I have been a passionate lover of films and movies since my early teens, and even long before that. My first vinyl LP was a movie soundtrack – Cleopatra (1963) – and my second was a complilation of Western movie soundtracks. I soon realized that my approach to film differed somewhat from my peers; it had a great hallucinory and visionary effect on me that occupied my very being. Early formative childhood memories to that effect from television includes Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), King Kong (1933) and above all The Thing from Another World (1951). They all projected my consciousness to an alternative universe of imagination. One of my earliest cinematic experiences was watching a Tarzan-movie starring Johnny Weissmuller with my older brother; I don’t recall the title of that movie but still remember the overwhelming feeling of magic and wonder. Reading sci-fi literature in my teens, I always translated what I read into a movie script in my head. Luckily enough, my adolescense coincided with what I often refer to as the Golden Age of sci-fi, horror and adventure cinema. It probably begun serioiusly when I saw Star Wars back in 1977 in my hometown (Gothenburg). The visuals of that film transported me to a world with endless resources and the story of a young boy embarking upon a quest to search for his own purpose in life grabbed the very being of my soul.
Early essential television and cinematic memories includes The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The War of the Worlds (1954), Shichinin no samurai/The Seven Samurai (1954), Psycho (1960), Spartacus (1960), Yojimbo (1961), Fahrenheit 451 (1966), Fantastic Voyage (1966), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Swimmer (1968), If… (1968), Satyricon (1969), THX 1138 (1971), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Duel (1971), Deliverance (1972), Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (1972), The Man Who Would be King (1975), King Kong (1976), Mannen på taket/Man on the Roof (1976), Satansbraten/Satan’s Brew (1976), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979), Moonraker (1979), Apocalypse Now (1979), The Warriors (1979), Alien (1979), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Southern Comfort (1981), Das Boot (1981), Excalibur (1981), Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior (1981), Hammet (1982), First Blood (1982), Rumble Fish (1983), Octopussy (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), Scarface (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), Paris, Texas (1984), Dune (1984), Pretty in Pink (1986), and The Fly (1986) – movies which all to a certain extent layed a foundation for my basic outlook on film.
The VCR-revolution and VHS became a veritable portal to the world of cinema during these formative years in the early 1980’s, which included titles such as A fistful of Dollars (1964), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Dirty Harry (1971), Magnum Force (1973), Westworld (1973), The Exorcist (1973), The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Rollerball (1975), Jaws (1975), Logan’s Run (1976), Omen (1976), Death Race 2000 (1976), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Taxi Driver (1976), Carrie (1976), Cross of Iron (1977), Rabid (1977), The Toolbox Murders (1978), Halloween (1978), Mad Max (1979), The Fog (1980), Kagemusha (1980), The Shining (1980), Friday the 13th (1980), Altered States (1980), Raging Bull (1980), Blow Out (1981), Outland (1981), Escape from New York (1981), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Howling (1981), The House by the Cemetary (1981), Scanners (1981), Halloween 2 (1981), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Funhouse (1981), New York Ripper (1982), The Beastmaster (1982), Blade Runner (1982), The Thing (1982), Tron (1982), 48 Hours (1982), Videodrome (1983), Brazil (1985), Ladyhawke (1985), Lifeforce (1985), Legend (1985), Blue Velvet (1986), et al. Not to mention the majority of James Bond movies starring Sean Connery, George Lazenby and Roger Moore (a character that I admired as a young boy, but never came to see on the silver screen until my early teens).
I started to pirate copy rental VHS films and collect a catalogue of titles. My videotheque soon grew into great volumes. Already at an early stage did I start to admire (and envy) movie directors; early favorites were Akira Kurosawa, Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Roman Polanski, Sam Peckinpah, George Lucas, Werner Herzog, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter, Walter Hill, John Boorman, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Miller, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, and David Cronenberg, people that I still admire to this day because of their classical works from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Especially John Carpenter has been a great source of inspiration, as an auteur inside the industry, to the point of scoring his own music soundtracks for his would-be cult films. Already in my teens did I dream of myself as being a great director of movies, even writing down fake movie titles with the prefix Tomas Stacewicz’ (steeling that practice from Carpenter). Everytime I read a new sci-fi book I imagined it as my own movie adaptation. In the middle of the 1980’s I even partook in a independent shoestring budget short film as a Grip. Thus, being a filmmaker today has a origin and source in my boyhood and teen dreams. Only now, thanks to the digial film revolution, can I realise those original dreams – full circle.
