The film “Stockholm” begins with the statement, “based on an absurd but true story.” The story that director Robert Budreau is referring to is the origin of the term “Stockholm Syndrome”. On April 23, 1973, escaped convict Jan-Erik Olsson walked into Kreditbanken in central Stockholm with a machine gun. After taking four people hostage, Olsson demanded his friend and current convict Clark Olofsson be brought to him, along with money, 2 guns, bulletproof vests, and a fast car. Olsson treated the hostages well, and they began to bond with him. Days later when the ordeal was finally over, the police were perplexed by the hostages' affection towards their former captors. Shortly after the bank hold up, the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined to refer to the psychological condition where a hostage begins to identify, bond with and trust their captor.
In Robert Budreau's film, the names have been changed so have some of the facts, but we are left with a fascinating character study & bizarre love story that is both dark and humorous. The year is 1973. Ethan Hawke is sublime as Lars Nystrom, an American raised Swede, obsessed with Americana who happens to be an ex-con. Nystrom walks into a bank in Stockholm, machine gun in hand, sporting a fake mustache, cowboy hat and a leather jacket. Lars is like a hybrid of Burt Reynolds as Bandit in “Smokey & The Bandit” and Peter Fonda as Wyatt in “Easy Rider.”
Lars holds up the bank, places a radio playing Bob Dylan on the counter and lets everyone go except for two hostages, Bianca Lind (Noomi Rapace) & Klara Mardh (Bea Santos). Lars tells Bianca to call the chief of police. Soon he is on the phone with Chief Mattsson (Christopher Heyerdahl) demanding he is brought his friend who is currently incarcerated, Gunnar Sorrenson (Mark Strong), one million dollars and a car similar to the one Steve McQueen drives in “Bullitt.” Once Gunner is delivered to Lars without any cash or a getaway car, a real cat and mouse game begins between Lars & Chief Mattson. At the same time, Bianca and Lars start to bond with one another. He plays her music. He lets her phone her husband. They open up to each other and begin to fall for one another. In fact, all the hostages, including a third hostage, a man that they find hiding in a back room, all start to trust their captors way more than the police or the Swedish Prime Minister.
I quite enjoyed “Stockholm.” The story was captivating, it was beautifully shot in a muted palette, the acting was excellent, the costumes amazing, the humor dark and the music, of course, was terrific (I mean it’s Bob Dylan, after all!). The film contained everything I truly enjoy about a smart character piece. The opening shot of the film is a close-up of Noomi Rapace as Bianca in her oversized glasses frames that match the color of her jacket. She’s reflecting back as her voiceover plays over her image. There is something in that shot that reminded of Terrence Malick and more specifically “Badlands.” I love “Badlands,” and if anything in a film large or small makes me think wistfully of Terrence Malick, it is my own little indicator that this is a film that will most likely appeal to me. And “Stockholm” most definitely appealed to me.
Synopsis: Stockholm is based on the absurd but true story of a 1973 bank heist and hostage crisis documented in the 1974 New Yorker article “The Bank Drama” by Daniel Lang. The film follows Lars Nystrom, (Ethan Hawke) who dons a disguise to raid a central Stockholm bank. He then takes hostages in order to spring his pal Gunnar (Mark Strong) from prison. One of the hostages includes Bianca (Noomi Rapace), a wife and mother of two. Negotiations with detectives hit a wall when (at the request of the Prime Minister) the police refuse to let Lars leave in a getaway car with the hostages. As hours turn into days, Lars alternates between threatening the hostages and making them feel comfortable and secure. The hostages develop an uneasy relationship with their captor, which is particularly complex for Bianca, who develops a strong bond with Lars as she witnesses his caring nature. This connection gave rise to the psychological phenomenon known as “Stockholm syndrome.”
Production company: Darius Films
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Noomi Rapace, Mark Strong, Christopher Heyerdahl, Bea Santos, Thorbjorn Harr
Director/Writer: Robert Budreau
Producers: Nicholas Tabarrok, Robert Burdreau, Jonathan Bronfman
Executive Producers: Scott Aversano, Jason Blum, William Santor, Will Russell-Shapiro
Director of Photography: Brendan Steacy
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Rated: R for language and brief violence
Release Date: April 19th in Los Angeles & New York, April 26th Nationwide