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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Simon and the Oaks

Montblanc Screenplay Award of 10,000 Euros to

Simon and the Oaks (Simon och ekarna) by Lisa Ohlin, script by Marnie Blok

Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Netherlands

 

Simon and the Oaks had its world premiere at the Filmfest Hamburg 2011. Film maker Lisa Ohlin created a moving and fascinating adaptation of Marianne Fredriksson’s acclaimed novel of the same name. It is an account of the years between 1939 and the 1950s set in Sweden and Berlin. Little Simon lives with his loving parents Karin and Erik Larsson (Helen Sjöholm, Stefan Gödicke), a working-class couple. His father does not like that Simon always “has his nose in a book”. No wonder that Simon feels out of place in his own family. As he seems intellectually gifted, he is allowed to attend school in Gothenburg where he meets Isak, the son of Ruben Lentov (Josef Liefers), the wealthy owner of a Jewish bookshop. The family fled Hitler’s Germany, fearing persecution. Soon WWII is raging all over Europe. German soldiers are seen in Sweden, making life unsafe for Jews, and Isak moves to live with the Larssons. The two friends grow up together but develop very differently—Isak prefers to work with his hands, and Simon still prefers reading or listening to classical music. After the war the harmonious family life suddenly comes to an end when Simon discovers that he is adopted. Fighting his emotional confusion, he leaves, trying to discover his roots. He moves to town, staying with the rich Lentov’s where he finds support and understanding for his deep love of music.

 

This powerful epos has multiple levels: two boys coming of age during the turmoil of World War II, the unique situation of Jewish people in Sweden during that time, two families merging together with their different secrets and rivalries. It is an enthralling saga combining mythology and compassion with atmospheric images by the talented cinematographer Dan Lausten. The sweeping orchestral finale carries strong emotions without needing much dialog. (BS)

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