A review of the documentary, The Swedish Theory of Love

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I couldn’t help but shed a few tears when I watched The Swedish Theory of Love, a documentary film directed by Erik Gandini. Having been together with my Swede for over two decades, many of the points said in this documentary hit home for me. It is often an inner struggle to understand someone’s culture, especially if it’s so radically different from your own. And being of Filipino heritage, I totally got this film and its central theme of what it means to rely on family and friends to help one another, both financially and emotionally.
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The Swedish theory of love states that “all authentic relationships should be based on independence between people”. It is a theory that has been a foundation in my husband’s way of thinking, as it absolutely shows itself in his trusting personality and self-sustaining nature. While being independent probably has been a good thing for the most part, it has, however, spawned some unintended consequences that have adversely affected Swedish society in a very sad way. This documentary brilliantly explores these consequences even as Sweden is being hailed as a model country of peace, prosperity and freedom.
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The Swedish theory of love began as a conscious movement in the early 70s when Swedish politicians started planning a strong social welfare system built on these principles. Its leaders at the time fostered the idea that every member of society deserves the right and security of basic human needs such as shelter, food, health and education, as well as the more desirable social benefits of long vacations, family time and financial assistance during tough economic times. While positive at its core, the notion unintentionally broke the typical family and extended family units apart in Swedish society. The family was simply “replaced” with the government’s responsibility to care for its citizens.

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On one side, the theory advocates that people who are in a relationship are there voluntarily since one does not need to rely on the other for financial needs. In a world where there is still much injustice and disparity between men, women and children for cultural, political or religious reasons, the rationale behind this theory is largely positive.

But as the film poignantly professes – children don’t have to depend on their parents, women don’t have to stay with their men, and the elderly need not live with their children. The premise is that people are together because they want to be, not because they have to be. And even with good intentions, what eventually manifested as a result was a country with the highest number of people living alone, some in utter loneliness and dreary isolation.

I realized watching this fascinating film that this must be the price one pays for living in a country with a stable social safety net and with people who highly value their individuality and autonomy. While there are worse evils in the world, I think it’s worth analyzing the potential outcomes of a socialized system as a social phenomenon. It just goes to show you that people may be secure, but security does not necessarily guarantee true happiness in life.

Presented by HotDocs and The Swede Life in Toronto

The Swedish Theory of Love is playing at
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
506 Bloor St. West, Toronto, ON Canada
October 21-27, 2016

VIEW SWEDISH TRAILER (MOSTLY ENGLISH THOUGH): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adlntPoLV7o
VIEW OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n12Z9gKbI6Y

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Categories: Swedish Culture

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