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The films of Rolf Forsberg


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#1 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:08 PM

Was just chatting with a friend who talked about PARABLE, a short film he used to rent during the sixties from the local Catholic media supply joint (though apparently it was made by Lutherans. Ah, ecumenism....). He'd show it at youth groups and such. No dialogue, set in a circus, Christ as a clown (kind of prefigures GODSPELL, maybe).

Anybody know this one? IMDb has some sketchy details, including a publicity poster that suggests maybe it's not merely a cheesy Sunday School movie - looks almost like Fellini or some other of the European directors who were the only game in town for mainstream Christians interested in religious imagery in film in those days. "Featured in the Protestand and Orthodox Center, New York World's Fair" saith the poster.

I'm fascinated.

Edited by Ron, 04 August 2005 - 03:27 PM.


#2 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:31 PM

Poking around, found other films by Rolf Forsberg, with even more sketchy IMDb entries. STALKED (not STALKER), ANTKEEPER, KING OF THE HILL. All appear to be under 30 minutes, allegory / parable / Twilight Zone type things. In seventies it looks like Rolf found a niche in (to me) less interesting "Christian film" making (LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, for instance), but I'm kinda intrigued by these early ones.

Nothing at all on ANTKEEPER. The Lutheran connection mentioned by my friend Rudi suddenly puts me in mind of a Lutheran film project, a treatment of a famous short story about a guy in South American fighting off a horde of army ants. Never saw the flick, remember wondering at the time what the Lutherans were doing putting money into an ant movie. Now I'm wondering if that's got anything to do with ANTKEEPER, and what's the other ant movie I'm remembering...

Here's IMDb user comment for STALKED; "Part horror movie, part Sunday school sermon. Imagine a remake of CARNIVAL OF SOULS, but instead of frightened young girl, you have a somewhat bewildered Jack Hawkins, and instead of a Ghoul Man pursing the girl, you have this dancing oddball with a Jesus Christ beard pursuing Hawkins. That's what happens in this oddball short. Hawkins plays an unhappy carnival owner who goes to Germany to visit his family. When he gets there, the whole town his family comes from is totally abandoned. Then this guy who looks like Jesus come in. It gets kinda strange........ no, really strange."

CARNIVAL OF SOULS for Christ! Okay, now I'm hooked...

Ron "I Was A Teenage Lutheran" Reed

Edited by Ron, 04 August 2005 - 04:26 PM.


#3 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:37 PM

Yup, someone dubbed me a VHS copy of Parable years ago, after I wrote some of my earlier articles about Jesus films. I believe W. Barnes Tatum mentions it briefly in his book on Jesus films, too -- ah yes, here it is.

#4 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:48 PM

Thanks Peter - I'll chase those down.

In the meantime, a couple blurbs I found;

PARABLE
This classic allegory without dialogue presents a Christ figure in a rather shoddy circus setting. He willingly takes the place of circus members in difficult and dangerous tasks, taking upon himself their toil, degradation and suffering, finally dying. In his life and death he brings about redemption and change. [NYC Protestant Council of Churches '64]Guide, 22-min.

ANTKEEPER (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)
In this classic, a gardener decides to raise ants to add to the beauty of his gardens. The ants fight among themselves, so the gardener sends his son to teach them how to live peacefully. The ants kill his son. A symbolic parable of Christ's redemption. [Lutheran Church of America '68] Guide, 27-min.



#5 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 03:50 PM

Hmmm... ANTKEEPER narrated by Fred Gwynn.

#6 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 04:03 PM

Okay, I'm now officially stalking STALKED. Here's an even more intriguing write-up at a blog called A World Of Zombies;

I have seen the light!

And by 'the light,' I mean that I have seen STALKED, a 1968 film produced by the Lutheran Church and directed by Rolf Forsberg (co-director of the scare film pseudo-documentary THE LATE, GREAT PLANET EARTH, narrated by Orson Welles!).

