The Retrospective of the 60th Nordische Filmtage Lübeck tackles the subject of “BALTIC TRANSFER – The Baltic Sea and Northern Harbours on Film”

Lübeck, Sept. 26, 2018. For the 60th anniversary year of the Nordische Filmtage Lübeck (Oct. 30 – Nov. 4, 2018), in which the Hanseatic League city of Lübeck is celebrating its 875th jubilee, the Retrospective is dedicated to “overseas relations”, as well as the Baltic Sea and its port cities. The narrative and documentary films, most made before the turn of the millennium, are stories of ship journeys and ferries, merchant vessels and tourist trips, but also inevitably of martial conflicts and refugee movement in the 20th century. In addition to maritime subjects, they also examine daily life ashore – loading and unloading, love and work, port romances and reality.

A core part of the section is “harbour cinema”. For four evenings in the "Schuppen 6" venue on Lübeck's Lower Trave quayside, we will show silent films (mostly) with live music. They are stories of the old seamen’s employment office in Lübeck (Baldevin’s Wedding, NOR, 1926, dir: George Schnéevoigt), the fight against a smuggling ring in Gdynia in The Call of the Sea (POL, 1927, dir: Henryk Szaro), evil machinations in Oslo’s port neighbourhood (Cafe X, NOR, 1928, dir: Walter Fürst), and the illegal liquor trade in Tallinn’s dive bars (Waves of Passion, EST, 1930, dir: Vladimir Gaydarov).

Swedish directing maestro Ingmar Bergman, who would have turned 100 in 2018, receives special attention at this year’s Nordische Filmtage. The Retrospective celebrates opening night with Bergman’s milieu piece “Port of Call” (SWE, 1948), in which the director paints a surprisingly realistic portrait of outsiders in post-war Gothenburg. “The film reveals a director who is well on his way to developing his own cinematic language and to addressing personal subjects”, say Retrospective curator Jörg Schöning about the opening night choice, “Bergman is clearly orienting himself to the cinematic and philosophical trends in Europe that were internationally dominant – Italian neo-realism and French existentialism. Against the backdrop of a port city, he tackles the subject of an individual’s responsibility for their own life. The film might well have been called “Gothenburg, open city”.

Lübeck’s Finnish partner city, Kotka, is represented in the nostalgic musical drama “Harbour Brothers” (FIN, 2004), the story of a jazz club in the 1950s. “The Way You Wanted Me” (FIN, 1944) takes us into the red-light district of a Finnish port city. Director Teuvo Tulio’s heart-breaking melodrama is the story of the erotic seduction, and inexorable descent of a young woman into prostitution at the harbour. Meanwhile, Reykjavik harbour is the jumping off point for the Iceland high seas thriller “Reykjavik – Rotterdam” (ISL/NL/DE, 2008), which enjoyed the distinction of a Hollywood remake, titled “Contraband”, with the lead actor from the original, Baltasar Kormákur, taking over directing duties.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are celebrating 100 years of independence this year. Fittingly for a jubilee year, the Baltic States are a part of the Retrospective for the first time. From Lithuania comes a youth drama set in the 1930s and referencing American film noir “Adam Wants to Be a Man” (1959, dir: Vytautas Žalakevičius). With astonishingly modern images, it is a story of the high unemployment in Kaunas’ inland port between the wars, and of the cynical criminals who profited from the Lithuanians’ misery and yen for faraway places. Estonia is represented with a societal portrait set on “The Midday Ferry” by director Kaljo Kiisk (1964), an exciting mixture of intimate  maritime drama and disaster movie. Latvia is at the NFL with a battle of the sexes set on a fishing trawler, 1964’s “Captain Zero”, directed by Leonīds Leimanis, in which the title character feels his position under threat by a female supervisor. The magical Latvian romance “An Apple in the River” (LAT, 1974, dir: Aivars Freimanis) uses documentary snippets to tell the story of the carefree summer enjoyed by a stevedore and his girlfriend on a river island in Riga. In his historical action thriller “The Firewater” (1994), Estonian director Hardi Volmer once again tackles the brisk smuggling trade between the countries bordering the Baltic Sea.

Alongside those genre narrative films, which use the dockside milieu and seafaring as a backdrop for enthralling imbroglios and romantic entanglements, the documentaries focus on dramatic historical events. “The Cap Arcona Case” (GER, 1995) reconstructs the tragic events of May 1945, when the British Royal Air Force mistakenly sank a ship in Neustadt Bay carrying concentration camp survivors, while the Swedish-Norwegian-Polish-German production “Harbour of Hope” (2011) by Magnus Gertten is a remembrance of the people liberated from the concentration camps who were transported for re-settlement by the International Red Cross and arrived in the Swedish port of Malmö starting in April 1945.

The world of labour during the days of yore when the general cargo trade around the Baltic was still flourishing is the subject of the documentary Roll-on/Roll-off Dockwork in Lübeck” (GER, 1977). The documentary with reconstructed segments “Breakers Ahead” from Norway was shot on location in Hamburg, among other places. The film by director Bjørn Breigutus, which was shown in Competition at the 1961 Berlin International Film Festival is a warning about the dangers of alcoholism that threatens crews at sea and during shore leave in foreign ports. In the Swedish literary adaptation Yarden – The Yard” (SWE/GER, 2016), shot partially at the auto terminal at Bremerhaven, director Måns Månsson looks behind the scenes of day-to-day port operations to examine the radical changes in the modern world of labour, lending the Retrospective a topical element.

On November 2 and 3, the Friday and Saturday of the festival, the “Lübeck Film Studies Colloquium” will be held for the fifth time as part of the 60th Nordische Filmtage Lübeck. Led by Dr Anders Marklund, professor at the University of Lund and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, academics, students, and film fans will gather to talk (in English) about Nordic cinema, using the Retrospective films as a starting point.

The 60th Nordische Filmtage Lübeck will run from October 30 – November 4, 2018. There will be a press conference on October 10, 2018 to announce the selected films and series, special events, and expected festival guests.

Detailed information on the Filmtage and its programme, as well as the application for accreditation, can be found online at You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at nordicfilmdays.

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