- The Strongest (1929) movie review: The first feature (co-)directed by Alf Sjöberg – with cinematographer Axel Lindblom, receiving directorial credit for the first and last time – is a visually splendid Arctic adventure. On the downside, the narrative moves at glacial speed.
The Strongest movie review: Early Alf Sjöberg collaboration is an action-less Man vs. Nature adventure drama
According to the San Francisco Silent Film Festival program guide, Alf Sjöberg and Axel Lindblom’s The Strongest / Den starkaste (1929) was one of the last silent films made in Sweden. I looked forward to an exciting action adventure, but came away disappointed.
It was not the filmmaking that failed to arouse my interest. Sjöberg’s direction – his career (Torment, Miss Julie) would stretch all the way to the late 1960s – was on target, eliciting competent performances from the actors while telling the story through a series of well-framed scenes.
Each shot in The Strongest is meticulously composed. As a plus, the work of co-director/cinematographer Axel Lindblom (who had worked with Victor Sjöström on the 1922 drama The House Surrounded) contains breathtaking views of the Arctic region. In fact, the contrast between the main characters’ idyllic farm house and the bleak, desolate landscape of the Arctic Sea, filmed on location, was impressive.
What I found problematic was the film’s snail-paced action.
Rooting for the hunted
The Strongest begins with sea captain Larsen (Hjalmar Peters) and his daughter Ingeborg (Gun Holmqvist) enjoying their fairly pleasant life on their rural farm. The work is hard, but the family seems well suited to it.
Then along come two suitors (Anders Henrikson and Bengt Djurberg) who compete for the lovely lady by accompanying her father aboard The Viking to hunt seals and polar bears. The animal lover in me, however, overcame my objectivity, as I rooted for the bears and seals all the way.
On top of that, I’m not one who can empathize with hardship and deprivation that are freely chosen by the subjects. I respond better to more spontaneous encounters with the awesome power of nature. So this adventure had me at a disadvantage.
On the positive side, the Matti Bye Ensemble’s live music accompaniment made a perfect fit.
The Strongest / Den starkaste (1929)
Direction & Screenplay: Alf Sjöberg & Axel Lindblom.
Cast: Hjalmar Peters. Anders Henrikson. Bengt Djurberg. Gun Holmqvist. Gösta Gustafson. Kare Pederson. Maria Röhr.
“The Strongest (1929) Movie Review” endnotes
The Strongest movie reviewed at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (website).
Hjalmar Peters, Anders Henrikson, and Bengt Djurberg The Strongest movie image: San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
“The Strongest Movie (1929): Glacially Beautiful” last updated in January 2022.