Dokumentärfilmen som tidsresa - Modstrilogin

Ingrid Esping

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Stefan Jarl (1941-) is perhaps most well known for his trilogy of films about a group of outcast mods in the Swedish welfare state. The trilogy covers three decades: the first film, They Call Us Misfits, was made in 1968; the second, A Respectable Life, in 1979, and the third, Misfits to Yuppies, in 1993. In this dissertation, the mods trilogy is studied against a background of film history and film theory. The films, and their different production contexts, are used to illustrate a social history and a history of changing film policies. Furthermore, the films offer an opportunity to reflect upon a number of film theoretical issues, while simultaneously showing how Jarl himself has developed as a film-maker within the genre of documentary.

The two film-makers Arne Sucksdorff and Peter Weiss have influenced Jarl in different ways. At the film school, a result of the Swedish film reform of 1963, Stefan Jarl met and became friends with Jan Lindqvist, which led to a long time of cinematic collaboration and a vigilant struggle against the film establishment and the founder of the Swedish Film Institute, Harry Schein. Jarl started an organisation called FilmCentrum in 1968, together with many other young film-makers. The governing principles of FilmCentrum were to give people the opportunity to express themselves through the medium of film, to reach new audiences, and to initiate a dialogue between the film-makers and the audience. Its journal Rapport från FilmCentrum ? which later, in 1973, changed its name to Film & TV ? also provided an important forum for the work of the film unions from the late 1960s and onwards. In the hope of generating money for non-commercial film production, Jarl and others with him began to build a theatre chain called Folkets Bio in 1973. Although FilmCentrum did not lead to a radical change in Swedish film production, it created, through small means, a space for other, more diverse definitions of the medium of film and a forum for discussion on documentary film.

Jarl's films have been influenced by John Grierson's definition ? ?the creative treatment of reality? ? although they have expressed a more subversive political stance than those made by the British documentarists. When, in the 1970s, poststructuralist theories gained a foothold within academia, the documentary film went into a crisis. However, the Rodney King incident in 1991 and its aftermath, restored the status of the documentary film. What I have tried to highlight in the analysis of the mods trilogy is that the documentary is anchored in reality and that the spectator's understanding of documentaries takes its point of departure in that same reality, where the spectator's experiences, memories, emotions and thoughts contribute to create empathy, recognition, understanding as well as credibility. In a short film, Epilog (2006), Jarl made room for the memories and the sense of loss of the people who had participated in his films, and finished the time journey.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Film Studies
  • Hedling, Erik, Supervisor
  • Jönsson, Mats, Supervisor, External person
Award date2007 Jun 2
ISBN (Print)978-91-628-7154-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2007-06-02
Time: 10:15
Place: Hörsalen, Språk- och litteraturcentrum, Helgonabacken 12, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Wahlberg, Malin
Title: Fil. Dr.
Affiliation: Stockholms universitet


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Arts

Free keywords

  • Arne Sucksdorff
  • Peter Weiss
  • Harry Schein
  • FilmCentrum
  • Folkets Bio
  • 1960-tal
  • 1970-tal
  • 1980-tal
  • John Grierson
  • dokumentärfilm och etik
  • dokumentära metoder
  • Filmvetenskap
  • Cinema theory and history
  • Dokumentärfilm
  • Stefan Jarl

Cite this