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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.

In the last couple of years Göthenburg-based Nachtlieder, the studio project conceptualized by multi-instrumentalist, part-time yogini and natural born philosopher Dagny Susanne, has established itself as one of the most potent and distinct new voices in the Swedish black metal pantheon. Her third album “Lynx” fully delivers on the promise that 2015’s loosely conceptual “The Female of the Species” only hinted at. While her 2013 debut was serviceable in the very least, it didn't leave much of an impression on this scribe. On “The Female of the Species” Nachtlieder truly transformed into a distinct entity with its own recognizable vision and voice. “Lynx” builds, but also expands and deepens, upon that foundation and sees Dagny elevating her songwriting to a higher creative plateau. “Lynx” has Susanne at her most bloodcurdingly predatory and perhaps now more than any time before is Nachtlieder red of tooth and claw.

On the whole we’ve always been fairly ambivalent at best and completely indifferent at worst to Swedish black metal as a genre. There are records that we unequivocally love. “Summon the Beast” from the Hypocrisy side-project The Abyss, “The Secrets Of the Black Arts” from Dark Funeral, the first few Marduk albums, “The Somberlain” and “Storm Of the Light’s Bane” by Dissection (who we’ve always considered more of an epic heavy/thrash metal band than an outright black metal one) and selected works from Setherial, the the grandmasters of imitation and derivation, such as “Nord”, “Hell Eternal” or “Endtime Divine” and “Vittra” from Naglfar. The post-David Parland releases from Dark Funeral, the shortlived more death metal tinged The Legion, and the numerous more smaller hordes that persist in the underground have not helped in swaying us to stay current with what’s happening in the scene. Over the course of a decade and now three albums deep into her career Dagny Susanne has proven that she’s persistently deadlier than the male. Nachtlieder is the kind of project to breath new life into a stagnant and regressive genre without the need of a gimmick or being overly innovative.

The lynx has largely been associated with awareness, ability, balance, and change. It is a symbol of knowledge, clairvoyance, and wisdom. Across cultures (Greek, Norse, North American and Asian, among others) and times the lynx has borne silent witness to the foils and follies of humankind and is widely considered an often nigh on invisible sage of secrets both corporeal and ethereal living in great solitude and isolation. In medicine the lynx symbolizes sharp senses. Much like the titular felines an air of mystery surrounds Susanne who has revealed herself as a woman of many interests. It greatly speaks to her sense of individuality and independence that she continues to explore themes and subjects relating to the female experience. Susanne is not a woman to be pigeonholed to a convenient genre tag and with each subsequent offering Nachtlieder continues to expand into grander, ever more ambitious concepts. While Nachtlieder’s 2013 debut didn’t leave much of an impression other than being an extremely capable exercise of the form her subsequent album(s) have shown her as an agile musician and composer. Nachtlieder wouldn’t be what it is without the loyal services of studio drummer Martrum and on “Lynx” he too delivers another stellar performance. The synergy between Dagny and Martrum is one of the project’s strongest features.

Nachtlieder has never been about inhuman speed (leave that to Setherial and their ilk) and much of Susanne’s songwriting is reminiscent of Enslaved (circa “Hordanes Land”) and early Immortal records as “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism” and “Pure Holocaust”. Instead of the more Nordic inclinations of her possible inspirations “Lynx” sounds clinically aggressive without that it ever regresses into gratuitous Norsecore blasts (something which Belgian horde Enthroned was often prone to early on) and atmospheric meanderings that serve no larger purpose. As much as the bass guitar is often dealt a cruel hand in most metal productions regardless of their size on “Lynx” it can be heard clearly. The string instruments contribute equally to the compositions and while the bass guitar never quite gets to weave any lead melodies its constantly throbbing pulse is essential for Nachtlieder to arrive at its distinct sound. By and large “Lynx” goes for a more primal and churning epic midpace than the more conventionally speed-oriented excursions from “The Female of the Species”. The primordially crawling, eerie melodies amplify Dagny’s rasping growl. Which doesn’t diminish in any way from tracks as ‘Law Of Decay’ that completely kill with their speed. The duo of ‘Eyes Ablaze’ and ‘Moksha’ conclude “Lynx” on a majestic dark note. Like the ferocious felines of the title Nachtlieder is both elegant and cunning in its assault.

An illustration from John Bauer isn’t typically something you’d expect of a black metal band, especially not in the light of the assorted works of Gustav Doré and Jannicke Wiese-Hansen more or less being standards of the form. “Lynx” avoids the usual monochrome canvasses by using a piece from Bauer as its artwork. The illustration in question is "Guldnycklarna" (Gold Keys) from 1915 that figured into "Bland tomtar och troll" (Among gnomes and trolls), an annual collection of fairytales for children that was first saw publication in 1907. A variety of authors wrote for "Bland tomtar och troll" and Bauer contributed illustrations every year until his death with the exception of 1911. The collection steered domestic children’s literature in a new direction by incorporating themes from folk songs into the various fairytales. After Bauer other illustrators followed among them Gustaf Tenggren and from 1927 to 1980 Einar Norelius with Hans Arnold following in his footsteps. Notable authors contributing to the tome include Hjalmar Bergman, Margareta Ekström, Gösta Knutsson, Severin Schiöler and Edith Unnerstad.

Eine kleine Nachtmusik might be Mozart's most enduring composition and Nachtlieder is the last thing you'd associate with fairytales and nursery rhymes there's something about Dagny's songwriting and her strong sense of individuality that easily places it among the classic bands of her genre. On “The Female of the Species” Susanne already showcased her uncanny ability to compose fully conceptualized pieces better than most of her peers in traditionally staffed constellations. In many ways Nachtlieder is the Scandinavian counterpart to Mediterreanean outfit Melencolia Estatica, the Italian project spearheaded by vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Serena Nardin. If there's something to be said about Nachtlieder as a band and Susanne as a person it's that she will go out of her way to avoid any cliché inherent to her craft. That truly is her greatest forté. Now that the "Lynx" is free to stalk its prey we can only wonder what Dagny will come up with next. It'd be interesting to see her take on the various female apparitions of Asian mythology (such as the ghosts of Chinese folklore or the Indian nagin, the snake spirits, to name two popular examples). If there's anything the metal scene at large needs it's visionaries. People like Susanne are vital. Suss isn't just kvlt, she's kvte too.