Admittedly, I've been in a bit of a rut recently when it comes to movies. Sure, I've been watching a lot of them, but most of my time's been spent revisiting things that I already loved, or in the case of TARGETS, hadn't seen in ages and had completely forgotten how brilliant they are. Or just watching LAST MAN ON EARTH for the upteenth time. But it's been a while since something come along to make me fall on my knees and give thanks the way I did when I first saw TURKISH STAR WARS, WILD ZERO, THE ABC OF SEX EDUCATION FOR TRAINABLES or ORGAN. Until now. Until STALKED.

STALKED opens in a carnival. Our protaganist is seen walking amongst the crowd, always filmed from behind. His thoughts (most of the movie is related via interior monologue. And the voice is Barry Sullivan from PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES!). He goes on at great length about how weak, unpredictable, and coarse people are while we're shown endless scenes of the yokels enjoying themselves at the carnival. 'Fools,' he tells us as a one-legged man hobbles by on crutches, 'to be exploited, not pitied.' Then it's on to the freak show, where we see midget Siamese twins, and a bearded lady cackling away while some hideous man pokes a stick at her. So basically, it's only few minutes into the film, and already I'm speechless.

We follow our anonymous protagonist into a wax museum, where the guide is showing the crowd a tableau of Salome and the head of John the Baptist. After a really weird moment where a girl strikes the same pose as Salome and stands perfectly still for a moment, the narration begins again. We learn that our 'hero' is the sculptor of the wax figures on display, and that he prefers wax to flesh because the (incredibly creepy) figures never age and can be polished with spit. Then he turns as the guide shows the crowd a wax crucifixion scene. The narration tells us that our hero doesn't love this one, and he didn't sculpt it, after which he completely loses it and pulls the curtains shut before collapsing. His assistant suggests that he take a vacation to get some rest, which seems like good advice, considering.

Cue the credits. Cue also the film's turning to stark, high-contrast black and white as the man flies back to Amsterdam to visit his family. He's apparently the only passenger on the plane. Then, in scenes highly reminiscent of ALPHAVILLE (Jack Hawkins, who plays the protagonist, even somewhat resembles Eddie Constantine) he wanders through a cold, sterile, apparently abandoned and completely automated airport. As he leaves the airport to pick up his rental car, he hears the sound of wooden shoes, and smiles because he realizes that he's back home.

As he's driving, the film goes back to color. He returns to his home, only to find nobody there. He hears the sound of wooden shoes again, and goes to the door, but nobody is there. Later, he hears the sound again, accompanied by knocking, but still nobody is there. He goes to the church, assuming that it's a religious holiday and that's why there's nobody on the streets of Amsterdam.

In the church, he sees a frankly hideous and terrifying Jesus at the center of the crucifixion scene, and this is where things get weird. Okay, weirder. The soundtrack turns to screeching that sounds like it was provided by Oskar Sala, and the man takes a spear from a Centurion's hand and stabs Jesus (right in his area, too. I'll leave the ramifications of that to more subtextually inclined reviewers). He then grabs a key, runs from the church, locks the door, and tosses the key in a fountain. In a scene straight out of a horror film, something starts pounding on the church door from within. At this point, the man runs away. At least I think he runs away, but the print jumps at this point, so it looks like he teleports, which is much more effective. Of course, by this point, STALKED has been so bizarre that maybe the jump was intentional after all.

Anyway, it just gets even weirder from here as the man runs through the streets trying to escape the sound of wooden shoes stalking him. He ultimately has his epiphany, which is somehow precipitated by a flaming calliope and dancing mute man in wooden shoes, and returns home to the carnival, where all the yokels stare accusingly at him, 'to love the unlovely.' Which I guess means he's accepted Jesus, but I'm really not sure how.

Mere words can't begin to describe how bizarre and brilliant STALKED really is. It runs a lean 28 minutes (althoug IMDB lists it at 47, which makes me wonder if there's genius that I'm missing) and often feels like the Lutherans got Fellini, Godard, and Bergman to collaborate on an inspirational film, only to end up with a surreal meditation on alienation and hopelessness. Unlike other similar films, where the weirdness comes from bad acting, dated beliefs, shoddy production values, and often humorous earnestness, the weirdness in STALKED (which is very professionally produced) is completely intentional, and I'm pretty sure it'd make a great double feature with Fellini's 'Toby Dammit' segment of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD. The isolation and stillness of the film is genuinely creepy, in a CARNIVAL OF SOULS kind of way. I've only seen STALKED once so far, but several images are already burned into my mind forever.

