Preserved and lost silent films
The volumes of Swedish Filmography covering the silent era (1897-1931) include 484 films, of which 223 have been rediscovered and preserved, although some of them only in fragmentary form. This means that almost 55% of the films from this era have not survived to our day and age.
The main reason why so many films are lost is the fire which broke out in Svensk Filmindustri's storage facilities in Vinterviken in September 1941. All original negatives of fiction and feature length films from the silent era were stored there; films either produced by Svensk Filmindustri or its predecessor Svenska Biografteatern, or films produced by studios later acquired by Svensk Filmindustri, which means the vast majority of all Swedish silent films.
That more than 45 % of the films from this period still exist is due to the fact that viewing prints were kept elsewhere when the fire broke out; this is particularly true for the most famous and at the time most successful films, to which many prints were struck from the negatives. These prints have been found in projection booths in cinemas, in private collections and not least in foreign archives, where films considered to have been lost still resurface after being rediscovered and properly identified.
From these rediscovered prints new negatives have been made, from which new viewing prints have been struck and the films have thus again become accessible. In some cases an extensive restoration and reconstruction work have been undertaken, not least when a new negative has been made from multiple print sources, and for films surfacing in the form of foreign distribution prints the original Swedish intertitles have been recreated. Lately, rediscovered elements have also been digitized and digitally restored. It is also of great interest when original nitrate prints of already preserved films turn up, since new analogue or digital restorations can be carried out which better reflects the films' original length, aspect ratio, intertitles and possible colours.
Please note that the above is valid for films listed in the Swedish Filmography. Apart from films listed in these volumes, a vast amount of news-reels, and short non-fiction, advertising and commissioned information films were made in the silent era, produced either by Svensk Filmindustri (who did not store negatives to these films in Vinterviken) or by numerous other studios. There is no available figure of the total number of films produced in the silent era, and therefore it is not possible to give an estimate of the survival rate.
Among the most recent findings are Gränsfolken (1913), which was rediscovered by Filmoteka Narodowa in Warsaw in 2009 and Karusellen (1923), which was discovered the same year in the collections of Gosfilmofond in Moscow. The following year, Cinémathèque française in Paris announced that they had rediscovered Komtessan Charlotte (1912), and in 2015 a new nitrate element on Balettprimadonnan (1916) was found at Filmoteca Española in Madrid. In 2017, we acquired a print of Flickorna på Solvik (1926) in a deposit from a private collector, and the same year CNC in Bois d'Arcy published news about the resurfacing of Judaspengar (1915), which will be restored in 2018.
Since more than half of all the films are still considered to be lost, the resurfacing of all Swedish silent films are of the utmost importance for us.
Below you'll find lists of preserved and lost silent films from the volumes of the Swedish Filmography.
Published 13 June 2017