Simon & the Oaks (“Simon och ekarna”)
Two Families— Friendship and Destiny
Even though this film is set in Sweden during the Second World War, I kept thinking of a Randy Newman song, “In Germany, Before the War” as I watched things deteriorate from normalcy to lunacy. This is a film about two families and their friendship and destiny in Gothenburg, Sweden in the 40’s and 50’s. The story is told to us by Simon Larson who learns that he has been adopted and that his birthfather is a German Jew. When the war was over, Simon decided to find out he really is and began a journey of discovery and as he travels, he begins to learn the mysteries of life.
Simon (Jonathan S. Wachter as a boy and Bill Skarsgard as a young man) is being raised by his aunt and uncle and he thinks that they are his parents. When the movie begins, it is 1939 and war is breaking out in Europe. Simon goes to a fine school where he meets Isak Lentov (Karl Martin Eriksson and Karl Linnertorp), a Jew and soon the boys become fast friends. With anti-Semitism breaking out in Sweden, Isak becomes a persona non grata at school and Simon is his only friend. There is another big difference between the boys—Isak was raised in the city and is the son of a wealthy bookseller while Simon is from a working class rural family. It was the war that brought them together.
The film pulls us in by its wonderful performances. There is so much I could say about the plot but I will not because the movie really must be seen. When the boys are young the film is one of beauty and as they grow their lives become more complicated. Simon appears to be a bit egocentric and I will never forget the scene when he leaves his mother.