I'm honestly not sure if it suceeds as an inspirational film. After all, its message does seem to be that if you don't accept Jesus, he will put on wooden shoes and stalk you like a black-gloved psycho in a Dario Argento giallo until you do. And I certainly don't remember that being covered in Sunday school. If they had covered it, I'd have paid more attention. But I've certainly never seen a movie that makes Jesus scarier than STALKED does, and that's quite an achievement on its own.



#7 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 04:10 PM

Aha! Apparently STALKED is on a Fantoma DVD called RELIGION, a compilation of off-the-beaten-track shorts. Previous Fantoma titles include "Sex and Drugs & Social Engineering 101" and "Drivers Ed & On The Job." Here's their blurb;

Stalked (1969, 28 min) The Lutheran Church. A real oddity. A Hollander named Rolf Forsberg apparently talked the Lutherans into backing a 35mm abstract art film with movie star Jack Hawkins, co-starring Saeed Jaffrey, with Hawkins' voice (had he lost it by this time?) supplied by Barry Sullivan. It's like a Twilight Zone episode: Hawkins leaves his cruel Wax Museum to go home to an empty world in Holland, where he's haunted by a Jesus character in wooden shoes. Huh? There's some bizarre Christ symbolism at the end, and he returns happily to his carnival life. How any of this relates to any aim its Church sponsors might have is a mystery.



#8 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 04:19 PM

Rolf directed Ed Asner (!) as Prospero in a 1959 stage production of THE TEMPEST that Brooks Atkinson panned.

#9 Ron Reed

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 04:25 PM

Looks like Rolf was related to (married to?) Josephine Forsberg, who helped form the Second City troupe. (look here)

*

Yup, married. (Now look here)

Edited by Ron, 04 August 2005 - 04:28 PM.


#10 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 04 August 2005 - 04:50 PM

FORSBERG CO-DIRECTED THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH!?!?

STALKED STARS JACK HAWKINS (star of Bridge on the River Kwai, Ben Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, etc., etc.)!?!?

Gadzooks, the world is full of stranger connections than we ever dreamed.

#11 Glenn

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 11:03 AM

"Parable" was directed by Rolf Forsberg. Color, 22 mins. Filmed at Circus World in Baraboo, Wisconsin. A white-faced clown enters the circus arena and confronts abuse, racism, and violence with the true power of love, gentleness, and compassion, and challenges the viewer to reach out to others. The film has no dialogue, but calliope and a haunting circus music theme support the video presentation.
I initially saw the "Parable" in early 70's in Florida. I loved the film, and eventually tracked down the sole licensed distributor in Maryland, and purchased a copy of the film, before he went out of business. The film was produced not by Lutherans, but by the Protestant Council of New York, and shown at the New York World's Fair. The council was composed of the Protestant churches in the New York area (Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterians etc.). The original Council no longer exists. The film focuses on servanthood, and there is nothing in the film a Catholic would object to, other than the "presented by the Protestant Council of New York" in the films opening.
Years later, I was taking my young son to Circus World in Baraboo. When I got there, it seemed like I had seen the place before. Later during the day at the Hippodrome, I remembered this was the place the film was produced. Nice surprise, also a nice place to visit.

#12 Ron Reed

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 12:51 PM

QUOTE(Glenn @ May 26 2006, 09:03 AM) View Post

I initially saw the "Parable" in early 70's in Florida. I loved the film, and eventually tracked down the sole licensed distributor in Maryland, and purchased a copy of the film...

Thanks, Glenn. (And welcome to A&F!) So you're a producer. Of films?

The copy of PARABLE that you purchased, was it a video copy? Or film stock? Or?...

You've rekindled my interest in this guy. I must see if I can borrow Chattaway's video copy. Unless you live somewhere near Vancouver, Glenn?

