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Zetterling, Mai

ZETTERLING, Mai


Nationality: Swedish. Born: Västeras, 24 May 1925. Education: Royal Dramatic Theatre School, Stockholm, 1942–45. Family: Married 1) actor Tutte Lemkow (divorced), two children; 2) writer David Hughes (divorced). Career: Stage debut and film debut, 1941; in company of Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 1945–47; began


collaborating on TV documentaries with husband Hughes, 1960s; directed episode of Mistress of Suspense for TV, 1990. Awards: Golden Lion, Venice Festival, for The War Game, 1963. Died: March 1994.


Films as Director:

1960

The Polite Invasion (short, for BBC TV)

1961

Lords of Little Egypt (short, for BBC TV); The War Game (short) (+ pr)

1962

The Prosperity Race (short, for BBC TV)

1963

The Do-It-Yourself Democracy (short, for BBC TV)

1964

Alskande par (Loving Couples) (co-d with David Hughes)

1966

Nattlek (Night Games) (co-d with Hughes)

1967

Doktor Glas (co-d with Hughes)

1968

Flickorna (The Girls) (co-d with Hughes)

1971

Vincent the Dutchman (co-d with Hughes, pr) (doc)

1973

"The Strongest," episode of Visions of Eight (co-d with Hughes)

1976

We har manje namn (We Have Many Names) (+ ed, role)

1977

Stockholm (+ role) (for Canadian TV)

1978

The Rain's Hat (+ ed) (for TV)

1982

Love (for TV)

1983

Scrubbers

1986

Amorosa (+ sc, ed)

1990

Sunday Pursuit



Other Films:

1941

Lasse-Maja (Olsson) (role)

1943

Jag drapte (Molander) (role)

1944

Hets (Torment; Frenzy) (Sjöberg) (role); Prins Gustaf (Bauman) (role)

1946

Iris och Lojtnantshjarta (Iris and the Lieutenant) (Sjöberg) (role); Frieda (Relph) (role); Driver dagg faller Regn (Sunshine Follows Rain) (role)

1948

Musik i morker (Bergman) (role); Nu borjar livet (Molander) (role); Quartet (Smart and others) (role); The Bad LordByron (MacDonald) (role); Hildegard (role)

1949

Portrait from Life (The Girl in the Painting) (Fisher) (role); The Romantic Age (Gréville) (role); The Lost People (Knowless) (role)

1950

Blackmailed (Marc Allégret) (role); The Ringer (Hamilton) (role)

1952

The Tall Headlines (The Frightened Bride) (Young) (role)

1953

The Desperate Moment (Bennett) (role); Knock on Wood (Frank and Panama) (role)

1954

Prize of Gold (Robson) (role); Dance Little Lady (Guest) (role)

1956

"Ett dockhem" (A Doll's House), episode of Giftas (Henriksson) (role); Abandon Ship (Seven Waves Away) (Sale) (role)

1957

The Truth about Women (Box) (role)

1958

Lek pa regnbagen (Kjellgren) (role)

1959

Jet Storm (Endfield); Faces in the Dark (Eady) (role)

1960

Piccadilly Third Stop (Rilla) (role); Offbeat (Owen) (role)

1961

Only Two Can Play (Gilliat) (role)

1962

The Main Attraction (Petrie) (role); The Man Who FinallyDied (Lawrence) (role)

1963

The Bay of St. Michel (Ainsworth) (role)

1965

The Vine Bridge (Nykvist) (role)

1988

Calling the Shots (doc) (Cole) (appearance)

1989

The Witches (Roeg) (role)

1990

Hidden Agenda (Loach) (role)



Publications


By ZETTERLING: books—

Bird of Passage, New York, 1976.

All Those Tomorrows, London, 1985.


By ZETTERLING: articles—

"Some Notes on Acting," in Sight and Sound (London), October/December 1951.

"Mai Zetterling at the Olympic Games," an interview in AmericanCinematographer (Los Angeles), November 1972.

"Mai Zetterling," an interview with A. Jordahl and H. Lahger, in Chaplin, vol. 34, no. 3, 1992.


On ZETTERLING: books—

Bjorkman, Stig, Film in Sweden, the New Directors, London, 1979.

Heck-Rabi, Louise, Women Filmmakers: A Critical Reception, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1984.


On ZETTERLING: articles—

"Meeting with Mai Zetterling," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), December 1966.

