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The Serpent's Way (1986)

Ormens väg på hälleberget (original title)
A salesman and his son sexually abuse the generations of women of a poor family as payment for debt. Janni must see his mother, sister, niece and wife all being exploited, and the family grow bigger with the abuser's kids.


Bo Widerberg


Torgny Lindgren (novel), Bo Widerberg (screenplay)
1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Stina Ekblad ... Tea
Stellan Skarsgård ... Karl Orsa Markström
Reine Brynolfsson ... Jani
Pernilla August ... Eva (as Pernilla Östergren)
Tomas von Brömssen ... Jacob
Pernilla Wahlgren ... Johanna
Ernst Günther ... Ol Karlsa
Birgitta Ulfsson Birgitta Ulfsson ... Grandma
Johan Widerberg ... Jani / Child
Melinda Kinnaman ... Eva / Child
Åsa Karlin Åsa Karlin ... Child (as Åsa Göransson)
Michael Kallaanvaara ... Child
Calle Carlswärd Calle Carlswärd ... Child (as Carl Carlswärd)
Amelia Glas-Drake Amelia Glas-Drake ... Tilda (as Amelia Glas Drake)
Gun Fors Gun Fors ... A Woman


In rural Sweden of the 19th century, it was customary for poor families' debts to landowners or shopkeepers to be repaid through sexual reciprocity of women or daughters. According to well-established moral and ethical views and rather dubious interpretation of the Bible, they have the undeniable right to levy such a kind of "rent" from any woman who owes them. Tea is surrendered to such a creditor despite the suicide of her husband. His son later takes over the role of father, but when Tea's sixteen-year-old daughter has to take her place to pay the debt, the man is neutered by one of Tea's sons.

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Did You Know?


Referenced in Zingo (1998) See more »


Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht!
Composed by Franz Xaver Gruber
Lyrics by Joseph Mohr
Performed by Pernilla Wahlgren
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User Reviews

Terrible film based on a brilliant book
14 August 2018 | by per-sandstromSee all my reviews

Read the book. It is probably the best book Torgny Lindgren has written, and he has written many great books. Sadly, the film is a disaster. Worst of all is that the whole cast, who are supposedly portraying people in Northern Sweden (Västerbotten, to be more specific) in the19th century, are speaking with Stockholm accents. It takes away all credibility and makes a complete mockery of the story.

It's hard to understand how a normally more than competent director and some of Sweden's best actors have managed to fail so completely in bringing a fantastic story to the screen. Just avoid this film. Please. Read the book instead. It's brilliant.

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Release Date:

25 December 1986 (Sweden) See more »

Also Known As:

The Serpent's Way See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Color (Fujicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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