Despite being one of Europe’s major annual film events, the Gothenburg Film Festival, now in its thirty-second year, has not received much press on this side of the Atlantic. Yet with more than 450 films screening from around the world, Sweden’s biggest celebration of cinema, located in the country’s second largest city, following Stockholm, deserves to be more than a mere footnote to Cannes, Berlin and Venice, not to mention Rotterdam, San Sebastian, and Locarno.
Perhaps the reason for many American critics’ willful ignorance of the festival is its unerring dedication to Scandinavian cinema, which inarguably has been struggling for attention on the international stage since Bergman fell out of fashion. With its annual Nordic competition (and its sales-oriented sidebar, the Nordic Film Market, now in its tenth edition), the Gothenburg Film Festival displays a commendable pride in its showcase of works from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. Certainly, the stereotype that many maintain of Scandinavian cinema (austere, psychological dramas set in harsh remote or urban settings) continues to course evidently throughout many of the films on display at this year’s festival; yet as a very particular brand of state-financed art cinema has grown increasingly homogenized across Europe, it would now seem more disingenuous than ever to reduce Scandinavian cinema to a series of gestures and tropes.