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Plot: nymphomaniac explores the sordid underbelly of Stockholm

Anita Swedish Nymphet was one of the last directorial efforts from Swedish screenwriter Torgny Wickman. Wickman is mostly remembered for Ur Kärlekens Språk (1970), released internationally as The Language Of Love, that sparked massive protests in London upon release. Skräcken har 1000 ögon (1970), released internationally as Fear Has A 1,000 Eyes, allegedly was the first Scandinavian erotic horror movie of note. Anita - Ur En Tonårsflickas Dagbok (released internationally as Anita Swedish Nymphet, as it will be referred to hereafter) wasn’t Wickman’s first foray into sexploitation. It is, for all intents and purposes, a reimagining of his earlier Eva - den utstötta (1969), with Christina Lindberg replacing Solveig Andersson, and one of the early roles for Stellan Skarsgård.

During high school Christina Lindberg started modeling, first in bathing suit in local newspapers and later for nude pictorials with Mayfair, Lui and Playboy. She was a Penthouse Pet in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. Sehlberg refused to let her work with other photographers and forced Lindberg out of exploitation cinema. For much of the 1970s Gothenburg-born starlet Christina Lindberg was the subject of a number of mostly impoverished exploitation films awash with full frontal nudity and simulated sex. Together with Janet Ågren, and the lesser known Leena Skoog, Christina Lindberg was one of the more recognizable faces in the Scandinavian exploitation industry. A few exceptions notwithstanding Lindberg's filmography is about as nihilistic as it is depressing.

Christina debuted in the naturalistic and very matter-of-fact comedy Rötmånad (1970) (or Dog Days internationally). It was good-natured and amiable despite its nasty Darwinian streak. Things got considerably darker with Exponerad (released in the US as The Depraved) and Maid In Sweden (1971). The latter mostly resembles Anita Swedish Nymphet and the former was remade in Italy three years later as The Minor (1974) with Gloria Guida. 1973 was a career-defining year for Lindberg as she starred in both this, and the infamous rape revenge caper Thriller – En Grym Film. Thriller – En Grym Film (1973) contained hardcore porn inserts, and even an actual corpse. It sort of was a Swedish remake of Turkish revenge drama Golden Girl (1973) with Filiz Akin. As an exercise in nihilism it easily matches, if not surpasses, Niko Mastorakis’ Island Of Death (1976) and Meir Zarchi’s I Spit On Your Grave (1978) in its commitment to shock and offend as much of its viewership as possible in little under two hours.

Anita (Christina Lindberg) is a 16-year-old student and left to fend for her own in a cold, uncaring society that has written her off before she was able to make something of herself. Anita has a problem. She's a nymphomaniac, a concubine of despise. Her classmates shun her, her parents consider her a lost cause and have cut her off. When not even her family cares for her plight, no wonder then that every lowlife and degenerate in Stockholm tries to take advantage of her when the possibility arises. The only that actually goes out of their way to make Anita feel comfortable is psychology student Erik (Stellan Skarsgård). She comes knocking on Erik's door all battered, bruised, and broken. Black-eyed and with blood seeping from her lip. As they mutually engage in household chores in and around Erik’s studio apartment he takes the time to let Anita tell her story.

She has sollicited men at the local pub, the train station, the library, the art club, and in the streets. How she ended up falling in with Stockholm’s least desirable, leading to her arrest during a drugbust. In her darkest hour she threw herself at closeted lesbian social worker Agnes (Berit Agedal, as Berit Agerdal), and to make ends meet worked in a burlesque cabaret. From all this Erik concludes that Anita's rampant nymphomania must be the product from some unprocessed childhood trauma and/or neglect. Anita confides in Erik that he's one of the few to be friendly to her despite her vulnerable emotional/psychological state, and the only to never take advantage of her condition. Not even when she threw herself at him. Erik on his part figures that it's not sex what Anita has been seeking all this time, but love and human connection. The way he sees it the only way for Anita to be cured is to experience a real orgasm while being with a man that truly loves her. The morning after experiencing love (and not sex) for the first time Anita returns home to find that her parents have changed the door locks...

