Gunnar Hedes Saga (1923)

GUNNAR HEDES SAGA (1923)
aka The Story of Gunnar Hede
Article 4811 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-2-2015
Directed by Mauritz Stiller
Featuring Gustav Aronson, Stina Berg, Hugo Bjorne
Country: Sweden
What it is: Drama

A young man is enamored with the story of his grandfather (who began life as a wandering violinist and then made his fortune in a reindeer migration scheme) much to the chagrin of his somewhat dictatorial mother. The young man rebels and leaves home with a juggling troupe, but then decides to invest his money in a reindeer migration scheme similar to his grandfather’s. However, things go horribly wrong…

Technically, this movie is a drama with a few fantastic touches, but to my mind, the fantastic touches are impressive and bizarre enough to warrant mentioning. There’s a sequence where a portrait of the hero’s grandfather seems to come to life, there are a few moments of precognition (especially when the hero’s girlfriend has a dream involving a sleigh being pulled by what look like bears to me), and there’s a hallucinatory moment or two when the hero goes mad after a truly freaky accident involving a reindeer. As for the movie itself, it’s well worth watching; it’s the story of how a mother and her son both go through their own personal hells in order to come to terms with one another, and it’s partly very familiar and partly like nothing else I’ve seen before. The scenes involving the reindeer migration are in particular quite spectacular. Sadly, the movie does not exist in its entirety; my print only runs half the length of the original, but though there are a few gaps, it does tell a coherent story. I definitely recommend this one to anyone who can find a copy.

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