Drama1961-1970Elsa ColfachExploitationSweden

Elsa Colfach – Susanne [+Extras] (1961)


Whack! What was that you ask, well that was the impact of the Elsa and Kit Colfach’s only feature length film ever – Susanne. A grim tale of youth gone wild that will move you in more than one way. A shocking piece of social realism that finally gets a deluxe treatment it deserves thanks to the guys at KlubSuper8 – back after a way too long hiatus, and it’s a welcome release, because this is one hell of a special trip.

Susanne [Susanne Ulfsäter] is a young woman who lives with her parents, parents that don’t really give a toss about her and spend more time entertaining guests and complaining about their fair daughter and her appearance. Agitated by her parents hassle and moaning during their chic dinner parties, Susanne takes off to a café where a lad she’s attracted to, Olle [Arnold Stackelberg], is hanging out with his greaser mates. He invites her on a date the following evening during which they make out and drive way to fast – despite Susanne’s objections.
Olle obviously tries to cop a feel, but Susanne rejects him. Instead they booze it up, cops arrive and after a swift chase at high speeds they laugh off the police as they evade them. On her way home from that one night of randy drinks and fast cars Susanne and Olle crash head on into an approaching car giving the Colfach’s an opportunity to gloat in the aftermath of the accident. But the dead bloke hanging out of the windscreen of the other car is only the beginning as this movie is just about to turn nasty on you. The young couple are taken to hospital after a lengthy sequence showing Olle writhing in pain with his moans and groans being the only soundtrack playing, the ambulance personnel pointing out that the other driver would have survived if he only had wore his seatbelt. In hospital their treatment of internal organs is shown in all it’s gory glory – with real O.R. footage, as doctors try their best to patch them both together again.

Susanne has some wonderful trippy, erotic, guilt dreams whilst in a coma, and it isn’t The Wizard of Oz dreams she’s having because when she comes out she’s a changed woman. Instead of the tender, frail teenager, she’s now a hardened girl with a bad mouth and filled with urges she can’t quite control. Stuff you mom and dad, I’m gonna drink, ride and screw! The now promiscuous Susanne takes to taunting her parents, partying with the gang, riding in fast cars again, and taking advantage of all the men she can set her claws into whilst driving Olle up the wall with jealousy.

Realising that she’s preggers she takes drastic means to loose the child, but Olle stops her and makes an honest women out of her in the eyes of God to keep her from having an abortion. But their relationship rapidly deteriorates after the wedding and before you know it, Susanne is in labour after battling some heavy suicidal thoughts. Again Susanne’s mental state is question as she can’t bond with her child or find happiness in her current situation. Olle broken by the way Susanne acts decides that he’s had enough and leaves her. But after fate plays an evil trick on her that almost costs her babies life she comes back to her senses and finally matures into the responsible young mother that is expected of her.

Written, directed and shot and by the married couple Elsa and Kit Colfach, who both obviously held a great passion for movies, Susanne is a superb movie. A long lost, great movie, best described as an odd mix of a genre’s blending a warning to youth, coming of age and exploitation in a magnificent oozing cocktail. Editing duties where given to Carl-Olov Skeppstedt who previously and later edited several of Arne Mattson’s movies (See all swedish cinema ties in with the majestic Mattsson) , Torgny Wickman’s epic Ur Kärlekens Språk (The Language of Love) 1969 and worked with Vilgot Sjöman on his Jag är Nyfiken – En film i blått (I am Curious – Blue) 1968. Needless to say the Colfach’s where in good company.
Originally a surgeon, Danish born, but Swedish resident, Kit found that the increasing amount of motorbike related accidents he often ended up patching back together, where of growing concern. Armed with a camera he already owned, he decided to shift the focus from the usual family outings and make a movie that could act as a warning to the youth gone wild. Said and done the shot movie Blindbock was made. A uncompromisingly shocking movie that screened the aftermath of motorbike accidents. And it worked, according to the statistics – yes statistics, Swedes have always been anal for statistics – after the movie went theatrically, there was an increase in motorbike helmet sales.

