Drama Movie

Sameblod A story about body discipline

The Sami, the indigenous people of the Nordic region, are a minority in Sweden today. Most of the people watching the film, like me, had never seen or even heard of such a people before. But the story clearly touched many people. What made us interested in the experience of a Sami girl? What corners of our hearts did this story touch?

Viewers from different backgrounds seem to have found in this story questions that confuse them, questions about national identity, cultural identity, or rather, physical identity. How to face the mainstream culture? How to understand one’s own culture? How does a person gradually bow down in front of a strong culture? Through the story of a Sami minority girl, the film provides a model of body discipline, nakedly showing the means of body discipline of a powerful culture. For the female protagonist, who comes from a different race, step by step in submission to such a culture, the story is suffused with the flavor of sadness.

As a Sami, the heroine lives her childhood in the Sami way, cutting off the ear of a reindeer and saying ‘it’s yours’. This is the ritual of taming the animal, through the violation of the body, to declare their possession. At that time, the heroine probably did not think about her subsequent fate. Singing a beautiful yoik (the Sami’s own form of song), the girl sends her sister to school and comforts her troubled sister with songs of her own people. The years are quiet.

Once in a school founded by the Swedes (the dominant culture), however, the girl is forced to look back at her body, which belongs to a different ethnic group, with various reminders. At the school, students were required to speak Swedish and recite Swedish poetry, and learn everything that was officially prescribed as ‘good culture’ in Sweden. In this, the high-achieving heroine begins to yearn for the kind of life she has learned, and the nearest Swedish schoolmistress is the symbol of this superior life. She sneaks into the Swedish teacher’s room and learns the teacher’s posture by crossing her little fingers and elegantly drinking a cup of hot tea. At that moment , she imagined herself becoming that teacher. She sneaks off to the party herself making sure to steal the teacher’s dress, even claiming to call herself by the teacher’s name Chissy, and in one such childhood adventure, she tries to become that teacher. She met the handsome young man at the party, and probably from that moment on, she discovered that being a Swede could be so wonderful.

But reality shattered her vision, pulling her back to reality every now and then, to face the reality that she had a different body than everyone else. When the inspection team came to visit, she desperately washed her hair and body, hoping to get rid of the reindeer smell. But when she washed away the physical symbols of her own people step by step, the inspection team still put the symbol of the alien barbarian mercilessly. They measured the skulls of the Sami students with calipers and scorned them for their stupidity. They even forced the female students to take off their clothes and examined their bodies like animals. The heroine, as the best student in the school, was called out to be the first demonstration. At this point, you can see the struggle in her eyes, but also full of desire. When she finally accepts the truth and takes the lead in showing her body without dignity, I wonder if she has already made up her mind to say goodbye to such a shameful identity.

Another important moment of submission occurred during a confrontation with a group of local Swedish delinquent boys. A group of boys mocked her for having a Sami body and finally found the opportunity to surround the bully, and the boys brutally cut off a piece of her ear. The bloodied woman stood up with a face more complex than humiliation. At this moment, I wonder if the moment when she cut off the ear of the reindeer in her clan came to her mind, if it was like a trial for the reindeer and a trial for herself saying “I am yours”. The Sami chose to hurt her body to force the symbol of possession, and when the “superior” people hurt and possessed her body, she finally admitted the end of being tamed and bowed down to a superior people.

Since then, she has been trying her best to bow down to the dominant nation, even if she is treated as an alien, even if she is not respected. There was something magical in the girl’s psyche that told her she wanted to live that seemingly superior life, that she wanted to be that superior body.

It was her own choice to flee to the Swedish city, and it was a hard and determined journey. And the examination of her own body never stopped. The Swedish university looked so beautiful, the girls were fair-skinned and tall, while she was short and sturdy, standing in the middle of a group of white swan-like girls, she had never taken a gymnastics class, she was probably infinitely ashamed of her body, and her determination to transform her body was stronger than ever. The college girls laughed and made her sing Yoik, and I could feel the torment in her heart. It was, after all, a symbol of the body as an alien. When she could hardly muster up the courage to sing the ditty, the young handsome guy she liked reminded her that maybe it didn’t need to be so long. I think, at that time, the heroine made up her mind to say goodbye to everything in the past. Everything related to one’s own ethnicity, in the eyes of others is just exotic, used to tease for fun, but no respect.

However, I wonder if this has inspired her to go to a reindeer lasso, to sell her father’s inheritance, and to enter a Swedish school to reform herself? The heroine’s later life is unknown, what kind of life she has experienced, did she really transform her body as she wished? Did she really live the elegant life of that fine people? Nothing is known. All we see is the old man with the story written in his eyes at the beginning and the end. When she is dying and returns to her hometown, although she still keeps the habit of pulling her hair to cover her ear wound, the identity in her heart is different from her youth at that time.

There is almost no dialogue, but the sorrow and determination in her eyes reveal too much of the story. When she finally returns to her community, she stays away from the elegant gatherings of the Swedes, but goes alone to the mountain where the Sami belong and fights her way to the top. When her hair is scattered and her body trembles, she who has been bound in the discipline of the alien body seems to have suddenly received divine enlightenment, and in that moment recovers her body belonging to the Sami. She is short, she has been looking up all her life. The need to look up to the female teachers at school, to the handsome boys at parties, to the female students at the university, to everything about the body of the superior Swedish nation. And in the end, when she returned to her hometown, she finally she finally bent down and climbed up. After a lifetime of looking up, she seems to have finally found a dignified posture of life, and we, who are listening to the story from the outside, finally feel the return and liberation.

Foucault in his wonderful “Discipline and Punish” discusses the “brilliant” means of disciplining the “body” in modern society. And the body discipline everywhere in the film is full of metaphors. How to transform their souls? Simply by disciplining the body. How to discipline the body? It starts with ‘self-regulation’. The heroine has spent her life gazing at her alien body under the guidance of the dominant culture, feeling inferior, ashamed and disgusted. A series of body discipline eventually becomes the heroine’s self discipline. The stigmatization of her body at a young age, the physical and spiritual violation of her body, laid the foundation for her lifelong submission to this more “noble and civilized” people. The desire to leave behind all the marks of her past and to shape herself into a new other is the fortune that the dominant culture wants to see, but it is the greatest misfortune of her life.

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