Pyros, J., "Notes on Women Directors," in Take One (Montreal), November/December 1970.

McGregor, C., "Mai Is behind the Camera Now," in New YorkTimes, 30 April 1972.

Elley, Derek, "Hiding It under a Bushel: Free Fall," in Films andFilming (London), April 1974.

Modrzejewska, E. "Wiedzmy," in Filmowy Serwis Prasowy, vol. 37, no. 11/12, 1991.


* * *

Mai Zetterling's career as a filmmaker stemmed from her disillusionment with acting. Trained at Stockholm's Royal Dramatic Theater, Zetterling debuted on stage and screen in 1941. She considered the film Torment her best acting achievement. She worked in British theatre, enacting roles in Chekhov, Anouilh, and Ibsen plays, and in British films. After one part in a Hollywood film, Knock on Wood with Danny Kaye, she spurned contract offers and returned home.

With her husband, David Hughes, she made several documentaries in the 1960s dealing with political issues. Zetterling's feature films depict the social status and psyche of women, reflecting her feminist concerns. The uncompromising honesty of perception and technical virtuosity in her films correspond to the pervasive and dominant themes of loneliness and obsession. Zetterling says: "I want very strongly to do things I believe in. I can't do jobs for the money. I just can't do it."

In 1960, Roger Moorfoot of the BBC financed her idea for a film on the immigration of Swedes to Lapland, The Polite Invasion. Three more followed: The Lords of Little Egypt depicted the gypsies at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer; her view of Swedish affluence in The Prosperity Race was not appreciated in Stockholm; and Do-It-Yourself Democracy commented on Icelandic society and government. Her first independent effort was the fifteen-minute anti-war film The War Game, in which two boys tussle for possession of a toy gun.

Zetterling's first feature film, Loving Couples, was based on the fifth volume of Swedish author Agnes von Krusenstjerna's seven-volume novel, The Misses von Pahlen. Zetterling wrote the script in one year, with sketches of each shot to indicate camera positions. In it, three expectant mothers in a Stockholm hospital recall their lives in the moment of, and then beyond, the births of their babies. Critic Derek Elley suggests that Zetterling developed her theories and themes of film in Loving Couples and rarely deviated from them in later works. She employs elaborate timelines as well as flashbacks, which she uses often and well, intertwining them one within another. Her films peak emotionally in scenes of parties and social gatherings. Her films are cohesive compositions, with a literary base, filmed in the stark contrasts of black to white, with a range of grays intervening. Zetterling's scenes of sexual behavior are integral to her themes of loneliness and obsession. Loving Couples exemplifies these characteristics.

Night Games, derived from Zetterling's novel with the same title, was banned from the Venice Film Festival. The critics who saw it were angered by the Marxist and Freudian elements in it; shocked by scenes of vomiting, masturbation, and childbirth. Based on Hjalmar Soderberg's 1905 novel, her next film, Doktor Glas, records the haunted love of a young physician for a pastor's wife. Even though the wife does not respond to the physician's erotic overtures, he administers a lethal drug to the pastor. It is Zetterling's grimmest study of loneliness, as Derek Elley observes, and her most pessimistic film, told in one extended flashback, "a far cry from Night Games."

She returned to a strongly feminist story in Flickorna and, as in Loving Couples, it contains three female roles of equal weight. In Flickorna three actresses perform Lysistrata on tour, acting out the views of the play in their private lives. Some critics reacted negatively, finding it self-indulgent, a mix of Greek comedy and soap opera, with heavy symbolism and confusing time structures. Other critics liked the various forms of humor effectively employed, and the arresting imagery.

In 1971, Zetterling filmed a documentary in color about Vincent Van Gogh. Titled Vincent the Dutchman, it was shown on American and British television. David Wolper then asked her to film any phase of the 1972 Olympics she chose; she filmed the weightlifting sequence, "The Strongest," for Visions of Eight. In the 1970s, Zetterling published three novels, pursuing creative directions other than filmmaking. She also continued making documentaries (one on tennis champion Stan Smith, one dealing with Stockholm, another on marriage customs), along with a seven-hour adaptation for French television of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Zetterling asserted that whatever she filmed, it would be "something I believe in."

