Friday, 10 April 2020

See Jerusalem and die… Till österland (1926), Selma Lageröf Part III


“This is the Jerusalem of soul-hunting, this is the Jerusalem of evil-speaking, this is the Jerusalem of lies, of slander, of jeers. Here one persecutes untiringly; here one murders without weapons. It is this Jerusalem which kills men.”
  
Till österland (To the Eastland) is the last of the four films adapted from Selma Lageröf’s two-part epic Jerusalem II: In the Holy Land (Jerusalem II: I det heliga landet) which was published in 1901. A Swedish-Soviet-German co-production it featured extensive location filming in Jaffa and Jerusalem as well as Borlänge, Dalarna in Sweden in order to replicate the sweep of the author’s themes of love, land, faith and fortune. Production shots also show cast and crew on a detour to Egypt to see the pyramid of Giza and the Sphynx.

Sadly only a quarter of the film survives in the Swedish Film Institute archive – 600m from an original length of 2587, about 20 minutes – so it appears mostly lost, which is even more disappointing when you consider that it’s a completion of the Ingmar family story and the resolution of Ingmar Ingmarsson’s complicated love triangle (which becomes a quadrangle or even a pentangle if you add Our Lord…).

But we have Selma’s book, a stack of production shots and the previous film, Ingmar’s Inheritance (1925) along with familiarity with the key performers; Lars Hanson, Mona Mårtenson, Ivan Hedqvist and Jenny Hasselqvist. The script is still extant but it’s in Swedish so I’m making assumptions about how much of the story script writer and director Gustav Molander included.

Some of the locals...
The first half of the novel focuses on the difficulties faced by the Dalecarlians community who left for Jerusalem at the end of the previous film. There is little mention of Ingmar until almost half way through as he journeys out to make good on what he sees as his obligations to the woman he pledged his heart too only to betray her trust when he mad to marry to buy back the family farm.

Lageröf had made the same arduous journey to the Holy Land in 1899, inspired by the migration of 37 Swedes from the village of Nås in 1896. According to Swedish writer, Ingrid Carlberg, their photographs can still be found in the American Colony Hotel along with Selma’s. Reviewing the book in The Independent Carlberg tells of the impact Lageröf’s “effortless storytelling” and prose had on her and, of course, being a Brit, I’ve had to rely on Velma Swanston Howard’s translation which has had mixed reviews in terms of its maintenance of authorial respect. That said, the story is still compelling and at times you’re wrong-footed by the shifts in tone, the magical reality and the visions that may or may not be real.

At one point, Gertrude – played by Mona Mårtenson – has a vision of a man who looks exactly like the Christ she saw in the woods which made her a convert. This time though, the “nameless messiah” turns out to be a Muslim and one who operates at a less cerebral level than the man of God she expected. It’s a reality check and yet Selma moves in mysterious ways… Ingmar, Lars Hanson again, travels to Jaffa on foot only to break down with an injured foot, imperceptibly the narrative shifts into a dream and he completes his mission; it’s only after being woken by the person he was seeking does he realise that his dream was real to her.

Mona Mårtenson and Harald Schwenzen as the Swedes arrive
“It is you who have killed her. Your slandering tongues sent her to her death!”

Lageröf’s precise agenda is complex and the first part of the book is merciless with characters being bought to life only to be extinguished by the heat, the light, shame and starvation. One man dies in disappointment after the golden vision of Jerusalem he saw on first arrival is not matched by the reality of dirty streets, beggars and lepers. Gunhild, one of Hellgum’s early converts, suffers after the group are demonised by other missionaries, who view them as immoral for their refusal to sanction marriage. The shame reaches back home where her mother dies in grief leading to the young woman’s decent into misery, she is soon gone herself, faith ill-rewarded. Hellgum himself is barely mentioned now that they are where he asked them to go and Conrad Veidt was also absent from the film.

