Fashion in Film: Svart Lucia (The Premonition)

For today's fashion in film, the subject is 1992 Swedish thriller, Svart Lucia (Black Lucia or Black Saint Lucy's Day) also know as The Premonition. It is one of those forgotten movies from a decade or so ago that we might have seen on DVD or as late-night movies on Cable TV. We vaguely remember these films and if so, what impresses the most is the enviable wardrobes and strong aesthetic they brought on screen. 

 It is for these reasons that movies are revered and make for a natural fashion reference. Movies are the holy grail of today's content-obsessed generation. I argue that Svart Lucia deserves a place in our consciousness and most especially in our closets.

Start Lucia is a beautifully shot film, nominated for Best Cinematography in the Guldbagge Awards according to the IMDB. It also performed modestly on the box office in its home country.
Stockholm Streetstyle 2016 from W Magazine, Photo by Christian Vierig
More colorful palettes at Stockholm 2016, Photo by Christian Vierig, Released by W Magazine
 What Svart Lucia clearly achieves, however, is a great demonstration of Swedish style. It is a precursor to the explosion of Scandinavian style in the recent years. It is their affinity for the "laid-back but at the same time sophisticated" look that sums up the Nordic region, as Christina Exsteen, a Danish designer explained to British Vogue last year. You could say, that this is the Swedes spin on the French's famed je ne sais quoi quality.

It is in this spirit that the characters of this film are donned in exquisite materials of leather, corduroy, and wool. Accessories are also given emphasis from pearls, hair ribbons, barrettes, and other headpieces. There is minimal to no visible make-up in their daily interactions but a gothic party on Saint Lucia's day calls for rouge make-up, which they pull off just as well.

 The main motif of this film is the shade of deep red that appears now and again. From a telephone painted in deep red to a waving, red ribbon tied to a tree, you cannot miss it. These subtleties are reminiscent of Dario Argento's signature color and same-titled film, Deep Red, and the iconic Suspiria, albeit, lighter in execution. This theme is noted by one film critic who goes on to say that the "dark and gloomy" atmosphere seems strongly inspired by the Italian horror genre heralded by Argento and his contemporaries.

In this sea of dark and foreboding atmosphere, one cannot help but wonder if it is actually set in Stockholm because what it evokes instead is the Russia of Dostoyevsky.

What springs hope and lightness, visually, in a rather bleak film is the image of Mikaela Holm, the protagonist of the film played by the fresh-faced beauty Tova Magnusson. She is the Hitchcockian blonde in this tragic tale. Her character shines as the cool but affected intellectual blonde among her colleagues at the university.

The key to Mikaela's look is striking yet classic details of gold hoop earrings, a pearl necklace, patterned silk scarves, red gloves, and headpieces such as a beret, a red hair ribbon, and that wonderful gold colored hair net she wore at Max's party.

Mikaela wears denim pants and leather shoes, long coats of olive and black and neutral toned sweaters, piled on as she did effectively with a long sleeve polo and a suit vest. Another takeaway from Mikaela's character is her red sling bucket bag that she carries throughout the film. She carries it with so much style and conviction you would want to buy your own as well, and it better be in red.

If we have Bonnie in her beret and scarf, we also have Clyde in a rougher version å la Michael Sheen as Kit in Badlands. Denim on denim, checkered polos, and sailor sweaters, Joakim is the learned renegade. He is played by Figge Norling, who exudes the boyish and free-spirited counterpart to Mikaela's collected demeanor.

A son of a divorced female artist, Joakim is an abstract character in his own right. His eyes are brazen and he smiles slyly with that unkempt hair, communicating a quiet confidence. In the beginning, he had a rugged look of denim and long coats, but by the middle of the film, his clothes vary with blues and dark browns. Later on, Joakim adopts a cleaner look with his black and white tux at the party. No matter what he wears, however, his bare white shirt fits him best as the self-professed outsider.

Another vital character and quite possibly the most fascinating of them all is the extroverted aspiring philosopher, Max played by Bjorn Kjellman. He is the definition of chic with his mainstay black coat ensemble, tucked in grey shirt and black shiny leather shoes, which he sports with gusto alongside his vintage black metal sunglasses. This is quite a character, interesting to the point of annoyance; he makes for an interesting mix to this tale.

Max is a closeted gay man; although he makes big declarations about his sexuality to everyone he meets. It is almost he like he is testing the waters before he fully reveals himself. Max's sexuality is a running joke to everyone who knows him, but it was not until Sandra's tarot reading that gave him the courage to embrace his true self. It was in his grandiose party that he celebrated his coming out and in real Max fashion, he went ahead and had eyeliner to boot.

Sandra is part of the university posse and obviously besotted with Max. Sandra’s look is at once feminine and easy. Comfort is her priority and baby colors of pink and cream are her palette of choice. She wears her sweaters over a white shirt underneath and at times ties them up into a knot.

Sandra's style and her curly untamed hair she ties with a black ribbon are reminiscent of the 80's, which is an appropriate choice of wardrobe for a sweet lovelorn girl who is bewildered about the object of her affection. Things start to look up for our lovesick muse when Max kisses her during the party and acknowledges her love. Sandra danced and swayed in her one-piece silk cocktail dress and the black bowler hat Max gave to her, naïve to the tragedy that awaits her.

Meanwhile, the couple that stands out in this film, Justine and Johan are the inseparable duo in every story. Justine’s quirky bow tie, silver large hoops earrings and blunt short hair strangely complement Johan’s varsity on and off look probably inspired by his gymnastics pursuits. While Johan sports wool sweatshirts on campus, he cleans up at the party and becomes the dashing escort to Justine’s Scarlett O’Hara-inspired, southern, regal number.

 Justine’s character certainly has a way with words. When she said, “Before, I hit on boys who are kind of shy. Yes, mysterious. I thought I would be able to figure out all their secrets. Then I realized they just kept silent because of how boring they were,” you know you felt that.

At the party, Justine declares, “Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful but men didn’t notice it when they got caught by her fascination.” Johan, on the other hand, thinks it's silly to kill oneself from love. Both have strong points of view and passion that led to a secret tryst on that fateful night and in result, the discovery of a dead body.       

A number of characters also made an impression, including Swedish Teacher Mr. Spielman and Mikaela's mother, Mrs. Holm. Mr. Spielman is an intelligent professor who recognizes Mikaela's potential as a writer to the point of stealing her work and living out her stories in real life (dangerous encounter with women and rough sex). This is a bizarre turn in the film in any case, but its serves as a diversion for the viewers and a foreshadowing of events to come. Mr. Spielman is often seen wearing suits and ties in corduroy with his black-rimmed glasses. He smokes and is the definition of a bohemian intellectual. His black shiny leather briefcase is a memorable item from this liberal character.

Mrs. Holm, meanwhile, is the inspiration of Mikaela's erotic stories from her abusive relationship with men. She of all people would know that, "People always reveal themselves," and that, "Some people you recognize at once." She is a sophisticated separated woman of a certain age. She has a thing with statement earrings and bold gold necklaces. She likes to dress in long and covered silk, flowy dresses in neutral and dark shades. She ties her auburn hair in a bun that makes her look dignified and untouched by the events that have unfolded in her life. Her bandaged arm, however, is a giveaway.

The ending of the film is a premonition that has come to life. It is a conclusion of an already decided fate. Heavy on philosophy and literature, this film directed by Rumle Hammerich, holds up wonderfully. But above all, the level of sophistication and thoughtfulness is so affecting even inspiring. Style wise, the Swedes are never lazy, just laid-back and a tad chic.