Wednesday, February 16, 2011

SINSational Sweden: An Interview With Author, Daniel Ekeroth & His New Book On Swedish Exploitation Movies

The name Daniel Ekeroth might be familiar to a certain group of cult fans--author, musician and general fan of deplorable and decadent cinema, his new book, 'Swedish SensationsFilms' will be available in March of this year. I was able to interview Mr. Ekeroth about his works, his interest in all things trash and his upcoming book which looks to be a winner for exploitation fans everywhere. After the interview, there's a link to the official site with additional images and ordering info. Enjoy!

Venoms5: Hi, Daniel, tell us a bit about yourself from your early writing days regarding genre films and your numerous accomplishments during that time.

Daniel Ekeroth: Well, my earliest writing efforts came at the tender age of 10. A friend and I started a mag at school called 'Tokjournalen' (The Mad Journal), which basically delved into heavy metal, comics and horror films. It was made as part of a school project at first, but when the principal saw the content, he banned it. Not letting this discourage us, we made it anyway—and Xeroxed a bunch of copies by breaking into the teachers' office. Great memories! But to get “serious”, I contributed a bit to the notorious Swedish genre film fanzines
'Black and Salong Finess' during the early 90s. Back then I was basically just a collector of videocassettes, who got in touch with people with broader horizons. So, the virus grew in me.

Then I got heavily involved with the fanzine 'Video Ferox', and wrote loads of stuff for them in the late 90’s as well. Simultaneously I got into university, and studied cinema for a couple of years. For my masters thesis I wrote about Italian cannibal cinema and “NEKROMANTIK”, so my fellow students and my teachers basically choked when reading my texts! Even greater times! Then a friend and I decided to start a publishing house while drinking beer in a seedy bar, and we wrote and produced 'Violent Italy', a book about Italian exploitation cinema, in about six months. Basically this was just to learn how to write an entire book, so after that I was ready to make something on my own.

I decided to explore my home country’s history of exploitation film, and came up with the original version of 'Svensk Sensationsfilm' (Swedish Sensationsfilms) in 2003. Though this was a far inferior book than the new English version, I had found my style. I got approached by the Stockholm International Film Festival soon enough, and have been writing for them ever since. Simultaneously I played a lot of rock n roll, and completed the book 'Swedish Death Metal' in 2006. That worked very well, and I got a deal with the great publishing house Bazillion Points. With them I decided to make a new version of my book about Swedish trash cinema—and that is what is about to explode now. Gosh, I hope that long piece of history wasn’t too boring for you guys!

V5: No, not at all, Daniel, it's great stuff, in fact. Your new book is called SWEDISH SENSATIONSFILMS. Give us a brief, energetic overview of what trash fans can expect from this new and ambitious tome.

DE: You are into a mad tome of delirious cinema for sure! To be frank, us Swedes didn’t really know how to behave morally at all, and it shows in the films. Especially the 60’s and 70’s was just a whirlwind of sex, violence, inept scripts, insane dialogue and all sorts of madness. I have tried to sort out the kinds of films that made the sensational stuff their very excuse to exist, and believe me there were a lot of them! I decided to treat the films as they have treated me—ruthless, violent, sexy and without any morals at all. This is an attempt to gather a variety of different films into one encyclopedia, with a focus on their sensational aspects. It also serves as a guide to Swedish culture, and a love affair with everything that is sick, wild and wonderful.

V5: During the 1970s, a number of cultures relaxed, or expanded their cinematic limits of what was permissible on screen. How did Sweden fit into this exploitation movement and when exactly did it begin?

DE: Remember that Sweden put the world’s first government board of film censors into practice in 1911, so we had our hands tied a little bit. After 40 years of censorship, the time got right for some action, though. Whereas Sweden wasn’t a pioneer of cinematic violence, we held the international torch in the field of sexuality. The censors of Sweden were more concerned with violence than sexuality, so we managed to find our niche that way. It started with a nip-slip in “HON DANSADE EN SOMMAR” in 1951, and sex gradually started to get more accepted. And suddenly there were no rules! Sweden broke most taboos already in the late 60’s—“I AM CURIOUS – YELLOW” (1967) let sexuality lose, “DOM KALLAR OSS MODS” (1968) portrayed actual on-screen intercourse and “Kärlekens Språk” (1969) showed it graphically. During the 70’s the filmmakers just added violence to it, and let themselves go! We might not have had all the talent and the right tools, but we had the balls, and we showed them!

