Stockholm on the Yarra - Swedish crime films shine at Melbourne festival

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 August, 2012, 8:21am

Scandinavian crime fiction is literary hot property and film buffs are increasingly treated to cinematic versions of these stories, probing the underbelly of societies more commonly associated with snowy scenery and supportive welfare systems. The pervasive otherness - bleak weather, grim storylines, the dysfunctional detective - translates well to the big screen.

The 61st Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF), which ran from August 2 until last Sunday, screening more than 300 movies from about 50 countries, tapped this trend, featuring the "Criminal Record" showcase of five crime classics from the past 70 years.

Co-curated by Swedish film critic Michael Tapper, the section sat alongside "Facing North", featuring a dozen new Swedish movies. These ranged from
Big Boys Gone Bananas!, documenting the repercussions of a film about a worker court case against the corporate banana giant Dole, to Venice Film Festival award winner
Beyond, starring Noomi Rapace.

Tapper said that since the advent of video boosted demand in the late 1980s, Scandinavian Swedish movie makers had cashed in on the crime writers' fame, launching film series "assembly-line style".

"But it has come at a high price: lack of artistic quality," he said. He hopes the elaborate narrative style of the new
Easy Money trilogy, a morality tale set amid the wealthy and seedy parts of Stockholm and based on the book by Jens Lapidus, signals change and a return to "the crime films as a genre of social and political critique".

The first instalment was screened at MIFF.

MIFF also featured a 21-film "Accent on Asia" which included Ann Hui On-wah's
A Simple Life, starring Andy Lau Tak-wah, and Pang Ho-cheung's shoestring budget indie
Vulgaria. And there was "Street Level Visions", a seven-film programme of independent documentaries made in mainland China on subjects such as human rights petitioners and the fight for compensation by neighbourhoods that had been bulldozed for the Olympics.

But the opening and closing nights featured Australian movies. The festival opener was
The Sapphires, about an Aboriginal girl group who entertained Aussie troops in Vietnam, and it was closed by
Mental, reuniting the cast of P.J. Hogan's 1994 hit
Muriel's Wedding.