Making the invisible visible : reclaiming women’s agency in swedish film history and beyond
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Who coined the phrase ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’? Was it the ancient Greeks, the British poet John Lyly, William Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin—or in fact a long-forgotten British writer by the name of Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, writing under the nom de plume ‘The Duchess’, in whose novel Molly Bawn (1878) the phrase first appears in print? ‘History is in the eye of the historian’ is maybe a trite paraphrase, but it does spring to mind when reading this anthology about women in early and recent film history. The existing accounts of film history are remarkably one-eyed, as the contributors to this volume demonstrate. The literature’s cyclopean vision has resulted in women’s exclusion from film history. Women who owned or ran cinemas, women musicians who played in early cinemas—and even to a certain measure canonized women filmmakers like Mai Zetterling have, from a historical perspective, had their unfair share of oblivion, omission and neglect. Not even the women’s movement in the 1970s succeeded in putting the issue of women’s film-making on the agenda in a game-changing way. These examples make it obvious that previous generations of film historians in many instances, in the words of Ingrid Stigsdotter, ‘have tended to take for granted that women ... represented just an attractive front/surface, or were running the errands of a male manager’ or director, that women’s contributions did not merit the attention of a chronicler assessing things past. In other words, the women’s appearance and activities in various professional fields were simply if not outright un-natural, decidedly not the norm, and hence could be disregarded.
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