The leader of the mission is an American woman, Mrs Gordon, who, in the book, was inspired to form the new faith by the sinking of L’Univers, not Hellgum as in the film. She is based on Anna Spafford, the wife of a well-to-do lawyer and Presbyterian church elder, who was travelling to Europe on the SS Ville du Havre with her daughters when it collided with another ship and sank, with Anna being one of the few survivors. The Spafford’s established a Christian utopian movement eventually travelling to establish a commune in Jerusalem where they hoped good works would hasten the Second Coming of Jesus. They were treated with suspicion and they did indeed encourage the exodus from Nås. Truth is stranger than fiction, even Selma’s.

Gertrude is taken ill at the Wailing Wall
Horatio Spafford died from malaria and so too do the Dalecarlians start to succumb, even Gertrude who is nursed back to health by Hök Gabriel Mattsson, Ingmar’s cousin played in the film by Harald Schwenzen, who has held a candle for the schoolmaster’s daughter even since he attended her father’s school. He doesn’t think he has a chance, assuming Gertrude still loves Ingmar, and yet she has moved on from her old passion ever since her vision of Christ and their arrival in the Holy Land. The two form a close bond but Gertrude doesn’t want to be unfaithful to her Lord and Hök doesn’t want to get in his cousin’s way.

Talking of whom, it’s now page 175 and Ingmar is finally arriving now the scene has firmly been set. A lot of water has passed under the bridge back home and Ingmar has grown to love his wife Barbro (Jenny Hasselqvist) whilst at the same time being bound to Gertrude by his promise. Barbro has revealed herself to be a forgiving and principled individual who not only is beloved by the peasants of Ingmar’s Farm but also provides financial support for the family of the man who jilted her. She too feels a responsibility to Gertrude and wants to divorce Ingmar so that he can be with her.

That unbearable moral conundrum at the end of the first volume and Ingmar’s Inheritance has twisted itself even further out of joint and there’s a tremendous tension in the final furlongs of the narrative as each character slowly understands the reality of their feelings for each other. Selma is not going to let any of this go though and there’s an excess of human complication which she makes light work of with a distinctive style that pushes through the fug of Americanisms used by Mrs Howard.

Ingmar arrives (Lars Hanson)
The beauty of reading the book after watching Ingmar’s Inheritance is that you can imagine how the actors would play these roles, Lars Hanson powerfully stubborn and Mona Mårtenson so fresh faced and open against the onslaught of ill-fortune. It’s Jenny Hasselqvist I’d most like to see though, especially in the dynamic final sequences where, having secretly had Ingmar’s baby, and fearing it to be possessed of her family curse of blindness and mental defects, Barbro considers following the same route as Big Ingmar’s wife, Brita, who killed her baby and then herself. That’s a powerful bookend to complete the family’s story arc and Hasselqvist would have dealt with the impossible mix of self-loathing and emerging motherly love with her usual grace.

 
The stills give some idea of how the film would have looked and again we would have had the excellent cinematography of Julius Jaenzon - as well as Carl-Axel Söderström – given a totally different landscape to capture. For the man who shot so well against the Sun in The Sons of Ingmar (1919), it would be fascinating to see.

Ivan Hedqvist and Jenny Hasselqvist
The stills also show where Molander’s story was focused and that is the on aftermath of Ingmar’s arrival. Ingmar gives the Dalecarlians an immediate lift – he is a representation of their old certainties and has qualities of leadership too. That said, his sister Karin (Märta Halldén) is appalled to hear of his impending divorce and that it was requested by Barbro. She imagines what their father would say and Ingmar responds with a weary, “The dead are better off than the living…” a sentiment straight out of the pages of Lagerlöf’s first novel, Gosta Berling.

Ingmar writes a letter to the Parson back home, one he wants forwarded to his wife,  which neatly sets out how they have become estranged in spite of themselves; it’s what we expected after the last film but for different reasons and with feelings which add a whole new level to their situation. As with Big Ingmar and Brita their route to love is all the stronger for being unexpected and founded on an almost unearthly force. Both are driven be a sense of duty and that must outweigh their feelings for, as Barbro’s father dies, she feels relieved of her responsibility to remain married to a man she believes still loves another.

