The Simple-Minded Murder

The Simple-Minded Murder (original title: Den Enfaldige Mördaren) is a 1981 Swedish film drama directed by Hans Alfredsson, starring Stellan Skarsgård, as the feeble-minded Sven Olsson.


The story takes place in 1930's Sweden, in Skåne to be more exact, and focuses on Sven, who is hare-lipped and therefore can't speak correctly. Most people consider him stupid and calls him an idiot. The movie begins with Sven and a woman, whom we later learn is called Anna, driving in an old car through the landscape. The sun is setting and in the sky Sven sees three angels. He and Anna hides in an old house and while Anna makes herself comfortable Sven throws a huge, bloodstained blade in a well. He lies down next to Anna and starts his inner monologue about how it all began. When Svens mother dies he is "taken care of" by Höglund (Hans Alfredsson), an evil man and factory owner. He is a member of the local Nazi party and lives on a farm. Sven gets to work on Höglunds farm without pay and he has to sleep among the cows in the stables were he is tormented by a rat. Being very goodhearted, Sven can't make himself drown the animal once he caught it. Because he simply can't take another life. Having read the bible, a gift from his sister, Sven imagine that he his visited by three angels from time to time, whom he speaks to in a clear voice. Making it clear that this dialog takes place in his own mind. One day he mets the wheelchairbound Anna Maria Johansson, who he falls in love with and after being to mistreated at Höglunds Sven escapes to Anna's family who gladly takes him in. At Annas house Sven is finally treated as an adult. He is given a real bed, he gets to work at their own farm and he is paid by Annas father, Mr. Anderson (Per Myrberg). "In real money", as he himself points out when Höglund comes and want's to take Sven back to his farm. Even though Andersson wins the argument Sven faints from fear. For the money he makes the motorinterested Sven decides to buy himself a motorcycle, a real Indian. But Höglund, who now is out for revenge, pulls some strings and uses his contacts in order to make sure Sven can't have a driver's license. After a long battle in the media, arranged by Anderson, Sven get's his license and starts to ride his motorcycle around town. Höglund however, does not surrender that easily. The Anderssons farm is set in financially crisis and Höglunds new chauffeur (Gösta Ekman) steals Sven's motorcycle and destroys it. Anna starts to scream at Sven, in her desperation giving him the blame for all that has happened. In anger Sven pushes her out of her wheelchair but immediately regrets his actions. Being furious at Höglund and all the pain he has put Sven and his loved ones through Sven takes a blade from one of Anderssons farming tools and marches of to Höglunds factory, followed by the three angels singing Verdis Requiem. After his attack on Höglund Sven steals the evil mans car and drives away with it, picking up Anna on the run and drives her to a deserted house where the movie began. It begins to dawn and the police starts to surround the building. The Anderssons beg for Svens life. A couple of shots are heard and the film ends with a picture of the sun rising over the southern Swedish landscape.

Awards & Reception

The film was loved by critics and viewers alike. It won, among other things, three guldbagge for Best Director (Hans Alfredsson), Best Movie and Best Actor (Stellan). Stellan also won the Silver Bear at Berlin International Film Festival for his role as Sven.

The well-known Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman also enjoyed the movie. Calling it: "A deep indignation, turned into a powerful fairy-tale. Hasse Alfredssons resources seems unlimited and my admiration for his creativity and the wealth of his ideas are absolute".


  • The story is based on a short chapter in Hasse's book "'En Ond man'" (An Evil Man). The chapter was called "Idiotens Berättelse" (The Idiot's story) and was an inner monologue held by the then nameless narrator.
  • Another inspiration for the movie came when Hasse first heard Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi. A song he found very powerful and he knew he wanted to use that in a movie
  • In preparation for the role as the evil Höglund Hasse used to curse and stamp on the ground in order to get really angry.
  • Hasse has stated in an interview that the character of Sven is loosely based on a real person, named Hans, whom he once knew. Höglund is also based on a real person and a scene from the movie, when Höglund throws a poor farmers money into the fireplace on christmas eve is based on a true story.


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