Review: Ronja the Robber’s Daughter – Ronja Rövardotter (1984)

Ronja the Robber’s Daughter – Ronja Rövardotter (1984)

Directed by: Tage Danielsson | 126 minutes | drama, family, adventure, fantasy | Actors: Hanna Zetterberg, Dan Håfström, Börje Ahlstedt, Lena Nyman, Per Oscarsson, Med Reventberg, Allan Edwall, Ulf Isenborg, Henry Ottenby, Björn Wallde, Tommy Körberg, Rune Andersson, Claes Janson, Bo Bergstrand, Rolf Dahlgren, Verner Hemmingsen, Bo Malmborg, Ricky Bruch, Anders Alben, LO Abrahamsson, Lennart Aspegren, Lennart Cederberg, Håkan Freij, Carl Hellberg, Zaid Hooshidar, Stefan Kumberg, Arne Liljenberg, Arne Rubensson, Lars Wallin

What child doesn’t dream of growing up among robbers, roaming in a dark forest full of strange creatures, catching salmon in a wild river and living in a bear cave? Ronja the robber’s daughter does it all. The film is based on the book of the same name by Astrid Lindgren, the mother of Pippi Longstocking. The legendary Swedish children’s author also wrote the script for the film. With success: ‘Ronja, the robber’s daughter’ is a joy to watch.

Ronja (Hanna Zetterberg) is born amidst a gang of robbers in a grim castle. As the daughter of chieftain Mattis, she will one day be at the head of the robbers. At the age of eleven she is finally allowed to go into the woods on her own. The wild Swedish nature that Ronja roams through is breathtaking. She explores the dark forest with her deep brown eyes. Ronja tastes a freedom that few eleven-year-olds have today. Nature is her school and she is completely absorbed in it. But there are all kinds of strange creatures lurking. Harpies, black dwarves and butt gnomes. On her rambles through the forest, Ronja meets them all and learns how to deal with them. The butt gnomes, who live in caves, do no harm, but in everything Ronja does, ask why she does it. This provides both comical and tense moments, because when Ronja is in a pinch, the gnomes are too bad to help. They only wonder why Ronja is screaming for help.

Every evening Ronja returns to the robbers’ castle where the robbers eat, roar, sing and dance. The singing and dancing of the men is a spectacle in itself. For a group of robbers, the company is quite talented. As a viewer you will be completely absorbed in the cozy, busy atmosphere. The role of old Bald Per (Allan Edwall) as robber chief Mattis’ jester is fantastic. One day Ronja meets Birk (Dan Håfström) in the woods. He is the son of Bork, the robber chieftain with whom Ronja’s father Mattis has a long-standing feud. Initially Ronja is still a bit distant, but the two soon become good friends. Meanwhile, their fathers can’t air or see each other and that causes problems.

Zetterberg plays Ronja as if she herself grew up in a gang of robbers. Like a real robber’s daughter, she doesn’t mince her words. Håfström’s appearance may be a bit too angelic for the tough Birk, but the interaction with Zetterberg works well for him. The pure play of the two teenagers, the images of the enchanting Swedish nature and the polyphonic singing of the robber gang makes ‘Ronja the robber’s daughter’ a gem of a children’s film, where no adult will be bored.

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