“The Last Sentence” a Salute to Free Speech
By Skip Sheffield
Sweden was ostensibly neutral during World War II. It was not easy. “The Last Sentence,” playing at FAU’s Living Room Theaters, is a black-and-white movie that illustrates just how hard it was to stay neutral in the face of such overwhelming evil.
“The Last Sentence” is the true life story of crusading Swedish journalist Torgny Segerstedt, directed by noted veteran Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell (“The Emigrants”). In the 1930s Segerstedt was one of the first to recognize the dangers of Adolph Hitler and his fascist Nazi Party. When war inevitably came, Segerstedt refused to knuckle under to pressure to stop ridiculing and criticizing Hitler and his thugs.
Torgny Segerstedt (Jesper Christensen) was far from a perfect man. At the beginning of the story we are told “No human being can withstand close scrutiny.” He was locked in a loveless marriage to a doting Norwegian woman, Puste (Ulla Skoog) and he openly carried on an affair with Maja (Pernilla August), wife of his newspaper boss and friend, Axel Forssman (Bjorn Granath). His also had a morbid fixation on his late mother.
Segerstedt ran up against his newspaper publisher, the Swedish Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson (Kenneth Mildoff) and even the King of Sweden. Through it all Segerstedt never backed down, even when threatened with job termination and the threat of death. If you care at all about the First Amendment and free speech, this is a reminder of how precious and difficult it is to stand for what is good and right even while everyone around you is compromising.