(The Women on the Roof)

Sweden, 1989, 90 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)Carl-Gustaf Nykvist


 Amanda Ooms - Linnea
Helena Bergström - Anna

Stellan Skarsgård - Willy

Percy Brandt - Fischer
Lars Ori Bäckström - Holger
Katarina Olsson - Gerda
Leif Andrée - Oskar


September 15, 1989


Set in  the summer of 1914 Stockholm with the threat of World War I, the film explores the friendship between Anna, an Austrian photographer and Linnea, a farm girl. The teen-age Linnea works for an old man who owns a photography studio and she eventually meets Anna, a photographer. Despite their radically different backgrounds, they become lovers and learn a lot about life from one another until their relationship is strained by the intrusive presence of Anna's boyfriend Willy.

button_box.gif (205 bytes) PRODUCTION PHOTOS:

Director Carl-Gustaf Nykvist with Helena Bergström & Amanda Ooms

button_box.gif (205 bytes) FILM FESTIVALS & AWARDS:

Cannes Film Festival 1989
Nominee - Palme d'Or

Chicago International Film Festival 1989
Nominee - Gold Hugo Best Feature

BFI London Film Festival 1989

European Film Awards 1989
Winner - European Film Award European Cinematographer of the Year
Jörgen Persson & Ulf Brantås

Guldbagge Awards 1990
Winner - Guldbagge Best Actor - Stellan Skarsgård

Rouen Nordic Film Festival 1990
Winner - Audience Award Carl-Gustav Nykvist

button_box.gif (205 bytes) IMAGES:

button_box.gif (205 bytes) REVIEW BY VINCENT CANBY, NY TIMES:

It is summer, 1914. As the inspired poetaster might say, storm clouds are gathering over Europe. In Stockholm the days are long and limpid. Linnea (Amanda Ooms), a young woman from the country, is befriended by the beautiful, worldly Anna (Helena Bergstrom), who is just about her age and has a photography studio next door to Linnea's attic room. Anna is a free soul.

She drinks wine before breakfast and, at all hours, smokes cigarettes in holders long enough to be used as back-scratchers. She talks about art and ambience but makes her living by taking photographs to illustrate naughty novels.

Before long, Anna has seduced Linnea into posing for her nude. The two women share Anna's small bed, but whether, as the euphemism might have it, they actually sleep together is left to the viewer's discretion.

Nothing is made too explicit in Carl-Gustaf Nykvist's pretty, mournful, sort of aimless ''Women on the Roof.''

Anna, who is running away from a much older lover in Vienna, and Linnea are happy with their art and their sleeping arrangements when, one night, Willy drops in on them. He comes down through the skylight.

Willy (Stellan Skarsgard), a dashing sailor, was apparently instrumental in getting Anna safely out of Vienna. (One shouldn't ask where his ship was docked.) A menage a trois develops. Willy wants to take the two women to America and get rich, but then there is a terrible accident. The two women end up on the roof, doing exactly what, I dare not say.

''The Women on the Roof'' is the first fiction feature by Mr. Nykvist, the son of Sven, the great cinematographer. It is a maddening though not difficult movie, full of odd and visually arresting details that never quite come together.

It seems to be composed entirely of hints. On a Sunday afternoon, while boating in the park, Linnea looks up at a bridge to see a woman walking with a little dog. The camera holds the image so long that the Chekhov story must come to mind.

Willy takes Linnea out for a night of midsummer revels with the members of a theatrical troupe. He tells her that he goes ''up in smoke'' when he listens to Shakespeare, that Shakespeare makes him forget all of the people he has disappointed.

That is a picturesque idea (possibly made more picturesque by the English subtitles), which leads nowhere. That Anna turns out to be not quite the free soul she has pretended to be comes as less of a surprise than is intended.

''The Women on the Roof'' is a loose picture puzzle. All of the pieces are in their proper places, but the complete picture is fuzzy.

The movie muses about the meaning of photography, which freezes time and, possibly, the nature of the person photographed. But it's just a thought that passes through the head of the movie and out again, leaving no particular impression, much like the movie itself.

Miss Ooms, Miss Bergstrom and Mr. Skarsgård are extremely attractive. Once Anna has cut Linnea's hair, in the style of the liberated woman, the two actresses look enough alike to be sisters. This seems merely an accident of casting, not necessary to the development of the movie.

''The Women on the Roof'' is no ''Persona.'' It is heavier on atmosphere, mood and plot than on psychological interest. It is like a Polaroid picture after the shutter has been snapped, though, as one watches, the details of the image slowly fade away instead of coming into sharp focus.