Gerd Osten was a film critic and essayist who primarily published under the name of Pavane.
Gerd Osten was born in Gothenburg in 1914. Her father was a physician, whom she lost at a very young age. After graduating from school and undertaking language studies abroad she began a career as a writer. As a freelance writer her work was published in all sorts of newspapers and magazines, including trade union publications. Gerd Osten wrote film reviews for the cooperative organ Vi, the newspapers Aftontidningen and Göteborgs Handels- och Sjöfarts-Tidning as well as Bonniers Litterära Magasin. She later compiled some of the reviews written for these publications in book form.
Gerd Osten was a well-known voice in the Swedish film debate for a couple of decades. She was not the first woman to write film reviews; it had been relatively common for women to write about film since the inception of the Swedish film industry, as evidenced by the contributions of Elsa Danielsson and Vera von Kraemer among others. This may have been a reflection the low cultural status awarded to film at the time. Nevertheless, Gerd Osten’s ambitiously advanced theorising definitely made her a pioneer within the field of film criticism. In her written work she highlighted decidedly unconventional ideas and theories, resulting in her becoming both a well-liked and controversial figure
Nils Beyer summarised much of Gerd Osten’s work in an article published in the newspaper Morgon-Tidningen in 1956. He pondered how she had become not just one of Sweden’s most active film critics, but also one of the most respected. Beyer did not, however, believe that she was a particularly gifted critic. He also felt that she wrote in a monotonous, albeit well formulated style. He saw her success as resulting from her own personally motivated interest in cinema. The new cinematic realism, which she felt was apparent in the films of the 1950s, she viewed not only as representing progress in the art of filmmaking but also as personally important to her. The so-called Italian form of neo-realism became something like a revelation to her.
Jürgen Schildt described her contributions to film criticism in an article published in Perspektiv in 1952. He believed that she was one of Sweden’s most intelligent critics whose whimsical, disconnected observations and far-fetched speculations led her to risky conclusions with claims to logical validity.
During the 1940s Gerd Osten introduced psychoanalytical theory into her film reviews. These psychoanalytical attempts, which she often felt reflected more generally applicable psychological motives in contemporary films, generated some criticism. In a chapter contained within the book entitled Nordisk film, published in 1951, she raised the subject of contemporary film critique in an international perspective, directing a certain amount of criticism towards Wolfenstein & Leites and Parker Tyler, the doyens of the field. She believed that they were far too dedicated to discerning psychological patterns in films that were actually mediocre from an aesthetic-artistic perspective. She believed that the sociology of film, regardless of its significance, was more of a scientific method than a form of art critique.
Following this reappraisal of her approach, Gerd Osten turned her critical interests away from the subconscious elements of contemporary film towards the more realistic approach to filmmaking, which she felt was increasingly becoming the norm after the Second World War. She developed these thoughts in her book entitled Den nya filmrealismen published in 1956. The book was criticised for her use of over-generalisations and for her excessively far-fetched conclusions. Sten Furhammer raised this aspect in an article published in the Svenska Morgonbladet newspaper that same year, in 1956, claiming that she too easily ignored those elements which did not fit into her own system. Nevertheless, the same writer believed that one of her good sides was that she stimulated opposition to her ideas.
Gerd Osten was an early champion of particular figures within Swedish film who later gained wider acclaim from film reviewers. The esteem with which the young Ingemar Bergman would be held was by no means obvious on the release of his debut film, Kris, in 1946. The film was largely panned by critics. Gerd Osten was one of only a few who from the very outset could see what an exceptional director Bergman would become. A reason for this was that she was particularly interested in post-war existentialist trends, as expressed by the movement of Swedish writers emerging during the time, whose stylistic traits would be generalised as “40-talismen”. This existentialism was, in turn, based on the post-war nihilism that resulted from the destruction of various previously held truths and dogmas. In the book Nordisk film Gerd Osten claimed that very little of this was expressed in Swedish film, except for in the work of Ingmar Bergman. She was still critical, however, about the fact that his attempts were not fully borne out.
Gerd Osten’s 1956 book on the new realism within filmmaking highlighted Hampe Faustman and Arne Mattsson as exceptional in this regard. However, far from enthusiastically received by other film critics, this book only reinforced preexisting views that those two individuals were overly celebrated. Gerd Osten also wrote about genres which were otherwise neglected by contemporary Swedish critics, such as the immeasurably popular Swedish films set in the countryside, thereby providing evidence of her multifaceted and curious nature. Alongside her work in film criticism she also, like many others of her generation, nurtured dreams of directing a film of her own. Gerd Osten, along with other contemporary film critics, was keen to see the Swedish film industry reformed. She could be very critical of the state-approved film policy, as was apparent in the article entitled “Berget som födde en råtta”, published in Aftontidningen in 1951.
Gerd Osten’s daughter, Suzanne Osten, portrayed her mother’s filmmaking ambitions in her biographical work, Mamma, published in 1982. The book is based on her mother’s diaries between the years of 1939 and 1944. In addition to describing Gerd Osten’s personal relationships, including a longstanding love affair with a French refugee, Suzanne Osten’s book also reveals her mother’s attempts at making a film of her own. She approached a film company who explained that the company was primarily focused on making light-hearted films but might consider making a film about the war mobilization. Gerd Osten wanted to make a film about a strong female character but this was not to come to fruition. Instead, according to Mikaela Kindblom, Suzanne Osten’s Mamma from 1982, would most closely represent Gerd Ostens original vision. In it, the film’s main character Gerd, based on Gerd Osten, meets the director Bosse, a thinly disguised version of Ingmar Bergman. He, who is about to make that year’s angst-ridden film about freedom, invites her to serve as his script supervisor in order to gain experience, but she rejects his offer. In reality, Gerd Osten did in fact serve as Bergman’s script supervisor for his 1947 film A Ship Bound for India.
Gerd Osten’s own film production never exceeded a few shorts. In 1938, using the name of Gerd Baeckström, she entered a film festival in Budapest. She submitted another two shorts over the following two years, titled David and November, respectively. Neither of these two shorts have survived. However, two of her films from 1948 still exist, both of them dance films; Antonius och Cleopatra with Birgit Cullberg and Julius Mengarelli, and Zigenardans with Topsy Håkansson. Gerd Osten also took up work as a script supervisor on a number of productions.
Eventually, Gerd Osten began to suffer from serious psychological issues and was committed to Beckomberga hospital. She died in 1974 and is buried in Råcksta cemetery in Stockholm.