Sunday, June 12, 2005

Walpurgisnacht, Valborg, Wealdburg, and Ingrid Bergman

So the TiVo™ picked up Valborgsmässoafton, or Walpurgis Night, a Swedish-language movie from 1935 with a very young Ingrid Bergman.

The film is not particularly good in and of itself — it's what one might almost call a 1930's version of a LifeTime Movie — apparently back in the 1930s people worried that Sweden suffered from a low birthrate, and the movie is all about marriage, love affairs, morals, and selfish rich wives wanting abortions so they don't get fat and lose the freedom to go to parties a lot.

The title was what was interesting: of course anybody should know about Walpurgisnacht from Faust and Night on Bald Mountain, but there didn't seem to be anything particularly supernatural about the film's content. When the wife wanted to reschedule her abortion so it didn't fall on Walpurgis Night, I assumed perhaps that she was being superstitutious or something, but in fact it started to look as though Walpurgis Night is some sort of huge holiday celebration in Sweden: like some sort of combination of New Year's Eve and a Spring Festival with singing students and bonfires and all sorts of Scandinavian to-dos. And in fact, according to Wikipedia, that is precisely what it is.

Apparently it's only in Germany that Walpurgis Night is associated with Witches and Corpses and Ghosts and Skeletons and Demons: kind of like an anti-Hallowe'en, exactly at the halfway mark across the year from October 31, on April 30. It would appear that the Church did a better job of demonizing the underlying Viking pagan festivities in Germany than they did in Scandinavia: so in Germany, it's Night on Bald Mountain and Faust having sex with Witches, but in Sweden and Finland it's lots of innocent drunkenness and revelling and celebration of warm weather and sunlight. Chuckle.

I adore Ingrid as much as anybody, but she actually did a lot of pretty terrible overacting in this film; perhaps that was the style in Sweden in 1935. Who knows.

Alors; on apprend quelque chose de nouveau chaque jours, hein?

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At Sun Jun 26, 08:16:00 PM EDT, Blogger Grace said...

I've watched this movie several times and it never fails to amaze me -- especially the abortion-scheduling discussions. Now, it might be that the English subtitles are much more direct than the original Swedish, but still. . . . I can't think of any American films from the same period that are as blunt about the topic.


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