Anyways Kit and Elsa screened their movie for colleagues at Kit’s resident hospital in Västervik and the ball was in motion. The national traffic safety board picked up the movies and put it up theatrically along with screenings in schools and youth centres. Kit’s light was lit and he followed Blindbock with a couple of documentaries and finally returned to his themes of the raised finger of warning – Susanne. Ulfsäter who never had any theatrical or movie experiene previously was simply the girl next door. True, she was literally the girl who lived next door to the Colfach’s and they couldn’t have made a better choice. So in a sentence you could say that Susanne is a testament to an amateur filmmaker who certainly left his imprint with this small masterpiece and finally has been presented in the best shape it’s ever looked.
If low budget, independent movie making at one time looked as good as this movie does, then I have to say that the simplicity of video has to be cast aside. Go back to celluloid even if it’s simple 8mm (if that even still exists) and learn the trade properly. – nah just kidding, but you really should watch this because if this is what two amateurs could pull off fifty years ago, there’s no reason why the shit that hits the scene today looks as poor as it does, there are tricks to be learned from old movies like this. And I’m still a sucker for grain, and hot, pregnant chicks chain-smoking…

The grain of the 16milimeter and that real footage of operations, the fully graphic childbirth scene (obviously not Ulfsäter, but some other woman’s strained soft lady-parts captured for eternity) along with Susanne telling her own story through voiceover adds to create an almost authentic documentary feeling. Even the amateur actors do a decent job of it, as they bring a fitting naïveté to the piece that suits it well. Technically the movie is somewhat of a small masterpiece. Completely different actors later added all the dialogue and there are very few spots where it shows. Kit was, as said a doctor, which gave him access to the operation theatre and delivery rooms, which is about as speculative as it can get. In the late fifties, real hardcore stuff like that wasn’t something you’d expect in your cinematic entertainment.

But Susanne isn’t all fun-fun-fun with fast cars, boozing, dancing and fucking, but also pretty harsh in the way it presents the heavy shit that can come in it’s wake – as said the main reason for Kit Colfach making the movies – and further more it has a lot of that great Scandinavian melancholy as it shows the way Susanne’s mindset deteriorates. But rest assure as soon as she picks up the baby from the hard tarmac, inches away from the screeching car tires, she breaks the circle and realises that she has the chance to give her child everything that she didn’t get from her parents in those opening scenes. Love, affection and attention, all good stuff that she’ll eventually get back as you reap what you sow here in life.
There’s a lot of American Driving Education scare tactics vibe to the movie, and that’s a conscious move on behalf of the Colfach’s as they wanted the movie to act as a stern warning to the youth of Sweden. Don’t Drink, Don’t Drive and definitely Don’t Fuck. Seems like their mission failed, as the Swedish Sin Boom would erupt just a few years later!

Enclosed on the disc as supplemental material you’ll actually find Blindbock – the forty minute short that was made before Susanne and if possible, Blindbock is even grimmer in it’s uncompromising warning to the dangers of racing motorbikes… and the consequences, portrayed once again through Colfach’s unique operating room footage. We may have a new contender in the epic question of who started the splatter niche here – or even the Mondo; because this is one sick puppy that hit the scene almost a decade before H.G. Lewis made his claim to fame or Jacopetti, Cavara and Prosperi unleashed the horrors of Mondo Cane.

The gimmicks that the yanks – especially the magnificent William Castle – used for exploitation movies – the old “nurses standing by, for patrons who may faint” tricks where a reality for Susanne, there where nurse’s where on standby to reassure patrons that there would be medical attention available if the movie proved to strong for them. During screenings of Blindbock a grand total of 25 people fainted during a screening of the movie in Örebro – a record undoubtedly unchallenged by anything that came after Susanne in any part of the world.

Review borrowed from the great Cinezilla (link)


Subtitles:English (srt)

One Comment

  1. Had the pleasure to help Kit Colfach with a film taken in Vanuatu in the 1960s.
    We remember him for what he did during WWII and his stories.
    Wonder if he is still with us.
    Joe Mulders
    Joe Mulders

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