Lust och fägring stor (All Things Fair)
October 12, 2004
Bo Widerberg, ,
Starring: Johan Widerberg, Marika Lagercrantz, Tomas von Brömssen, Karin Huldt, Nina Gunke, Björn Kjellman, Kenneth Milldoff, Frida Lindholm, Sigge Cederlund, George Bisset, Gösta Ekstrand, Hilda Suovanen, Per Olov Börjeson, Jörgen Svensson, Monica Stenbeck, ,
Swedish filmmaker Bo Widerberg had a prolific career spanning 32 years. From The Baby Carriage (1963) to All Things Fair (1995), he created realistic social dramas but with a romantic sensibility. This is no more apparent then in his final film, All Things Fair, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story set in his hometown of Malmo, Sweden in 1943.
Stig (Widerberg) is a teenager discovering his sexuality. He and his classmates are obsessed with sex-they talk about it constantly. They get a new teacher, Viola (Lagercrantz), a pretty woman that Stig finds attractive. One day, she tells him to stay behind after class and clean the room as punishment for a prank he pulled. As he cleans the blackboard, Widerberg cuts to a fleeting shot of the nape of her neck. That’s all it takes for the teenager to develop a crush on his teacher.
During class they share many secret looks that suggest a growing attraction to one another. When Stig finally kisses Viola, she surprisingly reciprocates. She is as attracted to him as he is to her, perhaps even more so. They begin a passionate affair. What could have turned into a bad Adrian Lyne movie is saved by Widerberg’s insightful screenplay and the honest performances by the talented cast. Their relationship isn’t merely physical. Widerberg makes a point of having scenes with them spending time with each other, simply talking.
Widerberg includes all kinds of little details, like the anti-Semitism that permeates the playground that fleshes out the world that these characters inhabit. He never lets us forget the spectre of Nazism that hung over Europe at the time like a black cloud. There is a poignant moment between Stig and Viola’s husband as they listen to a radio broadcast by Hitler in the background. The husband breaks down and says, “It’s the same language,” and repeats over and over, “I can’t make sense of it.” In this simple, yet effectively moving moment, Widerberg captures the essence of the madness of war and its effect on people overwhelmed by it.
Widerberg does an excellent job of documenting the day-to-day lives of these people. He shows Stig at his after school job: selling candy at the local movie theatre. He has a conversation with his mother that feels so real in the way it is shot, as if we are intruding on these people’s lives and witnessing an honest, truthful moment.
All Things Fair perfectly captures that rush of first love, or, rather first lust. It is an all-consuming force that makes one unable to eat or sleep because you are so crazy in love that your thoughts are completely absorbed by the other person and you need to be with them all the time. Widerberg shows the complete arc of Stig and Viola’s relationship to its inevitable conclusion. Stig ultimately learns some sobering lessons about the adult world: how some people grow up never realizing their dreams and end up sad and broken, or how some people, like Viola, are users who drain others of their life and energy.
Film critic Wheeler Winston Dixon contributes informative and thoughtful liner notes that provide a brief biographical sketch of Bo Widerberg’s career and a good assessment of All Things Fair.
Filmographies for Bo and Johan Widerberg.
All Things Fair was fitting finale for Widerberg’s career. It was an international success, earning an Academy Award nomination in 1996 for Best Foreign Language Film and winning the prestigious Silver Bear Award at that year’s Berlin Film Festival. Unfortunately, he died from stomach cancer in 1997 but left behind an impressive body of work that will stand the test of time.