It’s 1933 and you’re a journalist in Sweden.
You speak out against a powerful dictator; your colleagues think you’re crazy, your prime minister tells you to stop and even your own king puts the pressure on.
What do you do?
Most people would cave within an instant. Perhaps a few would hold on for a bit longer, then crumble under the steady disapproval of peer pressure and the government.
This is the story of the biopic “The Last Sentence,” directed by Jan Troell, one of Sweden’s most famous filmmakers. Set in WWII, the film is based on the life of brave journalist Torgney Segerstedt (acted wonderfully by Danish star Jesper Christensen), editor-in-chief of one of Sweden’s leading newspapers in Gothenberg. The film documents Segerstedt’s one-man crusade against the rise of Nazism, anti-Semitism and his country’s appeasement of Adolph Hitler.
As Sweden was trapped between possibly being dominated by Nazi Germany or Russia, the country’s nobility chose the path of neutrality – except for a few like Segerstedt who tried to speak up. Meanwhile Segerstedt’s personal life was in chaos as well – married, he had a public affair with his close friend’s (and newspaper’s publisher) Jewish wife Maja Forssman.
The film is in black and white, taking place at beautiful homes or magnificent settings that make you feel you really are there, with short films of several events that took place during the 1930s-40s
Beginning with a newsreel of Adolf Hitler being celebrated as Germany’s new chancellor, the story follows with a dinner party at an elegant house in Sweden, with Segerstedt speaking about telling the truth – that Hitler is “a devourer of human beings.” As it is still the early 1930s, the oncoming war seems far away in this setting of fine dining and sophisticated people wearing exquisite clothes. There is also a tinge of foreboding sadness throughout the film, as Sederstedt sees visions of his late mother (who died when he was a child) interspersed with his professional and personal dramas.
While Sederstedt continues his campaign as a lone voice in his country against world domination, protests against his articles ratchet up, including one warning letter to the newspaper by Hermann Goering himself (a leading member of the Nazi party and one of Hitler’s most trusted officials – he was later hanged when the war was over).
After more criticism of Hitler, the newspaper’s Berlin correspondent is sent home. Soon after Finland is invaded by Russia and Norway is occupied by the Germans, Swedish King Gustav V summons the editor to the royal palace in Stockholm.
“If Sweden gets into the war, it will be your fault,” the monarch chides Segerstedt. The journalist is shaken, yet not subdued.
In fact, Segerstedt carries on to his last breath, hoping to outlive Hitler. This he does onscreen and nearly does so in real life, dying in 1945 but remembered forever in Sweden as a man whose writing helped to counteract the Nazi Germany propaganda at the time.
Pernilla August as Maja Forssman, Bjorn Granath as Axel Forssman and Ulla Skoog as Puste Segerstedt are all memorable standouts in the film, making the characters come alive from a far away and much more dangerous era.
Produced by Music Box Films, “The Last Sentence” opens on June 20 in New York at the Lincoln Plaza and in Los Angeles at the Laemmele’s Royal Theatre(West Los Angeles).
Guldbagge Awards 2013 (WON – Best Supporting Actress)
Montreal World Film Festival 2012 (WON – Best Director)
Chicago International Film Festival 2012 (WON – Best Actress)