July is Pride Month so, to celebrate, here’s our pick of Scandinavia’s best queer cinema. No list is ever complete, of course, so think of this as merely an entrée – or perhaps a good way to recover from the plethora of pride festivities.
Show Me Love/ Fucking Åmål
On the surface, teenage girls Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) and Agnes (Rebecca Liljeberg) are polar opposites. Where Elin is outgoing and popular, Agnes is an introvert (look closely and you’ll see a poster of Morrissey in her bedroom). But the two are bound together by a secret too shocking for the small town of Åmål, which they both long to escape. By turns innocent, cheeky and heart-breaking, this film from 1998 will resonate with anyone — gay, straight or anywhere in-between — who remembers the pain of adolescence.
After something of a drought, Iceland is seeing a resurgence of queer cinema. Two movies, Heartstone, and Rift were both released in close proximity to each other. The former is a beautifully shot meditation on adolescence that spans a summer in rural Iceland and tells the story of two boys, Thor and Christian, who are both about to experience the life-changing moments that only teenagers can through questioning their sexuality. By contrast, Rift is a terrifying exploration of the end of a relationship between Gunnar (Björn Stefánsson) and Einar (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson) filmed in Snæfellsnes like you’ve never seen it before.
Tom of Finland
It’s hard to get any gayer and – dare I say – more Finnish, than Tom of Finland. Last year was Touko Valio Laaksonen’s moment to (re)shine, first with a musical in Turku, followed by the release of Dome Karukoski’s film about the artist’s life. It’s a film which, like Touko’s artwork, will speak for generations to come.
Finnish journalist and Scandinavia On My Mind contributor, Samuli Launonen, recommends the following: “The midsummer melodrama People in the Summer Night (1948) is essential viewing for anyone interested in Finnish cinema, as it is an enduring classic of the genre. This was also the first time a Finnish film had a queer central character: a beautiful, tragically lost soul, a universal stereotype of a gay man, although his sexual orientation wasn’t explicitly stated, this being the 1940s. Producing Adults (2004) is a decent comedy with a gay subplot, while The River (2001) has a male couple as two of its central characters. The latter in particular is highly recommended viewing.”
The unlikely friendship between beauty shop owner Charlotte, (Trine Dyrholm) and Veronica (David Dencik)a transsexual who lives downstairs makes for compulsively watchable cinema. While the character’s lives might come across as a bit depressing, it’s also a powerful exploration of contemporary life which even earned a comparison to Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodovar.
Finding an explicitly queer Norwegian film proved something of a task, but the recently released Thelma does indicate that change may be in the air. Brought up in rural Norway by her religious and quietly domineering mother and father, painfully shy Thelma has recently arrived in Oslo to begin her university studies. At the library one afternoon, she experiences a powerful seizure, and beautiful fellow student Anja is there to help. Developing an overwhelming attraction to her new friend, yet anxious that these feelings betray her beliefs, Thelma begins to manifest a dangerous and uncontrollable power that her parents have long feared.