Cineuropa: Review: Stockholm Bloodbath

By Cineuropa / Jan Lumholdt



Buckets of blood and succulent ham acting abound in this grandiose foray into the badass Dano-Swedish animosity of 500 years ago, helmed by Mikael Håfström.

A brief history lesson: in the early 1500s, King Christian II of Denmark and Norway decided to add Sweden to his “union”, resulting in brutal battles against the highly reluctant Swedes. In 1520, thanks in no small part to an army of German and Scottish mercenaries, Christian was crowned King of Sweden by pro-Danish Swedish archbishop Gustav Trolle in the cathedral of Stockholm. Defeated Swedes in high positions were granted amnesty, and a three-day banquet commenced. Post-festivities, however, Trolle, who had been imprisoned during the conflicts, demanded compensation from those who had opposed him. The formal charge, given Trolle’s clerical occupation, was heresy. The king, henceforth called “The Tyrant” in Sweden, heartily complied, and a mass execution took place, in which around 80 prominent citizens of state and Church were beheaded in the main square, henceforth known as the Stockholm Bloodbath. The cobblestones got very red and very messy.

Five hundred years later, and now with nothing but brotherly love between the former hereditary arch enemies, Sweden’s Viaplay and Denmark’s Nordisk join forces for a cinematic excursion entitled Stockholm Bloodbath, which is on general release now in Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark, courtesy of Scanbox.

To keep things in check, Norwegian screenwriters Erlend Loe and Nora Landsrød provide the script, all in English, likely aiming for international markets. The cast sports an array of A-list Scandinavians as well as a troupe of able Brits. Sweden’s Mikael Håfström, Oscar-nominated for Evil, and with Stephen King, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone all gracing his CV, sits in the director’s chair. Nods to Guy Ritchie, Game of Thrones, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Tarantino are apparent, as well as a pinch of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom, that classic study in Dano-Swedish animosity.

Von Trier’s furious doctor gets a run for his money with Claes Bang’s grandiose portrayal of King Christian (“Fucking… Swedish… PEASANTS!”), a succulent piece of ham acting. Similar high-octane sentiments are aired by Jakob Oftebro as Trolle, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard as Danish commander Didrik Slagheck (“Good morning… STOCKHOLM!” he roars before a new batch of beheadings) and Ulrich Thomsen as yet another treacherous clergyman, Hemming Gadh. Actors and characters alike enjoy themselves royally, spouting senseless anachronistic dialogue. Shakespeare may be yet another inspiration here, but the language is hardly the Bard’s.

There are women, too. Kristina Gyllenstierna, soon-to-be widow of the Swedish regent Sten Sture, is given a fair amount of dignity by Emily Beecham. Wholly fictitious are the two young Swedish sisters Anna and Freja Eriksson, who survive a family massacre and set out for revenge. Badass Kill Bill-like tactics are put to good use by Sophie Cookson and especially Alba August, who crouches like a tiger, hides like a dragon and is a mean archer. There’s a frantic dance routine at the coronation ball (“Pa-a-rtyy!” bellows the king) and a Stockholm syndrome joke. As for the execution scenes, a film title from a Monty Python sketch springs to mind: “Buckets of Blood Pouring out of People’s Heads.” The historical accuracy in all this madness is at times surprisingly intact, and the extraordinary coincidence of the film opening the very same week as an actual Danish coronation – that of Frederik X – suggests an almost divine PR intervention.

Stockholm Bloodbath was produced by Viaplay Studios and Nordisk Film. Its sales are handled by TrustNordisk.

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Film info

Film title







150 MIN


13,6 M