Out in Jerusalem, Ingmar is aiming to bring back Gertrude to complete on his promise but when he senses her change of affection, he can see a plan that might just work. He finds out about a plan to undermine the colony and makes his journey to Jaffa to warn Mrs Gordon, after this supernatural episode he wins favour enough to be allowed to manage an unused mill – the Colony won’t work for pay and the owner won’t have them work for no money but Ingmar has no qualms.

Mona Mårtenson and Lars Hanson
“Every miller knows that there is a good deal of magic about a mill…”

Ingmar’s efforts bring a healthier balance to the Colony, perhaps this is the kind of endeavour these farming folk have been missing; the hard work draws them in and reinforces their purpose. By autumn “the whole colony was alive with the spirit of enterprise and activity…”

Ingmar is injured trying to stop the desecration of a Jewish grave and develops and eye infection – he must return to Sweden to save his sight and after Gertrude agrees to accompany him he manages to persuade Hök by letting him and Gertrude, read his confessional letter… the section in which he spies on their realisation of his true feelings is precious.

Hasselqvist and Hanson
But Ingmar’s not out of the woods yet, and as he returns home, he finds Barbro with a new-born baby – she is so determined not to force his hand that she is lying about the date of birth and refusing to name the father. Will Barbro’s stubbornness prevent the couple’s happiness? Step in our old friend, Strong Ingmar (Ivan Hedqvist) for the most satisfying and poetic of conclusions.

Even with the translation, these books stand the test of time and are remarkable commentaries on Swedish society. As for the films, the first two Sjostrom films are emotionally epic whereas Molander’s are the more commercial, crowd-pleasing epics. Maybe there’s a complete copy of Till österland out there and the chance to see these performers against the backdrop of changeless Jerusalem.

I read the Leopold Classic Library edition of the 1918 Velma Swanston Howard translation, nice laminated cover - available via Amazon et al.

All photographs from the Swedish Film Institute online archive here.


For more information on Selma's trip to Jerusalem there's an interesting post on the National Library of Israel's The Librarians' website from Hadar Ben-Yehuda.

Filming outside Jerusalem
Filming the arrival at Jaffa
Cast and crew take a trip to Giza...
 

Sunday, 5 April 2020

When Connie met Jenny (Mona and Lars) … Ingmar's Inheritance (1925), Selma Lagerlöf Part II

This Hanson man
We’re back in Sweden and five years after the second of Victor Sjöström’s planned adaptations of Selma Lagerlöf’s epic two-part novel Jerusalem failed to meet expectations, director Gustaf Molander picked up the thread with a different cast and agenda. Whilst the English translation of the books I’ve been reading have been criticised for too much authorial intervention from well-intentioned but over fussy, Velma Swanston Howard, which of these two directors translated the author’s meaning to best effect?

According to Paolo Cherchi Usai in The Oxford History of World Cinema, it was the author’s admiration for Sjöström’s films that led her to sign over the film rights for all her books to Svenska Bio and he adds that the director “found in her work the ideal expression of the active role played by nature in the destiny of characters torn between good and evil.” The author was certainly not low on opinion and was initially unsure about The Phantom Carriage (although pleased with the result) and berated Mauritz Stiller for his adaptation of The Gosta Berling Saga calling it “cheap and sensational”.

With that in mind, you wonder what she made of the changes made to the latter part of her first volume of Jerusalem by Gustaf Molander who had form in this respect having co-scripted Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919) with Stiller and made a number of alterations to Lagerlöf’s original. It was ever the case in film making and the public houses would need to be re-opened and with a very late licence to allow a fuller discussion of the relationship between books and their films. Sjöström followed his author’s text more closely and made two feature films out of less than 105 pages whereas Molander crafted one from remaining 240 including adding some of his own inventions. The feeling is much the same but the pace has changed and the cinematic vision of the narrative is one aimed at creating a hit film with hot actors (in terms of box office and, oh yes, all that….).

