In 1973, there was a bank heist and captive situation in Stockholm, Sweden, that has been notoriously studied. The true event is being made for the big screen, starring Ethan Hawke and Naomi Repine, in what promises to be an emotional thriller based on a true and deeply captivating situation in which hostages in a situation began to show loyalty and compassion for their captors, a situation which had not been widely experienced, nor explained before.
Jonathan Kier, Sierra/Affinity’s President of International Sales, says that Stockholm may be more than just a thriller movie; it may give people insight as to what is the psychological condition known as “Stockholm Syndrome” and why this syndrome can be difficult to overcome. The events that unfolded in the Swedish city 40 years ago gave psychologists a rare glimpse at what may psychologically bind captives to their captors — and those conditions were severe. In the heist, the captives actually bonded with their captors so much that they turned against authorities, which puzzled the world and led to many studies of the situation, and Kier says that the world will be captivated by the movie that chronicles the situation.
“Stockholm will offer moviegoers a raw glimpse into intense events that transpired over four decades ago coining a psychological condition that still intrigues the world today. With Robert’s creative direction coupled with Ethan and Noomi’s tremendous talents, we are certain audiences around the globe will be captivated by this thrilling true story.”
Production of the movie is slated to begin in April now that the actors for main roles have been cast, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
But what is the gist of the actual incident that has given rise to the psychological phenomenon and the movie that will chronicle it? According the BBC, Birgitta Lundblad, Elisabeth Oldgren, Kristin Ehnmark, and Sven Safstrom were working in a bank on August 23, 1973, when they were taken captive by a 32-year-old career criminal, Jan-Erik Olsson, who was later joined at the bank by a former prison mate who assisted him with the siege. Six days later, when the standoff with police was over, it was confusing and unbelievable to discover that the captives all had formed positive bonds with their captors. Psychologists disagree to this day over Stockholm Syndrome, whether it actually exists, and the true nature of the cause, although other cases have increased the credibility of the syndrome since that time.
The first psychiatrist to deeply investigate the situation was Dr. Frank Ochberg. He was reportedly intrigued by the phenomenon and went on to define the syndrome for the FBI and Scotland Yard in the 1970s as to the best of his ability, based off of the accounts of the victims.
“First people would experience something terrifying that just comes at them out of the blue. They are certain they are going to die. Then they experience a type of infantilization — where, like a child, they are unable to eat, speak or go to the toilet without permission. Small acts of kindness — such as being given food — prompts a ‘primitive gratitude for the gift of life’, and the hostages experience a powerful, primitive positive feeling towards their captor. They are in denial that this is the person who put them in that situation. In their mind, they think this is the person who is going to let them live.”
The phenomenon can also affect the captors, who had previously planned to harm captives, but sometimes greatly identify with their fear and desperation and changed their mind. The situation can become a dangerous one for police, because captives may be ready to defend their captors by the time they are released, as what happened in Stockholm over the six-day siege.
The movie Stockholm promises to be both thrilling and informative.
[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]