Review: The Brothers Lionheart – Bröderna Lejonhjärta (1977)


The Brothers Lionheart – Bröderna Lejonhjärta (1977)

Directed by: Olle Hellbom | 103 minutes | adventure, family, fantasy | Actors: Lars Söderdahl, Staffan Götestam, Allan Edwall, Gunn Wållgren, Folke Hjort, Per Oscarsson, Tommy Johnson, Jan Nygren, Micha Gabay, Georg Årlin, Bertil Norström, Mats Andersson, Ulf Håkan Jansson, Aksel Erhardtsen, Bengt Brunskog, Bodil Lindorff Lone Rode, Erno Müller, Göthe Grefbo, Per-Axel Arosenius, Björn Strand, Lars Nyberg, Egil Holmsen

The Lionheart Brothers, after the famous book by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, is one of her most unconventional stories. After all, themes such as chronic illness, death and the afterlife are unusual subjects in books for young children. Despite that, or perhaps because of that, the book is very popular. Olle Hellbom, who already filmed many of Lindgren’s adventures, directed ‘The Lionheart Brothers’ five years before his death in 1982. A totally different product from his earlier films, here no frolicking children in the lovely Swedish landscape, like the ‘Bolderburen’ or ‘Zeekraai’ films, but an exciting adventure, with battles with soldiers and a creepy dragon.

The main character is Karel Leeuw, affectionately referred to as Kruimel by his older brother Jonatan. Karel is seriously ill and hears in the beginning of the film that he will die soon. The boy is completely idolized of his hero Jonatan, who soon proves that he deserves this adoration by saving his brother’s life in a fire. This will be fatal for him. Consumed by grief, the weak Karel dies after a few days. Fortunately, the two meet again in the mythical realm of Nangijala. For a moment the two brothers are very happy, but when Jonatan tells his brother about the evil Tengil, who tyrannizes the neighboring Bramendal, the carefree life is quickly over. Jonatan decides to leave the peaceful Kersendal to end Tengil’s rule. Karel remains behind in the Kersendal, but one night when he is called in a dream by Jonatan, he makes the courageous decision to follow his brother. This is the beginning of a series of exciting adventures, in which the brothers more than once demonstrate their bravery and go to war against the evil of Tengil.

The young actor Lars Söderdahl in the role of Karel is especially convincing, so it is this character that will melt the hearts of the viewers. Compared to his lifelike performance, the acting of his screen brother Staffan Götestam looks a bit pale, but that doesn’t really disturb, because Karel is the central character. In addition, the other most important role, that of Mattias, is played by the Swedish top actor Allan Edwall, who again puts in an excellent performance. His interpretation of the character from Astrid Lindgren’s book is perfect and completely believable. The budget of the film should of course not be compared with that of major Hollywood productions. This is visible in various scenes, where the actors are clearly projected in front of a screen. It is also as clear as a log that the dragon Katla is fake. This makes it much less terrifying than in the book. But luckily, more is suggested than that the monster actually comes into the picture. Suggestion is also a frequently used tool in the film, making the film also suitable for younger viewers (from the age of seven or eight). Although people regularly die in the film, this is never explicitly depicted and the fights are not too violent either. However, the film is exciting until the last scene and partly thanks to the unusual ending, ‘The Lionheart Brothers’ will remain in your mind for a long time. That’s why you like to take for granted that the film lacks an expensive appearance.

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