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monica z, biographical film, biography, review, biopic

Monica Z (2013) 

The Law of Jante is a uniquely Scandinavian concept that basically boils down to one rule... You're not to think you are anything special. It is a directive that Monica Zetterlund’s father dogmatically adheres to and expects his daughter to follow. He may have had more luck with the makers of this biopic which, despite an impressive debut from Edda Magnason in the title role, is nothing special.

Telephone operator by day, jazz singer at night, Monica frequently calls upon her parents to care for her daughter while she pursues her dreams.  An opportunity to perform in New York proves too good an opportunity to pass up, even if it means missing another Christmas at home. A pivotal encounter with jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald convinces her to stop singing about New Orleans and start performing in her native tongue. Fame and fortune follows, but the challenges of being a single parent don’t disappear.

Singer-songwriter Magnason in the main attraction here, putting her own spin on Zetterlund’s hits in the nicely staged musical numbers while deftly handling the dramatic demands of the role. Yet despite her best efforts, the film fails to make you care about a character who is unrepentantly indifferent to the feelings of others. Cycling through a series of relationships, either real, exaggerated or imagined, Monica’s quest for self-gratification comes at the expense of those closest to her. Though her father is portrayed as somewhat of an ogre, his concern for his granddaughter’s care does not seem unreasonable, even if she seems unscathed by Monica’s laissez-faire approach to parenting.

Incidentally, both Monica and her daughter Eva-Lena appeared together in Jan Troell’s 1971 epic The Emigrants.

Edda Magnason, Monica Zetterlund, Oskar Thunberg, Vilgot Sjöman, Johannes Wanselow
Beppe Wolgers, Harry Friedländer, Hasse Alfredsson, Jörgen Thorsson, Tage Danielsson

“From the outset …I didn’t want to make a film just about Monica’s real life. I want to show her myth, her musical legacy which is important to understand her personality. [We] wanted to focus on Monica in the early 60s so we took liberties in putting together moments of her life so that they would take place within 1-2 years.”

Per Fly (writer / director)

Tom Ahland, who made a documentary about Zetterlund in 1989, objected to the film portraying her father as "a grumpy, sour, sad, rude, self-indulgent and resentful piece of shit …in fact, [he] always stood by Monica's side and supported her, no matter what she did, both on stage and in private."

Amelia Fowler, Ella Fitzgerald, Henrik Ståhl	, Povel Ramel, Andréa Ager-Hanssen, Lena Nyman
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