Looking for something a bit different from Scandinavian cinema? Why not indulge in some beloved childhood classics recently adapted for the screen and starring Sweden’s it-child.

Lukas Holgersson is big in Sweden right now. At the age of 13, this fiery haired boy is already the star of a successful series of children’s detective films (Lasse Majas Detektivbyrå) based on the popular Swedish books of the same name, written by Martin Widmark and illustrated by Helena Willis. Before its big screen outing, Lasse Majaswas the 2006 SVT Christmas calendar broadcast. The second film in the series – Skuggor över Valleby (Shadows over Valleby) landed in Swedish cinemas mid-October. Lukas has also landed the lead role in the family blockbuster Pojken med guldbyxorna (The boy with the golden trousers) which hit Swedish cinemas in September.

Lasse Majas Detektivbyrå: Skuggor över Valleby (2014)

Lasse (Lukas Holgersson) and Maja (Amanda Pajus) are two young children working for the local police force in the small town of Valleby. The police chief (Tomas Norström ) isn’t the most competent man and so they risk being closed down. When the prestigious auction company Granats comes to town, Lasse and Maja see the opportunity to save Valleby police station and their friend by doing whatever it takes to protect the wealthy possessions. They set up high-tech surveillance systems and arrange for round the clock protection, but it fails almost instantly. Pieces from the auction start to go missing and it’s reported that the notorious shadow art thief has returned. With pressure from the neighbouring town’s chief officer, Lasse and Maja really have their work cut out for them!

Based on a popular series of children’s books, LasseMajas is an interesting take on the crime genre. It adds an interesting layer to an already strongly developed genre by adapting and reinterpreting characteristics of the crime genre and placing them into a more colourful and playful milieu aimed at children. Unfortunately,LasseMajas is only on general release in Sweden. There’s no international release so far, but with Widmark’s books slowly being translated into English perhaps it isn’t long before the films are released in Europe.

Skuggor över Valleby is a rather simple tale and those who are clued up to the crime genre can guess who the criminal is straight away. This might seem like a waste of time for most adults but the film is much more fun when you try to place yourself in the mind-set of a child and enjoy the elements of comedy that are on offer. Solsidan’s Henrik Dorsin plays the prestigious auction owner, Carl-Magnus. Dorsin is a strong comedic actor and most of the laughs come from his character’s over-exaggerated French accent. Carl-Magnus is also fitted out with a sidekick, the faithful but shifty Necker, played by Sofia Rönnegård. Actress, comedian and TV chat show host Babben Larsson is also along for the ride as Valleby’s media reporter.

Lasse and Maja are very mature for their age and they have adapted so quickly into the adult world. With the advancement in technology and the reliance on its uses, it seems only natural that children – who are at the forefront of all this change and development – are the ones solving the crimes. Child actors Lukas Holgersson and Amanda Pajus have also matured in their roles. In the first outing – Von Broms Hemlighet (2013) – Amanda was dressed like a young Pippi Longstocking with pink hair in pigtails and now she’s emitting more of a Nancy Drew vibe. Lukas has traded in his spiky hair and skaterboy style for a more mature, slick TinTin appearance.

A lot of Swedish children are encouraged to think independently and their most popular role models can be found in classic literature i.e. Pippi Longstocking and Emil created by Astrid Lindgren.(1)   Lasse and Maja represent this Swedish custom by being one step ahead of all the adults; they think for themselves and question and adapt current methods of crime solving in order to crack each case. They don’t hold the same position in society as Astrid Lindgren’s romanticised characters, rather they offer a new kind of fantasy and escapism for children.

Between 1946-1953 Astrid Lindgren created the character Kalle Blomkvist (Bill Bergson in English), a young boy who solved crimes with his friends without the help of adults.(2)  These stories seem to have more in common with the likes of The Secret Seven (Enid Blyton) but Lindgren’s child detective most definitely helped to pave the way for the kid detective subgenre.

This series of films are also the first films in Sweden to make use of green screen technology. The objects the actors come into contact with are real but all the sets are digitally created. It enhances the playfulness of the story and the film’s milieu. In fact, the film has a similar feel to the Icelandic children’s television series LazyTown.

Pojken Med Guldbyxorna (2014)

Film posters for Pojken med guldbyxorna contain the quotes ‘This year’s biggest adventure film,’ and ‘A classic for a new generation.’ Based on the 1967 novel by Max Lundgren, the film already has a lot of nostalgia built around it. It’s a beloved Swedish classic that was adapted into a TV series in 1975. There are plenty of adults who grew up with the book and the 70s TV version and now they can experience a new, updated, action-packed version with their children.

The film previewed in Gothenberg on August 4th and then Danske Bank sponsored the film and held free previews for its customers in Stockholm a few weeks before the film went national. The film then became the number 1 box office smash in Sweden in its first week of national release.(3)

Mats (Lukas Holgersson) is a young teenager forced to move in with his father. His father hasn’t played much of a role in his life so Mats is extremely reluctant. However, one day luck strikes when he’s out with his friend, David (Olle Krantz), and comes across a pair of trousers. When he puts on the trousers and reaches into the pockets he finds some money. At first it’s just small notes and then as time moves on the notes increase in value. Naturally, David and Mats go shopping; buying everything they could ever wish for, but the trousers become a burden and there’s a local businessman out looking for the trousers and he’s willing to kill for them.  Meanwhile, Mats father is chasing the story of the missing money which is disappearing from hundreds of banks. He thinks there’s a conspiracy and he’s soon a target. Mats must race against the clock to save his family and restore order.

Pojken med guldbyxorna makes many references to the classic TV series, including setting Mads in the same yellow and blue Swedish t-shirt worn by actor Harald Hamrell in the television series. But this is a classic for a new generation and director Ella Lemhagen and her team of writers have favoured the James Bond action look. The opening credits bathed in fire strongly imitate the classic James Bond credit sequences. Mats also finds himself with a female sidekick, blue-haired Lisbeth Salander wannabe Livli (Nina Sand).

When you’re a child and you first learn about money or receive money it burns a hole in your pocket; you’re itching to spend it. In fact, no matter how old you are there are always lessons to be learned about money and what’s the best thing to do with it. Mats has more money than he could ever dream of, but the film poses the question: ‘can money really buy happiness?’ There are some touching scenes in which Mats tries to help the homeless and even send money to charity, but when he learns that the money isn’t created out of thin air he has a real responsibility.

So far, there are no plans for an international release even though the film has an extremely international style and moral message that can be translated the world over.

What’s Next for Lukas?

This may be the last we see of Lukas for a while as he has admitted to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that just now he’s tired of lead roles because they take so much time. He has other commitments such as school and he finds it very strange to be called an actor by his friends.(4)

LasseMajas Detektivbyrå: Skuggor over Valleby and Pojken med guldbyxorna are still on general release in Swedish cinemas.

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Lizzie Taylor is a British citizen working and studying in Sweden. She plans to complete her Master’s degree in Film Studies at the University of Stockholm in 2015.