Greta Garbo and Victor Sjostrom

Thursday, July 18, 2024

Swedish Silent Film, director George af Klercker

Anne-Kristin Wallengren, for Nordic Academic Press, only indirectly refers to the work of Gosta Werner and the restoration of lost silent film in the article, Welecome Home Mr. Swanson-Swedish Emigrants and Swedishness on Film. "There is the still extant film Storstadfaror (Perils of the Big City, Manne Gothson, 1918), in which a young man goes to America and at the end of the film, returns to Sweden, rich; however, while this was one of the very few films made in the 1910's to show America in a positive light, it is also significant that his was only a supporting role." The film Perils of the Big City was written by Gabrielle Ringertz and photographed by Gustav A. Gustavson. Appearing in the film were Mary Johnson, who, having made several films with George af Klerker, would later film under the direction of Mauritz Stiller. Appearing in the film with Johnson were actresses Agda Helin, Tekl Sjoblom and Lilly Cronin.
Peter Cowie, in his volume Scandinavian Cinema, elaborates,"Several of the 27 geatures completed by Klercker at Hasselblad were enhanced by the etheral beauty of Mary Johnson,an actress in the mould of Lillian Gish; she would reachher apogee as ELsalilli in 'Sir Arne's Treasure'" The film apparently was the only film produced at Hasselblad Fotografiska, from its first film in 1915, untill it merged early in 1918 to become Filmindustri Skandia, not to have been directed by George af Klercker, Manne Gothson had previously been Klercker's assistant director. This having been said, scholar Astrid Soderberg Widding points out that Gosta Werner neglects or omits the films made by Af Klercker before he began with Hasselblad, almost to confer with other authors that place Sjostrom and Stiller at the forefront of Swedish Silent Film's Golden Age; Leif Furhammer has advanced that Af Klercker had been an Auteur  only to heighten the comparison that can be made between George Af Klercker and Carl Th. Dreyer, despite Dreyer's having entered directing later and his only having scripted melodramas while searching for adaptations.
     The fourty one minute film 'Mysteriet natter till den 25ie' proves to be more enigmatic than its director. it stars Swedish actress Mary Johnson with Carl Barklind and was photographed by Sven PeUtersson- one of the first films to demonstrate the need for silent film preservation, it was not shown to audiences until, 1975. Recently a genealogical study on the af Klercker family, which not only includes George af Klercker, but also Birgitta af Klercker and Fredrick af Klercker mentioned the film, but not as a film that had been lost, as many silent films have, or lost and then later found, but as a film that was originally banned by Swedish film censorship. The Swedish Film Institute confirms the film having been originally banned as a "Nick Carter" detective film, but that when the film became no longer lost, in 1975, the elements in the film that were objectionable were no longer able to be censored and the restored version was given a "for all" rating after having been missing for nearly sixty years. Describing the film as a "three act sensational drama", Peter Cowie writes, "Klercker's ingenuity yeilds constant suprises.", there being a sensibility in keeping with the director's eye evident in that "this fascination with mirrors and decor colours all Klercker's cinema".
Clearly George af Klercker was eclipsed by Mauritz Stiller and Victor Sjostrom in that af Klercker left had Svenska Bio before  Stiller and Sjostrom had gained renown internationally for films of longer running length. The director Geroge af Klerker is portrayed by actor Bjorn Granath in the film "The Last Scream" ("The Last Gasp", Stig Bjornman, 1995), a two character play in one act lasting almost an hour which depicts a fictional, ie. Imaginary, meeting between the director Klercker and Charles Magnussion, founder of Svensk Filmindustri and which was written by Ingmar Bergman. Actress Anna Von Rossen stars as Miss Holm. The play was published by New Press in the volume, The Fifth Act, in which also appeared Monologue, After the Rehearsal and Presence of a Clown. Stig Bjorkman, noted for his interviews of Ingmar Bergman is also the director of I Am Curious Film, and But Film is My Mistress. It should be noted that Bjorn Granath portrays George af Klercker in the film "Jag ar nyfiken, film" (1999) in which he appears with, of course, Lena Nyman, who interviews Sven Nykvist, Eva Isaksen, Stefan Jarl and Liv Ullman, but it should also be noted that Victor Sjostrom and Ingmar Bergman are listed in the cast of players in the film "Images from the Playground" (Bilder fran Lekstugan,2009), written and directed by Stig Bjorkman, which appeared in the 2022 Cannes film festival- while many noted scholars have chosen to appraise Swedish film through the form of the essay, Stig Bjorkman has brought the interview into the onscreen literature of the documentary.

It is clear that Astrid Soderberg Widding outlines the ostensible difference between the director George af Klercker and his contemporaries Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller by accurately placing him as a director of "melodrama and sensational adventures" made in Denmark, those which had established the director Viggo Larsen ; he is also apart from the type of film made in Kristianstad before he had began with Svenska Bio at Lindingo. As academic writing among film historians can be cumulative, each seminal text nodding to what is salient in each of its predecessors, it is certain that Soderberg Widding will not only contribute to film history research, but will springboard later film theory. She describes the directing of Af Klercker with, "A purely film-theoretical aspect that becomes evident when looking at Af Klercker's production deserves to be highlighted. it has to do with the relationship between the visual and narrative elements: phenomena which in film-theoretical historiography are not infrequently regarded as counterpoints......Af Klercker's films are in their narratives quite conventional and typical of their time. They provide thrilling stories while expressing a supreme control over film as a medium." In describing this, Astrid Soderberg Widding articulates the interrelationship between content and form while praising the films of Af Klercker for their "stylistic stability and visual extravagance, if only to reiterate that characters are developed within the miss en scene context of their created environment in the narrative plots of both Danish and Swedish silent film "Here one encounters a driven visual narrator   who demands a high degree of focus. many of the different narrative devices and stylistic features are noteworthy: his utilization of a qualified depth-of-focus cinematography aw well as the effect of advanced lighting." The author notes that one instance of this was Klerker's use of door frames within the image. In no academic papers already copyrighted, Soderberg Widding looks intricately at technique including the element of editing, so as not to neglect shot structure being in tandem with composition, by distinguishing a signature of Af Klercker's composition, "to use an undivided screen space where dissectons and doubling so takes place within a general frame rather than the introduction of several frames."

