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Pop Culture Nuclei #2: The Swedish Connection

October 15, 2010

It’s been awhile since the last edition, but sometimes science is organic. [Rim shot!]   Yesterday while doing a little research and writing about carving my name on a doorframe next to writer Peter Hedges, I was reminded that the movie version of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? was directed by Lasse Hallström, who directed a favorite movie of mine from childhood, My Life as a Dog.   This 1985 Swedish movie was one of the first films I saw that focused on children and their lived experiences, but wasn’t a “kids movie”, a genre of film I don’t tend to enjoy unless I am actually watching with kids; I’ve fallen asleep to many award-winning Pixar movies.  It was also probably the first movie with subtitles I ever saw, I remember feeling quite sophisticated to be able to include a foreign film on my list of favorites, which also included Vertigo and The Man Who Knew Too Much (Jimmy Stewart/Doris Day version all the way!).  My mother was a Hitchcock fan, so I received that education very early on.

With some cursory internetting, I discovered Lasse Hallström is a central figure in the pop culture universe that I heretofore did not fully realize.

Before he made My Life As a Dog, he also directed a significant portion of the ABBA music video catalog – just this week I put Camera Obscura’s version of Super Trouper on a mix!  Here’s the original video for it.

Hallström has directed a couple of other movies that people loved and gave awards to — The Cider House Rules and Chocolat — but I haven’t managed to convince myself to spend the time to watch those.  I think he also made that terrible Dear John movie that came out this year — look, I’m not saying the man is the best director, just that he’s prolific.  He seems to focus a lot of on turning books into movies, and his current project is an adaptation of The Danish Girl, a novel by David Ebershoff that fictionalizes the first male-to-female sexual reassignment surgery and will star Nicole Kidman as the lead character, Lili Elbe.  Kidman’s production company is fronting a lot of the cash, so this might qualify as a vanity project.  I am both nervous and curious.  While it is not very hip to say, I like Nicole Kidman as an actor, she is compelling to watch (this too, I apparently got from my mother, as I learned last year), so while I’m always going to be suspicious of stories non-trans people like to tell about trans people, I can’t say I won’t be seeing this movie in the theater.

And then as if there weren’t enough connections, it turns out Lasse is married to Lena Olin.  I’m not mad about that.  Or rather, I wouldn’t be mad if I was him.

Just as an aside, despite us also talking about Ken Olin just yesterday, Ken and Lena are NOT related – though they did work together on the television show Alias.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2010 10:13 am

    Other videos he did:

    he really loves that whole “you stand profile in front of the other” shot, which is exactly what I picture when I think of ABBA videos!

  2. October 15, 2010 10:43 am

    LENA OLIN. Oh that about does it. *closes the book*. The internet has officially folded in on itself. I swear so much in my pop culture life comes down to Lena Olin. I am NOT going to resist anymore.

    I loved this entry. I too am a big fan of “My Life as a Dog”. God, that’s a fabulous movie.

  3. October 15, 2010 10:54 am

    when I saw he was married to her, I was like damn, this blog entry is writing itself. maybe it should now be the Six Degrees of Lena Olin game to determine the master champions.

  4. evmaroon permalink
    October 15, 2010 11:07 am

    I never saw My Life as a Dog, probably because I was too upset that my parents wouldn’t let me watch The Breakfast Club. Sheesh, being 15 is hard!

    He is everywhere! It’s interesting that we’ve never noticed!

    By the way, you should go watch Chocolat. Great performance by A. Molina, picturesque cinematography, amusing score and story and hello, Dame Judi Dench!

  5. metermouse permalink
    October 15, 2010 12:04 pm

    I saw My Life as a Dog years ago, after picking it up from the library, not having any expectations at all, and I really liked it.

    After that it was this satellite movie, just floating out there connected to nothing. Even though I also really enjoyed Gilbert Grape I never made the connection!

    Thanks for putting it all into perspective, though I’m tempted to rewatch his movies now and see if I can spot any ‘profile against face’ shots!

  6. October 15, 2010 12:56 pm

    @metermouse: I really love the moment when you discover those connections — that one actor has played half a dozen favorite characters or one writer is responsible for several favorite screenplays. It’s the satisfying clunk of things falling into place in my brain. And that is a great idea, to start looking for his ‘tell’ in other work!

    @evmaroon: I rewatched My Life as a Dog in the 90s and it held up, so hopefully that’s still true. I remain unconvinced on Chocolat, partly because I feel like its inevitable I will watch it one day, I’m just waiting for that proper time to reveal itself. I suspect it will be in a hotel room with cable.

  7. Amber permalink
    October 15, 2010 1:12 pm

    omg. where do i start with this post?! probably with that ridiculously awesome blue sweater in that video. all of these videos make me want to watch that scene from muriel’s wedding again. in fact, let’s:

    i also second watching chocolat.

  8. October 15, 2010 2:05 pm

    @amber: if you’re going to take it there, then i’m adding this.

  9. October 15, 2010 4:28 pm

    I never made the connection to ABBA but in thinking about it for a split second, of course Hallström wound up directing those videos! And, well… Lena Olin.

  10. October 15, 2010 4:38 pm

    @NYCPenpusher: exactly! I love that “ooooooohhhhhhh” moment when it all makes sense.

  11. evmaroon permalink
    October 15, 2010 5:09 pm

    Lena Olin FTW!

  12. melanie permalink
    October 15, 2010 6:54 pm

    Thank you for clearing up Ken Olin/Lena Olin. I had made a wrong assumption – and in fact while this post, thought, wait, what about Ken Olin? But not to worry.

  13. October 15, 2010 11:23 pm

    I’ve had to clear up the Ken Olin/Lena Olin thing for myself about 5 times over the years because I kept forgetting. I finally got it down while watching Alias, but I still double-checked while writing this post!! It never hurts to fact check.

  14. Anton, Stockholm, Sweden permalink
    October 16, 2010 4:03 am

    Just adding some information on Lena Olin.

    Lena’s father Stig was born out of wedlock and he grow up in an orphanage. His name was originally Stig Högberg but it was changed through adoption when he was 10 years old. The adoption was revoked when he was 18 years old, long before Lena and her two brothers were born. He did keep the name though.

    So Lena is not related to any Olin (now living) other than her brother Mats. Her father Stig Olin died in 2008, her mother Britta Olin in 2004 and her brother Pelle Olin in 1960.

  15. October 16, 2010 9:55 am

    thanks for the name lesson, Anton!

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