I suppose you need to know your Lucia celebrations on the 13th of December in Sweden to fully appreciate the scene where the singing children are striding through a post office mid-robbery in Bo Widerberg’s film The Man From Majorca.
Somehow I suspect I appreciate it all the more for being an exile who can’t have enough traditional behaviour, especially if it takes place in my old place of work. Well, not precisely ‘my’ old place, as this was set in Stockholm 6 (‘Post offices have numbers?’, Daughter said incredulously), and I never worked there. However, I could give you a long and almost complete list of all the post offices I did work in.
Other than the Lucia in the post office bit, this is a fairly average Swedish style police film, and was probably one of the earliest of what now seems to be the norm for Nordic crime on both small and large screens.
I first came across it late one night on BBC2, back in the 1980s. We’d just bought ourselves a video recorder, so recorded the film and watched it at a more sociable hour. I suppose I must have been feeling a little homesick, or something, because the beginning in the post office really got to me. I knew exactly what it was like on the inside of the counter, except in my day I never had a robber or murderer jump in with the parcels. On the whole, that’s a good thing.
Policemen Johansson and Jarnebring are the ones who end up chasing the cold and calculating robber. They keep stumbling on clues and it doesn’t take them too long to work out who did it. The hard thing is proving it, and in true Swedish style there’s a lot of dirty politics going on in both the police force and in Government departments, and the ending is an interesting one.
This is a film full of big name actors, including Sven Wollter (most beautiful man in Sweden…). His partner Tomas von Brömssen is the more vulnerable, being lonely after a divorce. Watching him watching the Christmas Eve Disney special on television in the company of the ex-wife and children and the new husband is very painful.
No Nordic crime is complete without a well pickled drunk, and Sten Lonnert does a good job getting hopelessly lost in a monologue about boxers during his ‘interrogation’ by Tommy Johnson, who himself hides a little bottle of something in the bookcase at work.
After all these years, it was good to force Offspring to watch the film, and it’s a relief to see how well it has aged. Were it not for a lack of mobile phones it could have been set today. And that post offices no longer exist.