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Cornelis (2010)
7/10
Cornelis, half of his life portrayed.
26 January 2012
Being a Dutchman with a great interest in Sweden, plus a fan of Cornelis Vreeswijk, I was really looking forward to this motion picture. Many of Cornelis' songs helped me to gradually learn the Swedish language. First off, I have to compliment the casting bureau that managed to find Hans-Erik Dyvik Husby. A Norwegian singer from a genre rather remote from the one Cornelis sang in. Yet he puts on a magnificent performance.

The film follows the career steps of Vreeswijk in Sweden, from his breakthrough in 1964 alongside Fred Åkerström until his death in 1987. During the course of it, many of Cornelis' great songs can be heard. A sing-along for any fan. It also shows the two sides that Cornelis had in him. A great performer, fun guy to hang around with, a ladies man. But also a heavy drinker, an overly jealous husband and not the best of fathers to his son Jack. It presents you with a very honest picture of this troubadour that lived like a rock star. This pleads for the director and the script-writer.

The only weakness of this film is that it focuses solely on Sweden. Vreeswijks Dutch heritage is almost completely neglected. The only way any viewer unfamiliar with him would guess he's Dutch is from his last name and the first 5 minutes of the film. The director does ironically point out the fact that the Swedish state never officially recognized Vreeswijk as a Swedish citizen, and therefore never even became a Swede. In fact Cornelis had a decent career here in The Netherlands as well, where quite a few people still know his Dutch repertoire. He also regularly traveled abroad to perform in The Netherlands. Obviously this part of his life poses a practical issue, with a Norwegian actor portraying him. Yet Amir Chamdin could have made at least a couple of references to the Netherlands. He chooses not to; perhaps for financial or practical reasons. Sadly it's this loose end that makes this an incomplete, yet nice film about the life of Cornelis Vreeswijk.
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7/10
Not everything white is snow in Santa's town.
26 January 2012
This documentary evolves around a young Finn in the town of Rovaniemi and his struggles in life there. Having been to Rovaniemi myself several times, I can relate to the guy's view of pointlessness. He clearly feels there is nothing for him in Lapland, and turns to drugs as an act of escapism. This part of Finland is a very empty, and sometimes a desolate looking land, if you're a dark hearted person. Snow covers Lapland for 4 to 6 months a year, and the region around Rovaniemi is empty.

So he turns to drugs. Everything from the real thing to drugs that are legal and only effective in large doses. I found this a rather interesting documentary because it sheds light on a problem one perhaps wouldn't expect to be an issue so far up north. The style of filming adds to the feel of 'being there'.

The main thing you're left wondering about after the documentary finishes is what happened to the guys afterwards. The footage used in it is obviously quite old as the guys still use the old Finnish currency (markka). It keeps one wondering.
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The Border (2011)
7/10
Upholding neutrality in a war zone, Sweden's struggle.
26 January 2012
If you're anticipating an all-out heroic war movie with lots of gunfire, Gränsen will let you down. This movie is in no way intended to be just that. Instead it focuses a lot more on the war-mentality and the will to cross boundaries (both literally and figuratively speaking).

While some reviewers found the behavior displayed by some of the Swedish soldiers questionable, they should stop and think about how they would act in war times. Keep in mind, Swedish soldiers were not expecting a fight after Nazi-Germany left them alone and focused on conquering Russia. Crossing a border (the Norwegian one) suddenly shoves reality into their faces, and a cruel one at that.

Yes, there might have been some typecasting going on. German captains are sadists with round glasses. The Finnish soldier is the bad-ass, and most Swedes easily startled. But other than that this film poses an important question. Not just a historical one for Swedes to reflect upon, but also for present-day viewers: can you cross the border and give up neutrality if you might have to pay for it with your life?
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