V5: Was the Swedish film industry following any trends by introducing sex and violence, were there political motivations, or was it simply time for change?

DE: As you know, Sweden stayed neutral in WW2 and obviously wasn’t too keen on violence. That probably made sex a safer way to express yourself, as I stated above. Sweden was at the very front of sexual liberation, and the films just reflected what was going on in real life. So, when it comes to free sex, Sweden was a leader, not follower. Forget Woodstock and San Fransisco—in Sweden people went mental. When it comes to violence, however, it was trickier. The censors were dead against it, which finally made filmmakers stand up (and shout). Ingmar Bergman was a daredevil here; his explorations in on-screen vomit and graphic violence in (Oscar-winning)THE VIRGIN SPRING” was an early kick in the teeth of the censors. But it took some time for Swedish directors to pick up on such harsh violence as seen in a genre such as the spaghetti-western.

However, in the 70’s some wild directors wanted a piece of that action as well. A film like Bo A Vibenius “THRILLER” stood up against the censors; it was initially banned and later cut to pieces. However, the aim was also to get a lot of attention and sell a lot of tickets. Many people hated the censorship, so if they had problems with any part of your movie it was like a proof of its quality! A film that really is an example that politics had a lot to do with the release of cinematic fury is “DOM KALLAR OSS MODS”. It was initially banned, which enraged the filmmakers who decided to pick a fight. The case ended up on the table of minister of culture Olof Palme, who simply ordered the censors to release the film. And if the politicians didn’t agree with their own censors, it really was time for some change! Still, extreme violence wasn’t really accepted until the mid-90’s.

Horror and splatter films were especially taboo for a long time, and many films were banned and cut to pieces. However, in the 80’s the government actually tried to use cinematic violence to influence kids. They picked up a street thug and made him the star of a violent film about teenage criminals called “STOCKHOLMSNATT”, and showed this in every school in the country. The aim was to stop violence, but naturally it only started a national upraise in youth violence.

V5: Fascinating. At what point did you become interested, or attracted to this style of film?

DE: As far back as I can remember, I was always attracted to the morbid, wild, sensual and extreme. I bought my first KISS album at the age of 4 (in 1976), stayed up late to watch horror films shortly after and as soon as I heard about pornography I was curious yellow (and blue). This has never been an issue to me, and it was never a discovery or choice. It is just basic human feelings to me, and a recognition of the greatness of life. And I love it!

V5: How were these 'Swedish Sensationsfilms' greeted by audiences and critics alike?

DE: Same old story: the critics hated it and the audience loved it. People in power always want to control everything and keep things safe and bland. In those days, the critics were either conservative stiffs or left-wing intellectuals who both had a hang-up that film should be like theater. They simply didn’t get the carefree attitude of sensationsfilms, and hated the fact that people obviously enjoyed them. Some films got away: “DOM KALLAR OSS MODS” and especially “I AM CURIOUS - YELLOW” were huge hits even internationally. Others faced worse fates: “THRILLER” was banned, cut and delayed for years. However, it eventually reached cult status and has influenced directors like Quentin Tarantino.

V5: How did these movies affect the Swedish film industry overall?

DE: Arne Mattsson’s “HON DANSADE EN SOMMAR” showed a nipple and was very successful, so full frontal nudity wasn’t far behind. Ingmar Bergman’s “Jungfrukällan” took rape and revenge to an Oscar, so others followed that sleazy track. People wanted to see that, and I guess filmmakers wanted to do that. Come on, we all love it! Even the ones who try to ban it all watch it in their basements.

V5: Is there still a market for weird and wild cinema in Sweden today?

DE: Well, there sure is an interest in the sleazy and macabre stuff. But as with all aspects of media, there is the problem with an over flooded market. Anyone can go on the internet and find anything they want at any time, so the financial opportunities in sensation cinema isn’t that great anymore. Swedish films are way too anxious nowadays, and the producers just follow safe old patterns in order to make a quick buck. You know, they just mass produce hundreds of similar cop-thrillers and comedies. Nothing is really daring anymore. Still, the entire world seems to have gotten off to the sight of Noomi Rapace being sodomized by an old geezer in “THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO”. Though even this film is basically a wooden cop-thriller, it has some elements that might be a sign of a better tomorrow.

V5: How has exploitation movies changed in Sweden from their beginnings up to the modern productions of today?