Whereas British, Italian, and German sex comedy starlets would typically alternate between light fare and more cynical outings, the deeper Christina Lindberg got into her career the bleaker and unpleasant her projects became. The advent and legalization of hardcore pornography in 1979 instantly made redundant the entire softcore genre and nudity-heavy variants of both comedy and horror. The increasing demand for actresses to do hardcore led to several (Paola Senatore, Lilli Carati, Ilona Staller, and Brigitte Lahaie, to name three Italian and one French example) changing careers. Stockholm never had its own regional variant of Madrid, Spain's Cine-S, the pornochanchada from São Paulo, Brazil, or the maple syrup porn from Québec, Canada. Sweden (and Finland too, for that matter) had always been very liberated compared to the rest of Europe - and thus a regular soft erotica industry made no sense. It's sad that the first victim of that was Christina Lindberg, one of Sweden's greatest sex symbols up until that point.

As unbelievable as it may sound today international English-language distributors had the gall to cut the promotional trailer in such a way to make Anita Swedish Nymphet look as an innocuous coming of age drama as Faustine and the Beautiful Summer (1972) or a general audience goofy sex comedy as Herzblatt oder Wie sag' ich's meiner Tochter? (1969). It presented itself as an exposé of something that happens to "every girl" when she reaches "a certain age." As exploitative as the Schoolgirl Report (1970) series were they never were as intentionally nasty and bleak as the average Christina Lindberg romp. Maid In Sweden (1971) pretty much suggested what Lindberg's early career was going to consist of. Christina, 23 at the time, is seldom seen smiling, always on the verge of crying - and it doesn't help one bit that every other movie she did tried to outdo the last in terms of wanton cruelty and nihilism. In that sense it's a sobering realization that Rötmånad (1970) was Christina Lindberg's finest hour, and that it was only and invariably downwards from that point going forward. While the tricks it plays may be underhanded and deplorable at least it delivers exactly what it promises.

Plot: small-town girl discovers the sordid underbelly of Stockholm

Scandinavian exploitation starlet Christina Lindberg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1950 and originally studied for archeologist before venturing into the world of modeling and later cinema. During high school Lindberg started modeling, first in swimsuit for newspapers and later in nude pictorials with Mayfair, Lui and Playboy. Lindberg was a Penthouse Pet in 1970. In 1973 she released her photo book This Is Christina Lindberg by her photographer and soon-to-be husband Bo Sehlberg. Sehlberg refused to let her work with other photographers and forced Lindberg out of exploitation cinema. For much of the 1970s Gothenburg-born starlet Christina Lindberg was the subject of a number of mostly impoverished exploitation films awash with full frontal nudity and simulated sex. Together with Janet Ågren, and the lesser known Leena Skoog, Christina Lindberg was one of the more recognizable faces in the European exploitation industry.

Maid in Sweden, the most innocuous of Lindberg’s early oeuvre, professes to be a coming-of-age story and a journey of sexual awakening for a naive smalltown girl in the big city. Co-produced by Cannon from a screenplay by Ronnie Friedland and George T. Norris it is exploitation masquerading as a legitimate drama. Screenwriter Friedland had served as a second unit director on Joseph Sarno’s The Seduction Of Inga (1968), which goes in part to explain the many similarities between this and the source material. Norris would later pen the screenplay to the Robert Ginty vigilante actioner The Exterminator 2 (1984). Maid In Sweden leans closer to French erotic cinema of the day than to the mesmerizing surreal Czech fairytale Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) from Jaromil Jires. In the movie Lindberg does exude the same kind of cherubic charm as genre starlets Gloria Guida, Tina Romero, Susan Hemingway, or Jaroslava Schallerová.

