Terje Vigen, naturbilder and the natural history of film in Sweden | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2042-7891
  • E-ISSN: 2042-7905


Victor Sjöström’s Terje Vigen/A Man There Was (1917) has often been credited with introducing a new era of film production in Sweden and initiating a ‘golden age’. Reading the film only as a break with the past, however, obscures other important continuities that stretch back to the earliest days of film-making. In particular, I argue, the film drew heavily on the actuality film tradition of naturbilder/nature pictures that invited audiences to sense a shared space with the cinematic image, understood to be an extension of the spectators’ world. Additionally, both Terje Vigen and the mythology surrounding the film’s origins highlight the characters’ and actors’ supposed embeddedness in place and work to construct an image of landscape that presents itself as given and organic. By drawing upon an imaginary in which the subject is inextricably connected with and constructed by place, Terje Vigen invites a reconsideration of the boundaries of subjectivity and the means by which identity was formed.


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