Mona Mårtenson
Ingmar’s Inheritance (Ingmarsarvet) steps back a few chapters and starts with Strong Ingmar (Ivan Hedqvist) taking young Ingmar (Arne Lundh) to the death bed of his father (not Victor in this case) and telling him of the family’s ranking and importance. Elias (John Ekman) is married to Karin Ingmarsdotter (Märta Halldén) and his decent into an abusive alcoholic wastrel is shown again but, unlike book and Sjostrom film, he causes his own demise by riding his trap too hard, hiding what remains of his wife’s wealth – little Ingmar’s inheritance - in the pillow on his death bed.

The years pass and Ingmar (now Lars Hanson) is fully grown and a teacher at the school run by Schoolmaster Storm (Nils Aréhn), looking longingly across at the old homestead, which is managed by Karin and the man she was always destined to marry, Halvor (Mathias Taube). Ingmar himself has his eyes set on Storm’s daughter Gertrude (Mona Mårtenson) who is almost despairing of his romantic instincts until he agrees to accompany her to the village dance.

At the dance, Ingmar impresses not only Gertrude but Strong Ingmar who challenges him to honour the family traditions of farming and hard word. He takes him to the fast-flowing river at Langforsen’s Gap and persuades him to build a sawmill there which he can use to make a fortune and thereby buy back the family farm.

Ivan Hedqvist, Mona and Lars Hanson
“Let us sing a hymn to make the Devil angry!”

Across the village, the faithful have gathered to pray, not dance and Pastor (Albion Örtengren) leads his fragile flock in hymns and routine religious rhymes at the missionary house. A storm is brewing and will bring unexpected fantasy and glamour in the form of Conrad Veidt’s wandering preacher, Hellgum, who takes refuge from the wind and rain and immediately takes command of the pulpit. In the book Hellgum is married to one of the women in the village but here he is more sensationalised with a not entirely trustworthy magnetism and religious passion – I’m not sure that Selma would have approved; her Hellgum is far subtler. Still, this is Conrad Veidt, and he’s absolutely the man for this gig and plays the febrile duality for all it’s worth every second on the screen as the “ lone wanderer who brought a message from the Holy City of God…”

Meanwhile, the storm begins to terrify the revellers at the dance as Strong Ingmar talks about the myth of the wild hunt of Odin come to reap the souls of the unwary and Molander indulges in some very Germanic fantasies as ghouls, gods and wild animals sweep unnaturally through the woodlands. Ingmar is missing amongst all this … probably held back by Selma appalled by this unscripted insertion, but he returns and looking from the window appears to see the ghost of his father looming large in the darkened sky telling him to honour the family traditions.

Conrad Veidt makes an entrance as only he can...
It is a very effective change in pace and signals Ingmar’s pursuit of both his family farm and Gertrude’s love as well as the beginning of Hellgum’s religious conversion of many in the village. The storm stops as Hellgum speaks – is he/isn’t he a prophet? - and he tells them of the faith that will bring safety during the storm… a new belief he acquired during the sinking of the liner L’Univers. This is another well-directed segment and harrowing still as men try desperately to pull women and even children off the lifeboats after the ship goes down, there’s little nobility on show and the fight to survive is grim.

Hellgum volunteers to jump off the lifeboat to save the women and children and survives after a vision from God showing that unity, brotherhood and sacrifice will save the world. He is moved to gather brethren and follow a path to a life in Jerusalem in a new Christian community. Undoubtedly, the notion of powerful new faith was something much closer to the contemporary audience, indeed, Lagerlöf partially based the story on an emigration that took place in 1896 from Nås in the Dalarna County.