The plot, or what little is supposed to pass for it, concerns itself with milkmaid Inga (Christina Lindberg, as Kristina Lindberg) who lives in a sleepy farming hamlet in Sweden. One day she receives a letter from her emancipated libertine sister Greta (Monika Ekman) inviting her to spent a weekend in Stockholm. The visit starts out innocently enough, but soon Inga’s beauty, and her tendency to disrobe at the drop of a hat, has her involved in a number of compromising situations. Perceptive viewers will have surely noticed that Inga and Greta were both characters in Joe Sarno’s The Seduction Of Inga, that starred softcore scorcher Marie Liljedahl - who starred in a number of sexploitation movies from 1966 to 1970 from directors as Hubert Frank, Torgny Wickman and the inevitable Jesús Franco - and which Maid in Sweden pilfers in terms of plot. Maid in Sweden is both episodic and formulaic with Lindberg’s often naked form as the only selling point for what is otherwise a trite and banal exercise in low-budget filmmaking. Lindberg’s later Anita Swedish Nymphet (1973) had better production values than this little number.

Instead of embracing its exploitation undercurrent Maid in Sweden actually tries to pass itself off as a coming-of-age story and a tale of sexual awakening. Something which the French Don’t Deliver Us From Evil (1971) and the Italian Monika (1974) did far better. Unlike Monika  and Honeybun (1988) a decade and a half later, Maid in Sweden does not hide its more dubious aspects behind a veneer of comedy and slapstick. Once Inga sees the bewildering effects that her considerable physical assets have on those around her, specifically men, she remains gridlocked in her conviction that everybody has her best interest at heart. When seemingly everybody around her then continues to take advantage of her smalltown naiveté it completely negates whatever little dramatic effect is supposedly generated as Inga learns nothing from her experience in the big city. When she returns home after the weekend nothing substantial has changed, neither has she (or anybody else) undergone any mentionworthy growth, or arc, as a character.

None of the plot is particularly believable. Greta’s douche canoe boyfriend Carsten (Krister Ekman) first opines that Inga is too much of a goodie two-shoes and lines her up with the abominable delinquent-in-waiting Björn (Leif Naeslund). After a tedious date montage the contemptible Björn, true to form as an acquaintance of the equally rephrensible Carsten, attempts to rape an oblivious Inga. Later, seeking trust and solace in a relative, Inga is raped a second time by her own sister in the prequisite bout of sapphic seduction. Far more damning is that twice does Maid in Sweden brush said behavior off as acceptable social etiquette. Adding an extra ick factor is that the Greta and Carsten coupling, who are the subject of one or two simulated sex scenes, are played by sibling actors. After taking a steamy shower, shot in slow motion for maximum effect, Inga then returns to boink the despicable Björn a second time in what can only be construed as Stockholm syndrome. Returning in silentio noctis to the apartment Carsten comes onto Inga, something she is – for reasons both unfathomable and unexplained – all too eager to reciprocate. Greta catches the two in flagrante delicto and, against all logic and reason, throws Inga (and not the far more deserving Carsten) into the streets.

The entire raison d'être of Maid in Sweden is to showcase Lindberg’s luscious hourglass figure as often and early as possible. It’s hard to fathom that the voluptuous, uninhibited, and then-twenty-one year old Lindberg never ended up working in productions from continental European directors as Jean Rollin, Jesús Franco, Joe D’Amato, or Tinto Brass. Brass especially would have shot Lindberg - whose figure is similar to that of Debora Caprioglio - in loving detail. At least the writers/producers behind Maid in Sweden were smart enough to realize that the minimal plot is merely a preamble to have Lindberg disrobing, or engaging in assorted lewd activities, with regular interval. Whether it is her changing clothes in a train compartment, imagening getting sexually assaulted, taking a soapy bath, or simulating intercourse. Maid in Sweden is exploitative to a fault and this movie would have fallen into obscurity if it weren’t for the frequently disrobing of its top-heavy star. In fact it frequently borders on a Scandinavian equivalent to an Armando Bó directed down-market Isabel Sarli exploitation flick. None of it is particularly pretty to look at, but nobody's here for the art anyway...