Saturday, January 31, 2009


I was quite surprised with this made for TV mini series period drama in two one hour parts as definitively has an outstanding story told with surprising (for me) high productions values and great performances which definitively makes it one of the best TV productions that I have seen lately.

Directed by Erik Leijonborg the movie is inspired in the not long ago released to the public letters written by Selma Lagerlöf to her two “life companions” Sophie Elkan and Valborg Olander. The “inspired” mention is important as according to producers is more based on what the letters “does not really say” and consequently only tells about Selma’ relationship with both women, so there is not much about her as a writer. In the end becomes a daring story of love and jealousy with some of her political views and how she stands up to women’s rights.

If you are not familiar with whom Selma Lagerlöf is here is a brief summary about her. Selma Lagerlöf is the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature, she’s Swedish and according to what I read her prize came twelve years before women had the right to vote, she’s a historically important figure/icon in Sweden and her face is in their money. Her work covers huge spaces in the Sweden Public Library and it contained letters written by and to her that were sealed until finally published 50 years after her death in the early 40’s. These letters revealed the “love” affairs she had with Sophie and Valborg. I imagine that because of her stature not many are willing to acknowledge that the “love affairs” were not affairs, she was in love with those women that shared most of her life as very close partners, but I still have to read the letters, if I find them.

Anyway the miniseries in part one tell about Selma and Sophie arriving in Taormina, Italy and staying at a Scandinavian colony for artists were they alternate with other well-known artists. Selma looks really in love with Sophie but Sophie is reluctant and more interested in meeting a married French man. The climax of part one comes when Selma, after watching Sophie having sex with the man, encounters Matilda that she especially noticed at the train station when they arrived to Taormina, but you have to see what happens or I totally will spoil the story.

Part two starts fourteen years later, in 1909, when Selma is about to become the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize. At her side is now her constant companion Valborg Olander and you can see that Valborg is clearly in love with Selma but how Selma feels is not that obvious. When Sophie arrives to be there in her big day a lot of drama ensues as both women are constantly fighting for Selma’s attention. Things get more complicated when someone from Selma’s past -that you will meet in part one- shows up and threatens to ruin her reputation and career by making public some letters that Sophie wrote to her. For your information in those days homosexuality was punished with jail and Selma was about to receive the Nobel Prize!

Not surprisingly the film was very controversial in Sweden, with some scenes (especially Selma’s encounter with Matilda) provoking strong negative reactions among Lagerlöf living descendants. Perhaps -as some say- the miniseries has too many artistic licenses and not much historic accuracy; but definitively is an amazing and entertaining story that I do recommend especially to those that enjoy the lesbian interest genre.

I enjoyed the film quite a lot and made me really curious to learn more about the real remarkable woman; not many films and/or historic figures provoke this to me, but definitively I'll learn a lot more about Selma Lagerlöf work and life thanks to the motivation this movie gave me.


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