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Hedvig Jensen is a famous ropewalker and is known to her public as Elvira Madigan. She meets Lieutenant Sixten Sparre, a Swedish officer who is married and has two children. They both decide to run away, but since Sixten deserted the army, he cannot find any job and the couple encounters many hardships. Moreover, while on the run, Sixten meets a friend who tries to convince him to come back to his country and family. Written by
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This really is a beautiful movie, exquisite in detail, gorgeously filmed, directed with great subtlety and intensely focused. Nothing wasted or thrown away here. Everything counts. We feel the forebodings of tragedy first in the straight razor in Sixten's hand as he caresses the back of Elvira's head, and then again there is the knife on their picnics, stark, solid, sharp steel in the paradise of their love. Note too the shots on her belly. The child touches her stomach. She vomits from eating flowers...
To really appreciate this movie it should be understood that it was filmed in the sixties and it represented to that audience something precious and true. Note the anti-war sentiment seemingly tangential to the story of the film, but nonetheless running as a deep current underneath. He was an army deserter, like those in the sixties who fled to Canada to avoid the draft and the body bags in Vietnam. Note his confrontation with his friend from the regiment, a scene that many in the sixties lived themselves. He gave up everything for love, but it really is her story, her choice. She chose a man with a wife and two children, a soldier. She had many other choices, as the friend reminded her, but for her he was the "last one." What they did was wrong, but it was indeed a summer of love, the cold northern winter in the distance, ripe red raspberries and mushrooms to eat and greenery everywhere and the sun brilliant and warm; and then in the next to the last scene with the children when she faints as the child pulls off the blindfold of the game and is surprised to face Elvira's belly, there is just a little snow on the ground, perhaps it is from the last winter, not completely melted.
If you can watch this without a tear in your eye and a melancholy feeling about the nature of human love, you have grown too old. Theirs was a forbidden love, like that of Romeo and Juliet, a tragic love, doomed from the start, which is why the ending of the movie is revealed in the opening credits. Those who think a story is spoiled by knowing the ending, know not the subtle ways of story, of great tales that are told again and again. Knowing the ending only sharpens the senses and heightens the appreciation.
Pia Degermark who plays Elvira, who is a tightrope walker, a girl of gypsies, has beautiful calves (which is all we see of her body), a graceful style and gorgeous eyes, made up in the unmistakable style of the sixties, very dark with long heavily mascara'ed eyelashes. And she is a flower child, a fairy child of the forest, drawn to things earthy and mysterious, to a strong young man and a fortune teller who finds for her only small black spades in her future. In life we chase after butterflies. Sometimes we catch one.
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