2019 Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival: Interview with Emma Verstrheim

Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival Melbourne

Presented by Palace Cinemas, the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival is a highly anticipated event taking place Australia-wide. Now in its sixth year, the festival show cases the best in Scandinavian contemporary cinema with something for cinemagoers from all walks of life - not just the Scandinavian film enthusiasts. Of course, if you fall into the latter categorary you are in for many delights. The 2019 program features a diverse selection of international festival favourites, award-winning fims, plenty of Nordic Noir (someone say Millenium?) and a substantial 15 Australian premieres, this film event is not to be missed.

In Review’s Maria spoke with Festival Spokesperson and Editor of Cinema Scandinavia, Emma Verstrheim, who enlightened us on what makes Scandinavian cinema special and what to look forward to at the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival this year.

Can you comment on this year’s program for the Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival and how it differs to previous years in terms of its film selection?

the program this year is a good representation of the Scandinavian film industry of the last 12 months. The industry continues to grow every year, and they are really starting to use genre as a huge source of inspiration - this is probably a continuation of the Nordic Noir genre that proved so big internationally. That’s how this year is different - we are seeing more examples of how Scandinavian film blends art and genre. 


Which films this year would you like to highlight as your top-recommended or the ones to watch, and why? 

One of my favorites this year is A White, White Day - Icelandic film has been really exciting in the last 6-7 years and this film is part of that. These films follow a male protagonist going through a tough moment, and use Icelandic nature to depict the mentality of the protagonist. A White, White Day does this with its protagonist through the depiction of the changing of the seasons and the building of a house. I also like Out Stealing Horses, Aurora and the latest Department Q film, The Purity of Vengeance.  


What is special about Scandinavian cinema? What are the characteristics or genres that distinguish it from other world film? 

Scandinavian films are funded by the government, and part of the funding is that they must depict the culture of the region. At the same time, Scandinavian films need to be appealing to wide audiences. Because of this, they tend to use elements of genre familiar with audiences around the world. By mixing genre with Scandinavian culture, we get these interesting stories and beautifully made films.

"Scandinavia is often depicted as this utopian society where everyone is happy and nothing ever goes wrong. Nordic Noir challenges that to the extreme”

On that note, the Scandi Film Fest program includes films from all the Scandinavian and Nordic countries - can you comment on the differences in the style or genre of films from each country? Can we see this in the program? 

I would say the films in each country can be similar. All of them are funded by the government. What makes them different is how these countries use the funding. Norwegian films are a little more Americanized, Danish films are a mix of art and American genre, and Swedish films are often more artistic. It’s these differences in how they use their money.


I have to ask about the phenomena of Nordic Noir, what is it about the genre that has captivated cinemagoers around the world? 

Scandinavia is often depicted as this utopian society where everyone is happy and nothing ever goes wrong. Nordic Noir challenges that to the extreme; series like The Killing and The Bridge depict Scandinavia as unsafe, corrupt, struggling with immigration and women’s rights. I think that shocks a lot of people. Also, they blend crime genre with the Scandinavian art film - the art film being heavily inspired by Ingmar Bergman.  


This year’s program features a retrospective on the iconic Millennium Trilogy and the biographical documentary, ‘Stieg Larsson: The Man Who Played With Fire’ on the late famed author. Can you comment on the significance of Larrson and his work in the Scandinavian cinema scene and popular culture? 

Many know Stieg Larsson as an author, but he actually was a journalist who investigated the rise of the far-right in Europe, and he did a lot of important work that is still relevant today. He used this as inspiration for the Millennium trilogy, and his work inspired the Nordic Noir series to also use real-world influence. 


Who should attend this year’s Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival? 

The festival has something for everyone - those who prefer art films, those who like comedies, or fans of the Nordic Noir tv series. 

Final question! What is your single favourite film in this year’s program? I’m talking about the film that resonates with you personally the most rather than the one that’s a surefire crowd-pleaser (unless it’s both, that’s totally possible). Tell us a bit about this film and why it sticks with you.

My single favorite film would be The Purity of Vengeance. The Department Q series is hugely successful, and The Purity of Vengance is the last film in the group of four. They hired the experimental art director Christoffer Boe to direct, and his take on these ‘blockbuster’ crime films is so unique that I love it. I love when directors do something new with something so well established, so The Purity of Vengeance is perfect. It still has everyone people have come to love about Department Q, it’s just a little more fresh. 

TICKETS GIVEAWAY: Win one of 3 x Double Passes to the 2019 Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival, visit In Review on Facebook for details on how to enter. Competition ends 17/07/19.

The Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival is showing at Palace Cinemas in Melbourne from July 11 - July 31. Learn more about the festival program, session times and book your tickets