Edited by Ron, 26 May 2006 - 12:52 PM.


#13 Glenn

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Posted 26 May 2006 - 08:56 PM

Ron, drop me an email off list. Glenn

#14 Andrew

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Posted 27 May 2006 - 09:52 AM

Ya know, I remember seeing 'Antkeeper' once or twice as an elementary school kid - my family attended a Lutheran Church of America church when I was very young, before moving on to a Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod congregation when I was 8 or so. I can still remember a couple of the film's scenes, particularly when the son is shrinking down to antsize and walks through a now-gargantuan spiderweb. The film obviously made an impression, if I still remember it.

By the way, I've noticed that 2 of Forsberg's films are available for rent through Netflix, though they look to be more conventional missionary biopics ('Peace Child' and 'Beyond the Next Mountain').

#15 cliver

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Posted 13 August 2009 - 04:47 AM

I saw 'Stalked' when I was at college in the early 1970s, at my college Christian Union meeting, and it made a real impression on me. I believe that the idea for the film came from the poem "The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson. In fact, it was through reading an excerpt from this poem today that I did an internet search for the film after all these years. The film, I think, was intended as a thought-provoker and a conversation-starter, rather than a theological treatise on the nature of God. In that sense, I think it works admirably.

#16 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 23 March 2010 - 12:26 AM

FORSBERG CO-DIRECTED THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH!?!?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FzQGKceYxE

#17 Photosuperman

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Posted 21 October 2010 - 07:47 PM

FORSBERG CO-DIRECTED THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH!?!?

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FzQGKceYxE"]http://www.youtube.c...h?v=9FzQGKceYxE[/url]


I know where “Ark” is. I am a good friend of both Rolf and his son Eric. We want to get the film transfered to DVD, we are just trying to come up with the money to do so, anyone want to help? Hopefully, other Rolf Forsberg films will follow. You can contact me through my website.

http://www.sdbphotography.com

I have met with Rolf and I now have the master copy of “Ark”, and we have found some of the other films that he actually owns and can copy and distribute. We are looking into getting them digitized and on DVD. If anyone is interested in getting copies of these films, (list to come next week), please let me know, donations will be greatly appreciated. The expense of transferring is not terribly high, but will add up to several hundred dollars



#18 Photosuperman

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Posted 29 October 2010 - 11:11 AM


FORSBERG CO-DIRECTED THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH!?!?

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FzQGKceYxE"]http://www.youtube.c...h?v=9FzQGKceYxE[/url]


I know where “Ark” is. I am a good friend of both Rolf and his son Eric. We want to get the film transfered to DVD, we are just trying to come up with the money to do so, anyone want to help? Hopefully, other Rolf Forsberg films will follow. You can contact me through my website.

http://www.sdbphotography.com

I have met with Rolf and I now have the master copy of “Ark”, and we have found some of the other films that he actually owns and can copy and distribute. We are looking into getting them digitized and on DVD. If anyone is interested in getting copies of these films, (list to come next week), please let me know, donations will be greatly appreciated. The expense of transferring is not terribly high, but will add up to several hundred dollars



Ark is now being transfered into a digital file and will be available on DVD soon, as well as Nail and King of the Hill. Much more to come. There is a new website coming very soon, http://www.rolfforsberg.com check there for updates.

Edited by Photosuperman, 29 October 2010 - 11:11 AM.


#19 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 07:27 PM

Darrel just noted in another thread that Parable was just named to the National Film Registry. I *think* this is the film itself here, though I can't be absolutely sure because it hasn't been formatted for mobile devices...



#20 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 02:47 PM

Whoops. Now that I've had a chance to watch that video, it seems that someone has monkeyed with the soundtrack; the YouTube caption says the film has been "remade by William T. Joyner, poet and observer of countercultural history". Sorry about that.

I have no idea if the original version of the film *is* available anywhere online, but in the meantime, I did find this interview with director Rolf Forsberg, conducted last year (his comments about Christianity Today "condemning" his film before he had even finished it are interesting):