All Things Fair (1995) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

(This is a Swedish language film. The original title is "Lust och fägring stor," which translates literally approximately as "Pleasure and great beauty.")

One of the great experiences offered by film is transportation to another time and place otherwise unknowable. I suppose what I mean is "emotionally unknowable." It's possible to read an accurate historical account about what Sweden was like during WW2, but a film allows us to actually live in the time for a moment, and to store that time in a special place in our brains where we house manufactured memories. These memories become as much a part of us as our real ones, because they go directly to our subconscious and fill us with knowledge that we aren't even aware of. Did women wear stockings then? Heels? Did people get filthy from coal-generated heat? Did unmarried couples use condoms? Were children educated about sex in schools? Was there a sense that the people in Stockholm were different from the rest of the Swedes? Did people support Sweden's neutrality?  Was there a constant state of fear that the Germans might violate that neutrality when Sweden stopped being Germany's bitch in 1943? Were people worried that the Allied armies might choose a Scandinavian route to attack Germany, thus raising the possibility of warfare on Swedish soil? The answers to all of these questions have now been buried somewhere inside my head.

The big question then becomes, "Can I trust these memories, or not?" As I age, I become less trustful of film-implanted memories because I see more and more films about places and times I lived through and I realize that they may have the facts right and the artifacts authentic, but have presented the whole zeitgeist wrong, or have gotten all the wrong items in focus. I then start to think, "If the films about the seventies are so misleading, then I probably shouldn't trust the films about the forties either." In the case of this film, however, I'm willing to take a leap of faith. Bo Widerberg, one of the greatest of all the Swedish directors, was 15 and living in Malmö when the war ended. He wrote and directed this film about a fifteen year old living in Malmö toward the end of the war. It is a work of fiction, so I do not believe that all the episodes in the film actually happened to him, but I do believe that they all resonate truthfully, that the conversations in this film could have happened, and that the characters are drawn from real people.

I suppose you'd like to know what else the film is besides a history lesson about Swedish high school kids in WW2. Well, imagine if Ingmar Bergman had directed My Tutor, and you'll get the idea. Start with a sexually inexperienced and generally misinformed 15 year old boy falling into an affair with his thirty-something teacher. Now if Bergman had directed My Tutor, what would have been different? First, the teacher and her husband would be living lives of quiet desperation and excessive alcohol consumption. The teacher, using the student as her refuge from an unfulfilled marriage, would unrealistically cling to the idea that the extra-marital bliss could continue unabated. The student, after gaining sexual confidence, would want to move on to love, and would look for someone his own age. The teacher, jilted for a mere girl, would take revenge by failing the student in class. The student would then be forced into his own forms of revenge, like telling all to the cuckolded husband and destroying the teacher's most prized possessions.

Because all things are fair in love.

Throw in a sub-plot in which the student's beloved older brother is killed in a wartime submarine tragedy.

Because all things are fair in war.

There you have all the ingredients for a wacky, sexy coming-of-age story, Swedish style.

To be honest, my description is unfair. Like those hack films about the seventies that I talked about above, I have presented all the facts right, but I simply have assembled them in a way that misrepresents the essence of the movie. All Things Fair is not weighted down with tragedy, although tragedy there is. The characters are not overwhelmingly mean or vengeful, although they have moments of both. The script does not leave all of its characters bereft of hope and joy, nor is it weighted down with stoop-shouldered sadness as many Scandinavian films are. It's just a slice of real life in that time and place, and it incorporates unhappy moments with others which are pleasant, sweet, and entertaining. It's a coming of age story that actually recreates all the facets of what it feels like to come of age by presenting a realistic depiction of the way adolescents first learn about the plusses and minuses of adult life. You might fairly call it the Swedish equivalent of The Summer of '42.

And it is a good film, having been nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and scoring above 7.0 at IMDb. It's not widely known, but I think most people will enjoy it if they are in the mood for a thoughtful film.

The film represented a bittersweet finish to the directorial career of Bo Widerberg, whose films were not widely seen internationally, but who was considered one of Europe's master craftsmen in the period 1963-76. He had once gained a degree of renown in the United States for his exquisitely filmed 1967 work, Elvira Madigan, but by the time All Things Fair was released, nearly three decades later, his name was all but unknown in the States. The success of All Things Fair should have been his victory parade. After all, he had made a major comeback by writing and directing an autobiographical Oscar-nominated film starring his own son in the character based on himself. That's close to the top of the world for a film auteur. Sadly, his joy was to be short-lived. In a somber epilogue, Widerberg died of cancer before he could make another film.

That's exactly the way the story would have ended in a Swedish movie.



  • The transfer is anamorphically enhanced (16x9), and looks great.
  • No meaningful features.



Marika Lagerkrantz - full frontal nudity in one scene, and breast in two others.

Karin Huldt - full frontal nudity.

Johan Widerberg - butt

The Critics Vote ...

  • Astoundingly, considering this was an Oscar nominee just a decade ago, there are no major reviews online.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a B-, the swan-song of a master European filmmaker, an impressively good film which is undeservedly obscure. I believe it will even win over some who resist watching subtitled films.

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