Ingmar and Gertrude are much more convincing to modern eyes in their love and in his desire to restore his birth-right. But the path to true love must never run smooth and, as Ingmar is off building his water mill, Gertrude attracts the not entirely holy interest of Hellgum…  


“It’s true, he’s captured you too with his gaudy words!”

Once again Strong Ingmar is on hand to set things in motion and after he warns Ingmar, the young man races back home to confront his sweetheart. He duly gains the wrong impression and appears to have assaulted Hellgum only for the preacher to explain that Ingmar fought off two attackers. Ingmar forgives Gertrude’s momentary doubt and their balance is restored but for how long?

Spoilers ahoy!

The story turns as Karin, so practical and therefore previously resistant, is cured of her unexplained inability to walk during one of Hellgum’s gatherings at Ingmarsfarm… she agrees to sell the farm to fund the Hellgumists’ exodus to the Holy Land thereby leaving an opportunity for Ingmar to buy back the family farm. Sadly, the farm is slightly out of his price bracket and it is here that we find Sweden’s multi-talented superstar Jenny Hasselqvist as Barbro the daughter of rich Berger Sven Person (Knut Lindroth) who was once a farm boy for the Ingmars. Barbro has been disappointed in love and looked on with considerable interest in the direction of Ingmar, so Dad does what all fathers might and offers to loan Ingmar the money as dowry for Barbro’s hand in marriage.

So now we have a classic Lagerlöf moral conundrum and Ingmar is not just driven by familial pride, he feels a responsibility to all those workers on the farm, especially the elderly who look on him with pleading eyes as he wrestles with his conscience. If you don’t want to know the result, please look away now.

The Ghost of Ingmar Past
“Ingmar, as long as your heart is bound to earthly matters, it is bound to sorrow.”

Ingmar follows his head and not his heart and, although neither solution would give him peace, he feels he has betrayed Gertrude who is devastated. His ensuing wedding with Barbro is not a happy occasion and he can barely look at his new bride, but his misery is about to be compounded as his former love, flees to the woods in desperation, has visions of putting his eyes out in revenge before seeing a vision of Christ and undergoing a conversion.

The real kick in the tale is when, seeking rest at a peasant’s cottage, Gertrude sleeps on a pillow bought at auction from the Ingmar’s Farm… she finds the money hidden by Evil Elias and a note explaining that it’s Ingmar’s inheritance. In a heart-breaking final meeting, Gertrude calls Ingmar away from his wedding to tell him that she has transferred her love to Jesus and that she has found his money. Realising that this find could have enabled him to have his love and his farm, he collapses in a sad rage… but the worst is that Gertrude is in a rapture beyond his earthly love.

As the Hellgumists leave for the Holy Land, the young woman joins them, a blissful expression on her face and, in the book, Ignmar swears to somehow win her back setting things up for the finale in Jerusalem II and Molander’s second film, Till österland (1926) of which more later…

The under-used Jenny Hasselqvist
So, is it any good?

Ingmar's Inheritance is a dynamic and entertaining film from Molander who, whilst he takes liberties with the source material, condenses the sweep of the book into a faster-moving film of faith and fantasy. The cinematography from Åke Dahlqvist and maestro Julius Jaenzon is superb and I’d love to see this one the big screen. The key performers do not disappoint and it’s good to see Conrad Veidt playing alongside Lars Hanson, two of the finest leading men in silent Europe. Molander’s expansion of Strong Ingmar’s significance also gives us an opportunity to see more of the excellent Ivan Hedqvist, a very authoritative presence at a time when Swedish film had some of the finest naturalistic actors.

Young Mona Mårtenson is also impressive and shows real subtlety beyond her striking good looks, especially among so many powerful and more experienced players. Sadly, the genius Jenny Hasselqvist has less to do other than look longingly at Lars, triumphantly haughty, and then massively depressed but there’d be more demanding work to follow in the sequel… Which makes it all the more upsetting that the film is mostly lost with only some 600 metres – around half an hour – surviving. Still, needs must, and with Jerusalem II in hand and a stack of publicity stills, I’ll make what I can of that next time.