DE: Since television broke through big time during the 80’s, film has really been suffering. Cinema in general has changed towards bigger effect-computerized crap that just makes me sick. In Sweden it’s just one boring cop-thriller after another, and most of them made for TV. The wonderful madness of real life isn’t that common anymore, and the films are far more boring than they used to be.

V5: Christina Lindberg is a cult icon in exploitation circles here in America. Does she have a similar following in her native country, or does it reach much farther than that?

DE: I guess it is the same here. People within the right state of mind knows who she is, but the general public does not. To them, she is just the editor-in-chief of Sweden’s largest aviation magazine. Strange, huh?

V5: Yes, very much so. That may come as a shock to her rabid fanbase here. For those unfamiliar with a wide array of Swedish Sensationsfilms (myself included), what are some of the finer examples for the curious who may want to sample what they have to offer?

DE: 50’s: Naked breasts and nude swimming (“Hon Dansade en Sommar”)
60’s: On-screen humping: (“Dom Kallar oss Mods”, “Kärlekens Språk”)
70’s: Oh, everything! Wild gangsters, rape, hard core porn, guys shooting rubber bands at their erect penises, one-eyed Christina Lindberg, lingonberry-cowboys… “Everything you hate”, as Charles Foster Kane would have said! I guess Bo A. Vibenius' "THRILLER" and "BREAKING POINT"(1975) sums it up best...
80’s: Violent teens, murdering Ninjas, terminating soldiers, horny teens, fucking non-stop… ("The Ninja Mission", "Stockholmsnatt")
90’s: A cold, dystopian portrayal of urban life. ("Sökarna", "Kaninmannen")

Basically: if there’s nudity: Sweden has been there, if there’s porn: Sweden’s been there, if there’s violence: Sweden’s been there, if there's madness: we are still here.

V5: Writing a book on any subject is a major undertaking. Was your reason for tackling this subject a desire to give these movies renewed exposure outside Sweden, or a love for the genre, or both?

DE: To be frank, just to amuse myself. I love these films, and while thoroughly exploring something you might as well write a book about it. You really discover new things when you have to work for it! I am also very proud to be able to present this clandestine field of “art” though, and I sure hope more people will discover these films.

V5: What other movies from the savage 70s are you particularly fond of, or any decade for that matter? What are some of your favorites?

DE: My main interest is Italian exploitation cinema. I actually moved to Italy for a while just to get hold of crazy films, and hang out with cool people such as Luigi Cozzi. “NEW YORK RIPPER(Lucio Fulci) and “CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST(Ruggero Deodato) are my favorites, but directors such as Sergio Martino, Umberto Lenzi, Joe D’Amato and Fernando di Leo are also among my very favorites.

V5: Awesome. I am partial to Italian exploitation as well. What are some film directors whose work you are fond of regardless of genre style?

DE: Bo A Vibenius, Abel Ferrara, Lucio Fulci, Ruggero Deodato, Arne Mattsson, Trey Parker and whoever made “

V5: That would be John Badham. Tell us about your interest in music. I see you've written a massive tome on death metal that came out in 2008 as well as being a musician yourself.

DE: I love all sorts of music, but I grew up a metalhead…so I’ll always stay a metalhead. Among my favorite bands are Venom, Velvet Underground, Bathory, Stooges, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Skinny Puppy, Birthday Party, Foetus, Thin Lizzy…oh, too many to mention. I don’t really “play” music myself, since I am just a bass “player”. But the basic fields I have tried to work in is punk rock (Diskonto), death metal (Insision, Dellamorte, Usurpress), black metal (Tyrant) and a lot of progressive outings in my youth.

V5: Going back to your new book, can you give us some interesting bits of info from the books pages that will no doubt sweeten the package for fans already familiar with Swedish exploitation cinema?

DE: Well, I guess nobody is prepared for “BREAKING POINT”. A mad film set in a near future, in which the main protagonist fucks everyone in sight (on screen), shoots rubber bands at his erect penis, makes friends with kids and works on his model railroad! Further, what the hell is the world’s most dedicated Mickey Mouse collector doing in my book???

V5: Thanks so much, Daniel for taking time to enlighten both me and anyone else unfamiliar with Sweden's contributions to exploitation movies. I hope your book is a success and more than a few eyes are opened by this written and visual journey into a seemingly untapped genre of cinematic decadence.

DE: Thank you for the interview! I hope you all will be having a great time reading it—I sure know I had a great time writing it! But don’t forget watching the films. That’s the real prize!

Click the link below to see even more skin and sin from Sweden and where to order this new book for US $19.95....

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