Book cover
The Life and Afterlife of Swedish Biograph

Swedish Biograph and The Springtime of life


Welcome to listen to Jan Olsson talk about his new book The Life and Afterlife of Swedish Biograph. The film company Svenska Biografteatern was central to the early Swedish success with directors such as Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller. But the history of the company is far more than it’s directors. The talk is followed by a screening of The Springtime of life, with live piano.

In conversation with Doron Galili, Jan Olsson presents his latest research into the early history of Swedish cinema - The Life and Afterlife of Swedish Biograph: From Commercial Circulation to Archival Practices.

“Sweden’s early film industry was dominated by Swedish Biograph (Svenska Biografteatern), home to star directors like Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller. It is nostalgically remembered as the generative site of a nascent national artform, encapsulating a quintessentially Nordic aesthetic—the epicenter of Sweden’s cinematic Golden Age. In The Life and Afterlife of Swedish Biograph, veteran film scholar Jan Olsson takes a hard look at this established, romanticized narrative and offers a far more complete, complex, and nuanced story.

Nearly all of the studio’s original negatives were destroyed in an explosion in 1941, but Olsson’s comprehensive archival research shows how the company operated in a commercial, international arena, and how it was influenced not just by Nordic aesthetics or individual genius but also by foreign audiences’ expectations, technological demands, Hollywood innovations, and the gritty back-and-forth between economic pressures, government interference, and artistic desires. Olsson’s focus is wide, encompassing the studio’s production practices, business affairs, and cinematographic conventions, as well as the latter-day archival efforts that both preserved and obscured parts of Swedish Biograph’s story, helping construct the company’s rosy legacy. The result is a necessary rewrite to Swedish film historiography and a far fuller picture of a canonical film studio.”

The talk is followed by a screening of I lifvets vår (The Springtime of life, 1912), a film produced by Pathé in Sweden, directed by the French director Paul Garbagni, and distributed by Swedish Biograph. In the male leading roles, we find three of the latter company’s directors - Victor Sjöström, Mauritz Stiller and Georg af Klercker. The film was presumed lost until the original negative was rediscovered in 2006 in the collections of Cinémathèque française. The screening is accompanied by silent film pianist Edward von Past.

When: Wednesday, December 14, 5-5:45 pm. Film screening 6-7 pm. Come early for refreshments 4.30 pm.

Where: The Film Institute Library, entrance floor (4) in The Film House. Screening in Cinema Victor.

Get here: Subway to Karlaplan. Bus to Filmhuset. Entrance Borgvägen 1 or 3 (elevator).

The event is free of charge. No tickets needed.