Sunday, 29 March 2020

Selma’s way… Karin Daughter of Ingmar (1920) Selma Lagerlöf Part I


“We Ingmar don’t have to beg from others, we only have to walk in the ways of God.”

Selma Lagerlöf's novels formed the basis for numerous Swedish films during the silent period with their mix of historical precision, sense of place, religion and humanism. Her books are complex and not only full of rich characters but also moral conundrums for which there are no easy answers. Her characters are often flawed; loving yet sometimes cruel, making the mistakes we all make before finding their solution and all against a backdrop of an imagined golden age of rural peace. As Sweden faced the new century, Selma looked back to show the ways forward and gripped the nation’s readers in ways that influenced views of social justice.

Not for nothing was she the first woman to be awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for Literature, "in appreciation of the lofty idealism, vivid imagination and spiritual perception that characterize her writings". Her work provided the basis for Stiller’s Sir Arne’s Treasure (1919) from Herr Arnes penningar (1903), Sjöström’s The Phantom Carriage (1920) from Körkarlen (1912) and, of course, her debut, The Story of Gösta Berling (1898), was the basis of Mauritz Stiller’s recently restored 1924 epic starring Greta Garbo, Lars Hanson, Gerda Lundqvist and Jenny Hasselqvist.

Victor Sjöström in Karin Daughter of Ingmar
One story, published in two books, Jerusalem I (1901) and The Holy City: Jerusalem II (1902) provided the basis for no less than four films with three drawn from the first volume alone, of which the full title was Jerusalem : två berättelser. 1, I Dalarne (Jerusalem: two stories. 1, In Dalarne). Set in the traditional rural heartlands of Dalarna it develops into and story of religious mania as a group gains a new faith and emigrates to Jerusalem as happened in the parish of Nås in 1896. Taken overall it’s an examination of the impact of social/economic change on farming culture and, perhaps, the need to escape all that with a return to the very roots of a faith that is no longer enough to hold the communities together in the face of industrialisation and changing working practice.

Victor Sjöström made the first two films, The Sons of Ingmar (Ingmarssönerna) (1919) and followed that up with Karin Daughter of Ingmar (Karin Ingmarsdotter) (1920) which failed to repeat the success of the first film leaving the director to turn his attention elsewhere. Gustaf Molander picked up the project and completed the story with his brace, Ingmar's Inheritance (Ingmarsarvet) (1925) and Till österland (1926). The two directors had many differences in approach with Sjöström’s narrative much closer to Lagerlöf’s text and more focused on the interior life of her conflicted characters whilst Molander broadened the palate, taking more liberties and setting up more action.

Harriet Bosse and Victor Sjöström in The Sons of Ingmar
I saw a very rare screening of The Sons of Ingmar (1919) in Cambridge back in 2014 – written up here – and was surprised to see how little of the book is devoted to the story of Big Ingmar and his choice over whether or not to forgive the woman who kills their first child. It’s a bleak premise, but a rewarding film enlivened by the camerawork of Julius Jaenzon especially the famous scene, lauded by Ingmar Bergman, when Ingmar (Victor Sjöström) greets Brita (Harriet Bosse), on her release from prison, with both characters almost set alight by the glaring sun above them.

Ingmar’s sense of duty and fairness enables him to make the most difficult of decisions and to forgive then learn to love this woman who made such a mistake and committed such a crime after feeling she had no alternative. This is only the first of many impossible decisions Lagerlöf’s characters must make. Ingmar is guided by his ancestors in his decision, a literal of figurative device that is for the reader/viewer to decide as he climbs a ladder to discuss matters with his dead relatives. It’s a mark of how much his life is set by tradition and the collective common sense passed down by the family and now embodied in him as Big Ingmar.

