Brynolfsson in the Icelandic film Korpens Skugga (In the Shadow of the Raven). Since then, I've followed his career avidly -- from the drunken loser in Black Jack, to the Abba-loving priest in Änglagård (House of Angels), to his most recent turn as a spouse-abusing government minister in Kungamordet. Sadly, 20 years have now gone since Korpens Skugga, and the years are beginning to take their toll (as they do for all of us). Still, he'd look much better if he'd lose the "slicked back" hairstyle that he seems to favor these days.
Final Verdict for Underbar och Älskad av Alla: Three Gherkins, for being an amusing "girl power" film with many unexpected cameos by Sweden's acting elite


Anonymous said...

Where do you get these foreign films? Netflix?

Lisanne624 said...

The in-laws brought the last batch over, but you can sometimes find them on Amazon.com from a "third party seller."

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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