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View From a Window
Gunvor Nelson & Sara Broos

On View From a Window
Gunvor Nelson calls me. This is early in 2020, during the pandemic. She will soon be 90, can’t travel from Kristinehamn in Värmland to Stockholm, where she has an apartment. She has started filming from her window on the third floor on Kronobergsgatan, but hasn’t got that far. She asks if we could finish the film together. It will be her last, she says. We both live in Värmland, having returned there after many years in other places, and have met briefly on various occasions ever since I was a child. At twenty, when I made my first attempts at filmmaking, Gunvor was already my role model, not least for her singularity and free approach to art, her sense of detail, rhythm and moods. She had seen a short film by me and told me she liked it. I was so full of self doubt and sometimes it can be pivotal that someone sees you at exactly the right moment. Gunvor reminded me of the importance of following your own path, that there is no formula, that every film has its own form.

Gunvor gives me the keys to her flat in Stockholm, and trusts me with staying there and using her camera. She sets the frame, literally a window. A view. Of a park. The study, with its old cutting table, masses of film reels, 35 mm, 16 mm, books, art on the walls. I like standing at that window looking out at the rocky park with winding paths, a nursery school, a graveyard, two park benches, a urinal, a children’s playground, tall beautiful trees. The sweet scent in her flat, the atmosphere. I get to know her little corner of the world, the people there. Seeing how the trees lose their leaves, how the snow falls, and how the vegetation starts budding after the winter sleep. How people move at different speeds depending on the season and temperature. Everyone is going somewhere. Their lives intersect for a few short seconds in a random choreography. Kids sledding, folks walking their dogs, garbage cans being emptied, roadworks, food deliveries, the postman passing the same time every day. I stand for hours, sometimes in the middle of the night or early morning. With only one limited space. Moments of life going on in a constant flow. Cyclically. Time passing. People moving up and down the rocks as if choreographed. And sometimes the park is completely empty.

We meet several times in her home in Kristinehamn, me sleeping on the couch in the big studio in the basement. We eat avocado, drink freeze dried powdered coffee and view the material together. We go for walks and discuss family, love, relationships and Gunvor share memories from her childhood. She tells me about her life, asks a lot about mine. Working together turns us into close friends and I discover new sides to her, layer upon layer. Gunvor proves to be one of the funniest and most genuinely inquisitive people I’ve ever met. And though her body is sometimes weak or hurting, her voice is always distinct and alert. I look into her face. So open and transparent. Seeing timelessness. A face that holds all ages. She is incapable of artifice, cannot hide what she feels or thinks. We discuss taste, music we like, that which holds both beauty and darkness, she tells me about the shades of blue that she appreciates.

Gunvor suggests we edit two seasons each. She wants winter and spring, I get summer and autumn. It should feel like there’s someone in the flat listening to music sometimes, an artist at work, busy with art while life goes on outside the window. We regard the people in the park with love, noticing new details every time we review the material. A small part of the world, a microcosm. I have lent my eyes to Gunvor, she says. I was there when she couldn’t be. I think everything starts in our own approach, how we see or don’t see the people around us. The personal is political.

Sara Broos 

Aspect ratio 1.78:1 (16:9)
Prod. format Generic HD-video
Duration 01:04:30
Language No dialogue
Color Color
Sound Stereo
Year 2023
Rent this work for public screenings

About the artists

Gunvor Nelson

Gunvor Nelson

Gunvor Nelson is one of the most highly acclaimed filmmakers in classic American avant-garde film.

She grew up in Kristinehamn. (born 1931). Her mother was a teacher and her father was the owner and editor-in-chief of the local newspaper, Kristinehamns-Posten. On leaving school she studied at the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm, but moved to the US and California in 1953 to study art and art history.

Nelson met her husband-to-be Robert Nelson when she was studying at the California School of Fine Arts (from 1961 onwards, the San Francisco Art Institute). Robert Nelson is one of the great humorists of the American avant-garde. The Nelsons were a vital part of the new film culture that evolved in the San Francisco area and they played a key role in one of America’s oldest and most respected film cooperatives, the Canyon Cinema.

Gunvor Nelson made her first two films together with Dorothy Wiley, wife of the artist William T. Wiley, who in turn made films with Robert Nelson. Gunvor Nelson and Dorothy Wiley’s debut Schmeerguntz (1966) is a humorous and grotesque feminist classic in which the everyday reality of a young mother is contrasted with the ideal of the American woman.

An uncompromising filmmaker, Nelson has a unique voice in experimental cinema. She regards her own works as “personal films”, a recurring element of which is the connection with her own life and experiences. The early films are based around the experiences of a younger woman, culminating in My Name Is Oona (1969), an expressive portrait of her daughter, and Moons Pool (1973), an existentially expressive underwater journey which centres on her own body.

With Trollstenen (‘The Magic Stone’, 1976), which centres on Nelson’s family and upbringing, she began a series of films about Kristinehamn and her family. Typically for Nelson, elements which are local and private fuse together with the general and universal. Nelson’s family and generational study Red Shift (1984), and her painfully sensitive portrayal of her dying mother in Time Being (1991) are regarded as the high points of her family and hometown productions.

Around this time (1983-1990) Nelson also made a total of five different collage films at Filmverkstan in Stockholm, works which give free rein to her own associations and her experimentation with animated images. These films are often regarded both as Nelson’s most demanding and most creative works.

Nelson moved back to Kristinehamn and Sweden in December 1992, a homecoming already hinted at in her rhythmically edited collage film Frame Line (1983). Having returned to Sweden she quickly moved on to digital video and was rediscovered in Swedish art circles, resulting in a number of awards and retrospectives both at home and abroad.

Gunvor Nelson has also influenced several generations of filmmakers in her role as a teacher, primarily at the San Francisco Art Institute (1970-1992).

Sara Broos

Sara Broos

Born 1977, Broos lives and works in Värmland and Berlin. She makes mainly documentaries, essay films and video installations and is artistic leader for Alma screenwriting program. Her personal films transcends traditional boundaries, weaving together the authenticity of documentary filmmaking with narrative storytelling and the use of abstract imagery and non-linear editing. She combines elements of reality and imagination and has received critical acclaim for her ability to capture the nuances of the human condition and evoke raw emotions. Her films are a reflection of the intricacies of personal relationships, cultural diversity, and the universal human experience. Broos ́ films have received several rewards and have, in addition to regular theatrical screenings been shown at international film festivals all over the world, like IDFA, Karlovy Vary, Tribeca Film Festival, Savannah Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival, Potenza Film Festival, Mix Brazil, Sao Paolo, Side By Side LGBT film festival Sankt Petersburg, Gothenburg Film Festival, Nordic Days Lübeck, Krakow Film Festival, Planet Doc Warsaw, Kyiv International Short Film Festival, Inter Film Festival Berlin, One World International Film Festival, Prague, Doc Point Helsinki, etc. Broos ́ films and video installations have been shown at art galleries like PHI / Arts & Culture Through Contemporary Experiences Centre Montreal, Waldemars Udde, Liljevalchs, Sven Harrys, Liljevalchs, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Värmlands Museum. Her first experimental film received the award Best Film at Cosmic Zoom Copenhagen 2005, a formerly held film festival with an experimental profile and her work has also been shown at other platforms and arenas; the inflight program at United Airlines, Netflix, Way Out West Music Festival, Fusion Festival Hamburg, The Swedish Embassy Washington DC, American Swedish Institute, Minneapolis.