[The Serpent's Way]

Sweden, 1988, 111 min.

director.gif (905 bytes)Bo Widerberg


Stina Ekblad - Tea Alexisdotter
Stellan Skarsgård - Karl Orsa Markström
Reine Brynolfsson - Jani
Pernilla August - Eva
Tomas von Brömssen - Jacob
Pernilla Wahlgren - Johanna
Ernst römssen - Ol Karlsa
Birgitta Ulfsson - Grandma


December 25, 1986


Based on a successful novel by Torgny Lindgren, the story is set in the last half of the 19th Century and concerns Tea, a widow tenant farmer who lives with her two children in northern Sweden. Forced to work to pay their debts to the landlord, the only merchant in their community, Tea and her daughter are expected to make payment with their bodies as well. A potent study of sexual politics and power relations.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRODUCTION PHOTOS

button_box.gif (205 bytes)ACCOLADES

The film was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival and in competition at the 15th Moscow International Film Festival. At the 22nd Guldbagge Awards, Stina Ekblad won the award for Best Actress.

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button_box.gif (205 bytes)POSTERS

button_box.gif (205 bytes)TV GUIDE REVIEW

Bo Widerberg's emotionally powerful depiction of depressed conditions and sexual exploitation in 19th-century Sweden is a beautiful, evocative film of human resilience and nobility. Ekblad must regularly give herself to her landlord, Skarsgård, in order to pay the rent. He fathers several of her children but does not relieve her poverty, nor does she allow him to participate emotionally in the family. Ekblad endures her circumstances stoically, never questioning her suffering. It is God's will, and she has little choice. Finding love with a romantic dreamer, Ekblad has a few moments of respite. The rent is paid and the family happy. But her lover is arrested for thievery, and Ekblad shoulders her burden once again, giving Skarsgård her body but not her soul. Disaster after disaster strikes the family, but Ekblad finds comfort in her Bible and faith in God. When her son finally strikes back against the landlord, the very earth seems to rebel against this human action. A small earthquake tears the house from its foundations, and the landlord and the family meet a common death.

This is a film of man's ultimate helplessness in God's universe and the strength necessary to endure it. Ekblad and Skarsgård give restrained yet powerful performances. Skarsgård manages to show the vulnerability and pain in this devil of a man. Visual metaphors are beautifully rich, and the cinematography is powerfully evocative. In an interview after completing the film, Widerberg stated his purpose was to "provide an arena for the training and nurturing of the heart." This he has done and done well. The picture was released in Sweden in 1986 and shown on the US festival circuit in 1987.