The Slingshot

Director: Ake Sandgren
Screenwriters: Ake Sandgren, Roland Schutt.

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


Swedish director Ake Sandgren has created an enormously sophisticated and vividly realistic portrait of a young man coming of age in 1920s' Stockholm in this adaptation of an autobiographical novel by inventor Roland Schutt. Ten-year-old Roland is the son of a Russian Jewish mother and a Swedish Socialist father, and as such encounters the extreme prejudice and disdain of a society which regards his father's bolshevism as treason and his mother's religion as blasphemy, But Roland is not a passive victim. Instead he has a resilient spirit and a fierce combativeness which at times lead him to confront authority, as well as fuel his entrepreneurial nature. The film's title, The Slingshot, refers to a scheme in which Roland fashions slingshots from the illegal prophylactics his mother proffers to working-class neighbors as part of the family's political organizing. This title arouses both pathos and humor and offers very real insight into an age when social conventions and mores were still Victorian, and the threat of political revolutionwas very real.

The anti-Semitism of the day was part of the established order, and growing up as an outsider preordained a life of struggle. But this is not just a historical account, for the characters are full blooded and memorable. This is especially the case with Roland's father, a proud strong figure, but a man full of contradictions: staunchly revolutionary, he is willing to seek employment as tile king's stand-in for a portrait; though he pushes his older son to box, he is hardly able to stand without morphine. Roland's brother rarely misses life opportunity to use him as a punching bag, and his first real friend is the local teenage prostitute, who is several years his senior and a soul mate under the skin.

The Slingshot is a lyrical image of a childhood full of tragedy, farce, heartbreak and exhilaration. The film, ultimately triumphant and emotionally fulfilling, has been submitted as Sweden's nomination for the Academy Award. It's a film by a filmmaker we'll be hearing from again.

Tuesday Jan 25 9:00 pm
Prospector Square Theatre

Wednesday Jan 26 1:00 pm
Egyptian Theatre


— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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