Coming of age is a bankable subject for cinema, and even mediocre productions tend to fare well at the box office. But just occasionally, a film comes along to delve deeper than the customary hormonal overflows and infatuations. Bo Widerberg, a film critic turned master filmmaker, takes the genre to a different level with his Academy Award nominated drama, “Lust och fägring stor” [Eng. Title: All Things Fair].
It’s war-time Sweden, and fifteen year old Stig (Johan Widerberg) is a keen student at school and dutiful son to a working class family in Malmö. Apart from the household chores, he also helps his family by working at the local cinema after school. When Viola (Marika Lagercrantz) arrives from Stockholm to take charge as his new class teacher, Stig finds himself attracted to her elegance and charm, despite also being aware that she’s more than twice his age, and is already married. Viola too likes the attention she’s getting from a handsome young man, and before long they embark on a passionate affair, due to which he becomes a regular visitor to her house, and even befriends her melancholic husband Kjell (Tomas von Brömssen). Stig will grow increasingly uneasy with the illicit arrangement due to various factors, and tries to build more ‘normal’ relationships, with his beloved soldier-brother Sigge (Björn Kjellman), and his slightly younger neighbour Lisbet (Karin Huldt). Viola isn’t too pleased with the changes in Stig, and it becomes clear that there is only one way for their relationship to go – downwards…
This was not only Bo Widerberg’s last film, it was also one of his personal films, drawing some of the events from his own childhood. He even cast his young son Johan to play the lead. The film not only explores sexuality, but also the nature of lust, friendship, family values, moral dilemmas, war, and above all else, love – not as such the teenager’s crush on his teacher, but a husband’s unconditional love for his wife. Widerberg had studiously avoided being compared to his country’s more illustrious film maker, but Bergman’s influence can nevertheless be felt, particularly in the details and formal compositions. But Widerberg comes into his own in the manner in which he portrays his characters during different stages of the film.
The film’s cinematography and production design is exquisite, as is the classical soundtrack, but special mention should be made for the performances of the main actors, particularly that of Tomas von Brömssen who plays Kjell, the drunk husband of Viola. “All Things Fair” could so easily have degenerated into a torrid exploitation film in the hands of an ordinary director, but in Widerberg’s hands, has turned into something altogether sublime. Highly Recommended Viewing..!
The Nudity: Marika Lagercrantz, Johan Widerberg, and Karin Huldt
While there are several instances of nudity in the film, none of them are gratuitous, and they’re mostly relevant in telling the story.