Mai Zetterling 1925-1994

The Swedish actress and film director Mai Zetterling was born in Västerås in 1925. Having established herself as a popular actress in Swedish film, Zetterling moved to England where she acted in several films, among them 'Only Two Can Play' (1962) with Peter Sellers.

Portrait photo of Mai Zetterling
Portrait photo of Mai Zetterling taken in 1948. Photo: K. W. Gullers, Nordiska museet. CC BY-NC-ND.

She started directing in the 1960s with some shorts for the BBC, and then directed the Swedish feature film Älskande par (1964) (Loving Couples), based on the novels by Agnes von Krusenstjerna. Zetterling returned to von Krusenstjerna in her last feature film, Amorosa (1986), which is a portrait of the novelist.

With Nattlek (1966) (Night Games) and Flickorna (1968) (The Girls) she gained a position as an outspoken commentator on sexual and political topics. Dr. Glas (1968) is an experimental adaptation of the classical Swedish fin-de-siècle novel by Hjalmar Söderberg.

Zetterling published a volume of memoirs in 1985, Osminkat (All those Tomorrows). She died in London in 1994. Zetterling is recognised as one of the female pioneers of European cinema.

Further reading:

  • Mariah Larsson, A Cinema of Obsession : The Life and Work of Mai Zetterling (Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 2019).
  • T. Soila, A. Söderbergh Widding, and G. Iversen, Nordic National Cinemas (London: Routledge, 1998).