—Louise Heck-Rabi

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"Zetterling, Mai." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Zetterling, Mai." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/zetterling-mai

"Zetterling, Mai." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/zetterling-mai

Zetterling, Mai (Elisabeth)

ZETTERLING, Mai (Elisabeth)


Nationality: Swedish. Born: Västeras, 24 May 1925. Education: Attended Ordtuery Theatre School, 1941; Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, 1942. Family: Married 1) the ballet dancer Tutte Lemkow (divorced), two sons: Etienne and Louis; 2) the writer David Hughes (divorced). Career: 1942–44—in repertory with the Royal Dramatic Theatre; 1944—film debut in Alf Sjöberg's Frenzy; 1947—English-language film debut in Basil Dearden's Frieda; 1948—London stage debut in Ibsen's Wild Duck; 1954—Hollywood film debut in Norman Panama's Knock on Wood; 1960—turned director with the BBC documentary The Polite Invasion.Awards: Best Short Film Award, Venice Film Festival, for The War Game, 1963. Died: Of cancer, in London, England, 15 March 1994.


Films as Actress:

1941

Lasse-Maja (Olsson)

1943

Jag drapte (Molander)

1944

Hets (Torment; Frenzy) (Sjöberg) (as Bertha Olsson); Prins Gustaf (Bauman)

1946

Iris och Lojtnantshjarta (Iris and the Lieutenant) (Sjöberg) (as Iris); Driver dagg faller Regn (Sunshine Follows Rain)

1947

Frieda (Dearden) (title role)

1948

Musik i moerker (Music in Darkness; Night Is My Future) (Bergman) (as Ingrid); The Bad Lord Byron (Macdonald) (as Teresa Guiccioli); The Girl in the Painting (Portrait from Life) (Fisher) (as Hildegarde)

1949

Quartet (Annakin and others) (as Jeanne); The Romantic Age (Naughty Arlette) (Greville) (as Arlette)

1950

Blackmailed (Marc Allégret) (as Carol Edwards); The Lost People (Knowles) (as Lili)

1951

Hell Is Sold Out (Anderson) (as Valerie Martin)

1952

The Tall Headlines (The Frightened Bride) (Young) (as Doris Richardson); The Ringer (The Gaunt Stranger) (Hamilton) (as Lisa)

1953

Desperate Moment (Bennett) (as Anna de Burgh)

1954

Dance Little Lady (Guest) (as Nina Gordon); Knock on Wood (Panama) (as Ilse Nordstrom)

1955

A Prize of Gold (Robson) (as Maria)

1957

Abandon Ship! (Seven Waves Away) (Sale) (as Julie)

1958

The Truth about Women (Box) (as Julie); Lek pa regnbagen (Kjellgren)

1959

Jet Storm (Endfield) (as Carol Tilley)

1960

Faces in the Dark (Eady) (as Christiane Hammond); Piccadilly Third Stop (Rilla) (as Christine Pready)

1961

Offbeat (Owen) (as Ruth Lombard)

1962

The Man Who Finally Died (Lawrence) (as Lisa); Only Two Can Play (Gilliat) (as Elizabeth Gruffydd Williams); The Main Attraction (Petrie) (as Gina)

1963

The Bay of St. Michael (Ainsworth) (as Helene Bretton)

1965

The Vine Bridge (Nykvist)

1988

Calling the Shots (Cole—doc) (appearance)

1990

The Witches (Roeg) (as Helga); Hidden Agenda (Loach) (as Moa)

1993

Morfars Resa (Grandfather's Journey) (Staffan Lamm) (as Elin Fromm)



Films as Director:

1960

The Polite Invasion (doc—for TV)

1961

Lords of Little Egypt (doc—for TV); The War Game (short) (+ pr)

1962

The Prosperity Race (doc—for TV)

1963

The Do-It-Yourself Democracy (doc—for TV)

1964

Alskande par (Loving Couples) (co-d with David Hughes, + co-sc)

1966

Nattlek (Night Games) (+ co-sc)

1967

Doktor Glas (co-d with David Hughes)

1968

Flickorna (The Girls) (co-d with David Hughes)

1971

Vincent the Dutchman (doc) (co-d with David Hughes, + pr)

1973

"The Strongest" ep. of Visions of Eight (co-d with David Hughes)

1976

We har manje namn (We Have Many Names) (+ ro, sc, ed)

1977

Stockholm (for TV) (+ ro)

1978

The Rain's Hat (for TV) (+ ed)

1982

Love (for TV) (co-d, + co-sc)

1983

Scrubbers (+ co-sc)

1986

Amorosa (+ sc, co-ed)

1990

Sunday Pursuit



Publications


By ZETTERLING: books—

Shadow of the Sun (short stories), New York, 1975.

