Saki Kobayashi
Saki Kobayashi

A growing appreciation of insider and outsider forms of knowledge has guided much of the recent breakthroughs in the humanities. A new international student in cinema studies promises to challenge the dichotomy – to show that there’s no need to choose sides.

Saki Kobayashi was finishing her bachelor’s degree in Arts in Language and Culture at Osaka University when she unexpectedly fell in love with the works of Ingmar Bergman. The Japan-Sweden connection was highlighted by Bergman himself when he called his Virgin Spring (Jungfrukällan) a “lousy imitation of Kurosawa,” Japan’s equally esteemed auteur.

Osaka to Gothenburg to Stockholm

First Saki went to the University of Gothenburg and took courses in Scandinavian cultural studies. It was there that she started reading the work of Maaret Koskinen, Professor of Media Studies and honorary “Ingmar Bergman Professor” at Stockholm University. Soon, she was invited to join the film studies programme and began in August 2016.

Her first few weeks were a little rough, not least because of jet lag and a crashed computer, but nonetheless she’s really excited to be starting the next phase of her education. She’s taken on a new linguistic challenge – after mastering Swedish in near-record time, she’s now doing the same with English. “It’s hard at times, but it’s great to be surrounded with classmates who are both smart and kind.” 

Freedom to play with ideas

She’s also adjusting a different classroom environment. “There’s no strict hierarchy between students and professors like there is in Japan and other Asian countries. Studying here is more interactive and you get the freedom to play with ideas.”

While most scholarship on Ingmar Bergman has concentrated on questions of existentialism, Saki is more interested in the complexity of emotions and the role of women in his oeuvre, both as characters and as actors. For her thesis, she’s planning to expand her scope to include the work of Mai Zetterling who got her break as an actress in Bergman’s films, among others, and went on to become a critically acclaimed director.

Even though she’s just begun on her path to a master’s in cinema studies, there is no doubt that Saki - together with the coaching of the professors and the support of her cohort - is destined to do great things.

by Kimberly Parke