Hasse Ekman: The Other Swede in the Room

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A director, writer, and actor of major gifts, Hasse Ekman would today be rightly remembered as one of Sweden’s greatest filmmakers were it not for the overshadowing presence in his life of Ingmar Bergman, Ekman’s contemporary, occasional collaborator, and constant competitor. The son of the legendary Swedish star Gösta Ekman (with whom he appears, opposite Ingrid Bergman, in Gustaf Molander’s 1936 Intermezzo), Hasse Ekman apprenticed with Ingmar Bergman at Lorens Marmstedt’s production company, Terrafilm, ably attacking a range of genres from war films to screwball comedies. After portraying a bitterly cynical director in Bergman’s 1949 Prison, Ekman offered an answer film of sorts in The Girl from the Third Row, countering Bergman’s hellish vision with a message of hope and humor. Yet Ekman was no cockeyed optimist: his best known film, the 1950 Girl with Hyacinths, is a strikingly modern psychological drama that Bergman himself recognized as “an absolute masterpiece.”

On this, the 100th anniversary of Ekman’s birth (September 10, 1915), MoMA presents a series aimed at bolstering this neglected master’s reputation in America. Programmed with the Swedish film scholar Fredrik Gustafsson, the series offers 10 films from Ekman’s long and diverse career, many of them being presented for the first time in the U.S. with English subtitles.

Organized by Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film, MoMA.

Special thanks to Jon Wengstrom and Johan Ericsson, Svenska Filminstitutet; and Charlotta Bjuvman, Telepicture Marketing, Ltd.