DVD: The Last Sentence

LastSentenceDVDSTUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Jan Troell | CAST: Jesper Christensen, Ulla Skoog, Pernilla August, Björn Granath, Lia Boysen, Maria Heiskanen, Johanna Troell
DVD RELEASE DATE: 10/21/2014 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: featurette
SPECS: PG | 115 min. | Foreign language drama | 1.85:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Swedish with English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall


Jan Troell’s The Last Sentence attempts to add yet another fresh look at Hitler’s effect on humanity, this time through the eyes of Swedish newspaper publisher Torgny Segerstedt–an actual historical figure whose outspoken criticism of Nazi Germany earned him death threats and scorn. But while The Last Sentence manages to hit its mark on several levels, it misses the boat on what should have been a riveting, fascinating tale.

It’s tough to know if the filmmakers were being too faithful to dramatically weak source material, or whether they simply weren’t sure what they were trying to say. Regardless, there are plenty of rich elements in here asking to become a great film. You’ve got a neutral Scandinavian country that wants nothing to do with the war, yet finds itself threatened by not only Germany but an advancing Russia as well (it helps to remember that these two countries were actually working together until mid-1941.) In the event of invasion, Sweden isn’t sure who’s the lesser of two evils, and they don’t really want to find out—which is why Segerstedt’s incendiary, anti-fascist newspaper editorials are so problematic.

Jesper Christensen is Torgny Segerstedt in The Last Sentence

Jesper Christensen is Torgny Segerstedt in The Last Sentence

At first, Segerstedt (Jesper Christensen) is hailed as a hero by a solidarity-seeking Scandinavian press, but as the war trails on, his friends become fewer, pulling away as they realize Segerstedt’s outspoken crusade is more a liability than an asset. Segerstedt himself doesn’t seem to notice (or care about) this political shift. Given everything I’ve just mentioned, you might find it surprising to know a good part of the film has nothing to do with the war; it instead follows Segerstedt’s soap-opera personal life: a steamy affair with the Jewish wife (Pernilla August) of the owner of a rival newspaper—a suffering woman who’s simultaneously tortured by the loss of a son a decade ago and her husband’s icy distance. The drama plays out while Hitler’s movements continue in the background, an interesting narrative device that never quite builds into something.

The problem is that a lot of the scenes are just plain boring. Characters trade predictable lines about infidelity and broken relationships, yet never evolve past these clichés. Perhaps this is exactly how the history actually transpired; perhaps these people were actually just as bland as the film paints them out to be. But if so, director Troell and writer Klaus Rifbjerg should have taken whatever liberties they needed to tell a tale worth remembering. It doesn’t help that the film employs an odd narrative gimmick of having Segerstedt constantly visited by the ghosts of all the women that held an important part of his life. It’s a heavy-handed device that adds nothing whatsoever to the story.

The dichotomy between the fiery idealist fighting against the political tide and the emotionally-aloof womanizer who seems to chew up and spit out every woman he hooks up with sounds much more interesting on paper than it comes off in the film. The Last Sentence is full of great elements—gorgeous cinematography, steady directing, top-notch acting, fascinating history, and huge moral dilemmas—yet you never really find out what Segerstedt’s deal is in regards to anything. Top-ranking government officials threaten to shut him down, but no one ever does. His women literally die broken-heartedly, yet Segerstedt never seems to care. At some point in the film, you realize, neither do you.



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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.