Bird of Passage (novel), New York, 1976.

Ice Island (novel), New York, 1979.

Rain's Hat (children's book), New York, 1979.

All Those Tomorrows (autobiography), London, 1985.


By ZETTERLING: articles—

"Some Notes on Acting," in Sight and Sound (London), October/ December 1951.

Interview in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), April 1966.

"Mai Zetterling at the Olympic Games," interview in American Cinematographer (Los Angeles), November 1972.

On ZETTERLING: books—

Bjorkman, Stig, Film in Sweden, the New Directors, London, 1979.

Heck-Rabi, Louise, Women Filmmakers: A Critical Reception, Metuchen, New Jersey, 1984.


On ZETTERLING: articles—

"Meeting with Mai Zetterling," in Cahiers du Cinéma in English (New York), December 1966.

Pyros, J., "Notes on Women Directors," in Take One (Montreal), November/December 1970.

McGregor, C., "Mai Is behind the Camera Now," in New York Times, 30 April 1972.

Elley, Derek, "Hiding It under a Bushel: Free Fall," in Films and Filming (London), April 1974.

Jordahl, A., and H. Lahger, "Mai Zetterling," in Chaplin (Stockholm), no. 3, 1992.

Obituary in New York Times, 19 March 1994.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 28 March 1994.


* * *

This Swedish actress turned controversial filmmaker combined the earthy sexiness of Ingrid Bergman with, as one critic noted, "a Dietrich-like suggestion of a steel vertebrae."

Zetterling was 19 when she made her screen debut as a prostitute in the international hit Frenzy, respectively directed and written by two of her country's major talents, Alf Sjöberg and Ingmar Bergman, the latter just beginning his long and distinguished career. She later appeared for Bergman himself in his 1948 film Night Is My Future, playing a Lolita-ish maid, though by this time she possessed greater international renown than he did, having made her English-language film debut as a German war bride in the British drama Frieda and her theatrical debut on London's West End in a revival of Ibsen's Wild Duck.

Following in the footsteps of two other Swedish expatriates, Greta Garbo, then in retirement, and Ingrid Bergman, then persona non grata due to her scandalous relationship with Roberto Rossellini, Zetterling was lured to Hollywood to take their place. After making her American film debut as the love interest of star Danny Kaye in the 1954 espionage spoof Knock on Wood, however, she abruptly turned her back on Hollywood and left, never to return. In her autobiography, she writes that she was always too serious about her craft ever to do jobs just for the money. "For that I had a reputation as a freak in Hollywood, but I can't say I ever regretted [never going back]."

Settling in London, she remained active in the British cinema for the next decade, and appeared in two more American films as well, Mark Robson's crime caper A Prize of Gold and Richard Sale's taut tale of survival at sea, Abandon Ship!, based on a true story and starring Tyrone Power. The former was shot in Germany, the latter on a British soundstage. Subsequently, she appeared opposite a miscast Pat Boone in the lust and sawdust circus drama The Main Attraction and in the thriller The Man Who Finally Died, both made in Britain in 1962. She had one of her best roles the same year as a high society dame romanced by Peter Sellers in the comedy Only Two Can Play, based on a satiric novel by Kingsley Amis.

Disheartened by the quality of most of the films she was being offered, Zetterling turned her back on acting after the routine action thriller The Bay of St. Michael and became a director, starting with several documentaries made for the BBC and the award-winning 1963 short The War Game (not to be confused with the 1967 Peter Watkins "ban the bomb" film of the same name). Returning to Sweden, she launched her feature directing career with Loving Couples, which was heavily censored in the United States and elsewhere due to its sexual explicitness. She directed one of her last films, Amorosa, in 1986, having turned her attention to writing short stories and novels, as well as a frank autobiography called All Those Tomorrows.

—John McCarty

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
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"Zetterling, Mai (Elisabeth)." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Zetterling, Mai (Elisabeth)." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/zetterling-mai-elisabeth

"Zetterling, Mai (Elisabeth)." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/movies/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/zetterling-mai-elisabeth