Swedish Silent Film director George af Klercker had been the head of the studios of Svenska Bio, Stockhom, his wife, Selma af Klercker often appearing on screen in his films. He was joined there by actorMauritz Stiler and Victor Sjostrom, who was then also leaving the theater. It has been noted that there were aprroximately 325 movie theaters open in Sweden during 1912.

Dodsritten under cirkuskupolen (1912) had been written by Charles Magnusson and photographed by Henrik Jaenzon. George Af Klercker had written his own screenplay to the 1912 film Jupiter pa Jorden, also filmed by Henrik Jaenzon. Although Af Klerker directed a short film photographed by Sven Petterson and starring actress Tyra Leijman Uppstrom during 1913, he that year also directed The Scandal (Skandalen) for Svenska Biographteatern, his photographer again Henrik Jaenzon, as was the case with the film Med Vapen I Hand that year,actress Selma Wiklund Af Klerker also returning for both films. As director, Klercker appeared on screen on camera in front of the lens of cameraman Henrik Jaenzon during "Med Vapen hand", which he did again while directing "For faderneslandent" with Jaenzon as camera man. Ragnar Ring codirected the film and wrote it's screenplay and actress Lilly Jacobsen starred in the film.

It has been noted that George af Klercker had spent time in Copenhagen and Paris after leaving Svenska Bio.

In Goteborg, Sweden, the two films produced by Hasselblads Fotofraphiska during 1915 were both filmed by George af Klerker and Sve Petterson. That year George af Klercker contributed the film "The Rose of Thistle Island" ("Rosen pa Tistelon), the first film in which actress Elsa Carlsson and Anna Lofstrom were to appear. The novel had been filmed previously by director Mauritz Stiller as "Pa livets Odesvager".

Among the films directed by George Af Klercker during 1916 was The Gift of Health (Aktie bolaget Halsams gave), the first film photographed by cinematographer Gustav Gustafson and the first film in which actress Tekla Sjoblom was to appear. Carl Gustaf Florin also is credited as having photographed with Gustafson. One of only two photoplays to be scripted by Gustaf Berg, the film is presumed to be lost with no suviving copies. Also starring in the film were Mary Johnson and Anna Lofstrom.

That year Swedish film director Af Klercker also appeared on screen in the film Under the Spell of Memories (I minnenasband), in which he directed Elsa Carlsson, Tora Carlsson and Elsa Berglund. The film was written and photographed by Sven Pettersson. The 1916 film Hogsta Vinsten, in which director George Af Klercker appeared on screen with actress Gerda Thome Mattsson lasted a brief running time of only sixteen minutes at a time when the average running time had been increased from four reels to six. The film was photographed by Sven Pettersson. Also among the film's directed by George af Klercker in 1916 were "Triumph of Love" ("Karleken segrar") photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin and starring Mary Johnson, Teklas Sjoblom, Selma Wikland Klercker and Lily Cronwin in the first film in which she was to appear and the film "Mother in Law Goes for a Stroll" ("Svar pa rift") photographed by Gustav A. Gustafson and starring Greta Johansson, Maja Cassell and Zara Backman. Peter Cowie contrasts the directing of George af Klercker with that of Mauritz Stiller, "Mood and composition, however, distinguish Klercker's work more than performances."
Af Klercker had gained renown not only for his blending artificial and natural light, but while at Hasselblad he innovated the techniques involved with a lens system that was suited for filming objects at a distance, ranging from a focal length of a few feet to that of a mile.
The Swedish Film Institute credits George af Klercker for having made two films in which actress Olga Hallgren starred whereas databases in the United States credit her with three films, all produced in Sweden during 1917 by Hasselblad studios. Klercker directed the 1917 "Ett Konstnarsode" photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin, in which Hallgren starred with actress Greta Pfeil and Klercker directed the 1917 film "Brottmalsdomanen" ("The Judge"), photographed by Carl Gustaf Florin, also starring Olga Hallgren. Sources from the United States credit Klercker with the film "Det Finns Inga Gudar pa Jordan" ("There are no Gods on Earth") from 1917 in which Olga Hallgren again starred with Greta Pfeil.

It wasn't untill 2017 that there was an unearthed copy of the 1926 film "Flickorna pa Solvik", the last film to be directed by George af Klercker, when it was rediscovered in a private collection. One of only two photoplays scripted by John Larson, the film starred actress Wanda Rothgardt.

During 1918, George af Klercker directed the films "The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter" (Fryvaktarens Dottar), photographed by Gosta Staring and starring Mary Johnson and Agnes Obergsson, "Night Music" (Nattliga Toner), photographed by Gustaf A. Gustafson and starring Agda Helin, Helge Kihlberg and Tekla Sjoblom, and "Nobelpristagaren".

Danish Silent Film

Victor Sjostrom and Mauritz Stiller

Swedish Silent Film

Swedish Sound Film

Greta Garbo Silent Film

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