2 July 2017



'Did the day have an orange in its mouth?
Did the birds fall from the trees?
Were rooms still rooms this morning?
Were things still there?
Would I have noticed either way?
In my days that were not days
When I'd come out to play
When life was not a cabaret?'

So, what do I know about Sweden? Well, only what everyone else knows, I suppose. ABBA come from there, and they're the Eurovision's biggest ever stars. The Swedish Chef from THE MUPPET SHOW allegedly comes from there too. His humorously racist bastardisation of the Swedish language has kept 'em rolling in the aisles for decades now.

Hard-to-assemble flatpack furniture, as personified by Swedish industrial giant IKEA, originated there also. Thank you kindly, Sweden, for the shelves I bought and could never put up because I don't have a f***ing degree in whatever it is you need to have a degree in to put one of those muthas together. 

Also, some of the Vikings, who invaded us, I'll have you know, were from Sweden too. I wouldn't have minded that so much, actually. Being invaded by big, tall, hairy handsome blonde Vikings who couldn't speak my language but knew full well how to throw a woman down on a mat made of animal-skins. Such is my understanding of their actions, any-hoo.

Oh, and the women of Sweden are gorgeous, the men even more so, and both sexes have a tendency to whip their kit off at the drop of a hat. I'm only repeating what I've heard. There's an episode of THE SIMPSONS in which a Swedish traffic guard is portrayed as a nekkid blonde female. Sweet. And Groundskeeper Willie's girlfriend is a Swedish bikini-model in another episode, which is kinda funny 'cause it's just so wrong.

There you go. That's my potted KNOWLEDGE OF SWEDEN AT A GLANCE for you right there. My secondary school geography teacher is probably turning in her grave as I write this. I'm sorry, Mrs. Moffat-Brown, but your classes just weren't very interesting. Can I help it if I'm now as ignorant as, well, the most ignorant person you can think of? I think not. Indeed...

I probably know a lot more about Sweden and its capital city Stockholm now after watching STOCKHOLM MY LOVE, a film made by a chap called Mark Cousins who's famous for two things. One thing is his fifteen-hour-long documentary film THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY from 2011.

Fifteen freakin' hours? That's what I call value for money. The film was broadcast in fifteen hour-long episodes on the television station MORE 4, a not inconsiderable achievement for a still-young film-maker fella.

The other thing this feller-me-lad is known for is his cinematic love affair with cities. About a year ago, I watched and reviewed his tribute to Belfast, a film called I AM BELFAST in which the city is portrayed as a ten-thousand-year-old woman. That is soooooo hot. Give it to me, baby, a-ha, a-ha, give it to me, baby...!


Aw, I don't want to tease the guy. I'd say he gets enough of that as it is. STOCKHOLM MY LOVE is his first fiction film, though it watches like a documentary and is pretty similar to I AM BELFAST in that there's a woman walking around Stockholm, talking quietly and
reflecting on things while gorgeous images of a city I don't really know much about serve as the most marvellous backdrop. Kind of made me wish I did know more about the city.

Singer and musician Neneh Cherry, famous for her massive chart hits BUFFALO STANCE, MANCHILD and SEVEN SECONDS with Youssou N'dour, is the woman in question, which is the really interesting thing about the film.

Neneh was actually born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother, an artist, and a musician from Sierra Leone. Her father was the son of a chief, which is super-cool, and he went to Sweden to study engineering.

Neneh's step-dad, however, the American jazz musician Don Cherry, is how she came by her surname but I think it's obvious from her parentage and background that she was always going to be an incredibly creative person. She has art and music in her blood, for crying out loud. What with all that and her genuine birth connections to Stockholm, she was the perfect choice for the film.

She plays an architect called Alva Achebe, who is bunking off work and a lecture-room filled with people all waiting to hear her speak, to take a 'walking cure' around the city of Stockholm. It's startling how similar it is to Dublin in places.

Alva addresses the first third of the film to her Dad, and the reason she desperately needs to take this 'walking cure' is that it's the anniversary of something terrible that happened to her a year ago on this day.

I admit, myself and the friend with whom I watched the film thought that it was autobiographical at first because it was so realistic. I'm ashamed to admit that we were shocked but also secretly thrilled to think that Neneh Cherry, a celebrity, had killed a man.

I'm also ashamed to admit that we were disappointed, and not secretly either, to discover that it's the character of Alva to whom the bad thing happened and not Neneh Cherry. This means that the sad stuff with the oranges and the dog and the meat from the sandwiches didn't happen, but it's so poignant and heart-breaking that I'm still glad that we saw all that stuff.

Alva starts out being depressed and mopey, reminiscing about her Dad and showing us around various streets and buildings in Stockholm that trigger other reminiscences or just reactions. She points out to us the spot on the pavement where the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme, was shot dead one night in 1986 as he walked home from the cinema with his wife.

Alva addresses the middle third of the film to Gunnar, the man she feels she's wronged. She's obviously in need of forgiveness for her act, that unfortunate accident that could have happened to anyone anywhere at any time, and the funny thing is that the person from whom she most needs forgiveness is herself.

She's clearly been beating herself up about the accident for a full year now and she needs absolution and even permission, as it were, to start over again and allow herself to be happy once more. The third segment of the film, which she addresses directly to Stockholm itself, is where we see things starting to turn around for Alva at last.

The colour is brighter, there's a halo of sun around her fabulous curly hair (that's what my blonde mop is meant to look like but it won't goddamn BEHAVE itself) and she has genuine fun, real smiles and whoops of laughter, when she goes on the rollercoaster. Rejuvenation and renewal has somehow happened overnight, and Alva thanks Stockholm personally, in song and in words, for bringing about this change.

Neneh Cherry is so good in the role, even when she's not speaking. In fact, it's when she's not speaking at all and the camera focuses solely on her face that she's at her best. She has the most wonderful lips and expressive eyes, marvellous hair and the figure of a twenty-year-old, who might want it back at some stage but I don't know for sure.

Her face is the perfect vehicle by which to tell this remarkable story. She deserves an award for her work in this film, which by the way is out now on special release from THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE. It's in a special Dual Format Edition with a load of brilliant extra features, so be sure to pick that up as soon as is humanly possible. It's bleedin' t'riffic.

I think we'll finish by teasing poor old Mark Cousins (again!) about his new girlfriend, Stockholm. I mean, how do you get a city into a taxi to go and collect an award? That's gotta be awkward. And what about when she has her period?

That's a whole helluva lot of premenstrual tension to have to deal with. Not to mention the money it'd cost in sanitary protection. And what if she cheats on you with another city, say, Munich or Berlin, and they have a baby city together and you end up looking like a giant tit?

People will say: 'There's the guy who dated Belfast and Stockholm. Did you hear that Stockholm dumped him for Tralee, that little Irish city? He's cosying up to Dubrovnik now but she's actually a he and Mark doesn't have a f***ing clue...!'

Ah well. Them's the breaks. Do Dublin next, Mark Cousins. I'll take you on a tour of the place and show you things, things you can use...

'My happiness is coming back...'


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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