Tora Teje - Karin Ingmarsdotter
In Karin Daughter of Ingmar (1920) the story has moved on decades, Ingmar is sixty, “the best man in the parish”, and Brita has recently passed leaving him with two children; twenty-something, Karin Ingmarsdotter (Tora Teje) and her much younger brother Lill-Ingmar (Bertil Malmstedt). The Ingmar farm is one of the finest in the region and the family are one of the most admired and naturally, the hand of Ingmar’s daughter is much in demand. She is courted by Halvor (Tor Weijden) who is a man of means, running the family store and is of seeming good character despite his father’s reputation as a drunkard.

Halfvor and Karin travel into town to make arrangements for their wedding and Halvor is slipped a few “Mickey Finns” by two friends leaving him drunk and passed out in a ditch. Karin is appalled and decides with her father’s blessing, to call off the wedding ignoring Halvor’s protestations. Instead, Karin marries Eljas Elof Ersson (Nils Lundell) who’s father is well-to-do and well respected all of which leaves Halvor crushed along with his reputation.

There follows one of those moments on which Lagerlöf's stories often turn as a flood sweeps through and Ingmar goes in search of children swept away by the torrent. Spotting a group of three hanging on to a raft he bravely wades into the river with a boat hook and manages to guide them to the river bank and safety but, just as they’re safe, a huge log slams into his side striking a mortal blow.

Karin hands her ring back to Halvor (Tor Weijden)
Ingmar dies surrounded by friends – including Strong Ingmar (Emil Fjellström) of whom we’ll hear a lot more – along with his five daughters and young son with the fate of the farm now resting with Karin and her new husband. Sadly, Eljas proves to be more than a disappointment and without the moral fibre or will to carry the responsibilities he now has, he has turned into the drunken waster Karin always feared.

"She soon perceived that he was like a blasted tree, doomed to wither and decay, and that she could not hope for either help or protection…”

Eljas turns Karin’s life into a misery and bullies her brother at one point getting him so drunk he passes out forcing Karin to send the boy to live with the school master, Storm (Paul Hallström), his wife and daughter Gertrude. Having avoided Karin to the best of his abilities, Halfvor meets her and young Ingmar when he visits Storm and it is here when we have another grand moment when the boy gives him the remains of his father’s watch following instructions after his fatal accident. Just when we thought Big Ingmar was out of the picture, he delivers a moment that not only signals his acceptance that he was wrong about Halfvor but lifts the man’s spirits.

From now on the shop keeper will play a major part in proceedings and without spoiling it, the story turns on that one gesture.

Karin protects young ingmar from the wastrel, Eljas
It’s difficult to compare Karin Daughter of Ingmar with it’s predecessor as I wasn’t able to watch a decent copy unlike the 35mm Sons of Ingmar, but it holds up in dramatic terms even if it lacks the set piece magic reality of the first film. In terms of its source material, we’re two films in and have covered only 105 pages with 600 to go; a lot of work for Gustaf Molander to cover five years later.

A word on translations: Selma Lagerlöf's books were translated by Velma Swanston Howard an American writer who ended up working closely with the author but whose approach – as with many translators – was governed by her own instincts. There’s a fascinating paper from Björn Sundmark arguing that Lagerlöf is well overdue re-translation in order to eradicate Howard’s authorial interventions and allow re-appraisal for the works from the English-reading public. His opinion is that: “… sadly, Howard’s ability as a translator was not as great as her commitment and sincerity to
the Lagerlöf cause in general.”

In one letter form the author to the translator, Selma gently tries to urge a lighter touch: “And so dear friend I have started to think that you really work too hard on your translations. One can correct and change things forever, and in the end, one returns to the first formulation. You understand, I am so grateful for your beautiful, artistic work, but I don’t want you to wear yourself out.”

So, whilst I enjoyed Howard’s translations of both books, they are as much an interpretation as the works of Sjöström and Molander… the search for intent and meaning continues.

You can find Sundmark's paper here at YorkSpace, York University's Institutional Repository.

A 1912 German translation... check out Abe Books!