But back in the early 1980’s making DIY movies was restricted to Super 8 and even though my father bought one such cheap camera, we never passed through the phase of making cheesy home movies; the picture quality was daunting. Although reality eventually caught up with me and I had to plan for my adult future, career wise, I never lost my love for the movies. It became my recourse and asylum from the boring duties and dull necessities of adulthood. Luckily, the golden years of cinema would continue well into the early 1990’s, with titles such as The Terminator (1984), Subway (1985), Aliens (1986), Platoon (1986), RoboCop (1987), Predator (1987), Le Grand Bleu (1988), Dead Ringers (1988), The Abyss (1989), Batman (1989), Total Recall (1990), Nikita (1990), RoboCop 2 (1990), Wild at Heart (1990), Naked Lunch (1991), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Alien³ (1992), Batman Returns (1992), Dracula (1992), and Léon (1994). During the late 1980’s I also had a intense encounter with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and watched a whole series of his movies at a local arthouse cinema (unfortunately, I don’t recall any titles), my first serious study of avantgarde cinema. Besides Fassbinder, five new stars would emerge in my own private hall of famous directors – James Cameron, Luc Besson, Paul Verhoeven, Tim Burton, and David Fincher, all who would continue making good movies throughout the 1990’s and beyond.
I emphasise these early formative years of my cinematofilia; movies have come and gone since the early 1990’s but these magically endowed titles I always return to and re-visit often, penetrate with my vision into their cores, to draw lessons of audiovisonary storytelling. Simply put, they don’t do movies like that anymore. Certainly, there has always been a obvious emphasis on science fiction cinema but since my encounter with Fassbinder I have felt a strong pull towards independent and avantgarde cinema, as well as surreal imagery. Some new directors I have taken to my heart, such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Quentin Tarantino, Lars von Trier, Darren Aronofsky, Christopher Nolan and Shane Carruth – but these old and classical movies from the 1970’s, 1980’s and early 1990’s made by true maestos of cinema still lingers with me and have had a profound impact on my taste and preference in movies. These films also express to a certain extent what I would like to do myself in my own ventures of movie making (and hopefully will post on this blog in the future). And this is the reason for my recount of my early movie experiences because like many directors and cinematographers before me, I believe that watching movies constitutes the most important film school that there is. Especially early film experiences accustomizes, conditions and sensitizes the mind to fully interpret and grasp moving images and dramaturgy; it becomes a true universal language.
Obviously, I have continued to explore new titles since the early 1990’s as they premiere in the cinemas or on video, as well as continuosly discovered unseen old classics. The well of cinema is virtually endless and there is still so much to be learned from watching new titles. But the gravity of nostalgia always pulls med back to my early movie experiences from the Golden Age of cinema. Such reference works, true masterpieces of cinema that I come back to on a regular interval for inspiration and teaching, and want to emphasise, are:
The Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961).
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980).
A fistful of Dollars (1964), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968).
Fahrenheit 451 (1966).
Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
Frank Perry’s & Sydney Pollack’s
The Swimmer (1968).
Dirty Harry (1971).
THX 1138 (1971) and Star Wars (1977).
Deliverance (1972) and Excalibur (1981).
Francis Ford Coppola’s
The Godfather (1972), Apocalypse Now (1979) and Dracula (1992).
The Exorcist (1973).
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and The Funhouse (1981).
Brian De Palma’s
Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Dressed to Kill (1980), Carrie (1976), Blow Out (1981) and Scarface (1983).
Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980).
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), Halloween (1978), The Fog (1980), Escape from New York (1981) and The Thing (1982).
Cross of Iron (1977).
Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990) and Lost Highway (1997).
Mad Max (1979) and The Road Warrior (1981).
Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982) and Legend (1985).
The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988) and Naked Lunch (1991).
The Warriors (1979) and 48 Hours (1982).
The Howling (1981).
An American Werewolf in London (1981).
First Blood (1982).
The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991).
RoboCop (1987) and Total Recall (1990).