‘Exorcist’ star, Swedish screen legend Max von Sydow dies at 90

Swedish-born actor Max Von Sydow, in Los Angeles, in 1982. (AP Photo)
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Updated 09 March 2020

‘Exorcist’ star, Swedish screen legend Max von Sydow dies at 90

  • With chiselled features and piercing blue eyes, von Sydow became a recognizable face during a career that mixed genres and languages
  • In one of the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema, von Sydow played the knight who has a chess game with death on a lonely beach in ‘The Seventh Seal’

PARIS: Swedish-born actor Max von Sydow, whose seven-decade career saw him go from starring in iconic art-house movies by Ingmar Bergman to appearing in English-language hits including “The Exorcist” and “Game of Thrones,” has died in France aged 90, his family said.
“It is with a broken heart and with infinite sadness that we have the extreme pain of announcing the departure of Max von Sydow” on Sunday, said a statement sent to AFP.
Von Sydow took French citizenship in 2002 and renounced his Swedish nationality, but remains fondly remembered in his homeland.
With chiselled features and piercing blue eyes, von Sydow became a recognizable face during a career that mixed genres and languages and saw him play vulnerable heroes and evil villains.
“He was one of the world’s greatest actors,” said the former president of the Cannes film festival Gilles Jacob.
“He could play troubling roles but Max had a delicacy and a humanity that were so moving.”
In 1973, he became part of horror movie history in “The Exorcist” where he portrayed a priest trying to rid a possessed young girl of her ldemons.
More recently, von Sydow appeared in blockbusters such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the hit television HBO series “Game of Thrones” making him a familiar face to millions in the later part of his life.
His career began more humbly in the early 1950s on the theater stages of Stockholm and then Malmo, where he met the man who would help forge his career — Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.
It is von Sydow’s collaboration with Bergman in art-house films often laden with existential angst — now seen as all-time classics — that are likely to be his best-remembered roles.
In one of the most memorable scenes in the history of cinema, von Sydow played the knight who has a chess game with death on a lonely beach in “The Seventh Seal” from 1957.
He appeared in numerous other Bergman movies, notably “The Virgin Spring” and “Through a Glass Darkly” as well as the English-language “The Touch” in which he starred alongside American actor Elliott Gould.
He also worked with fellow Scandinavian acting great Liv Ullmann on Jan Troell’s 1971 masterpiece “The Emigrants” about a group of impoverished Swedes moving to the United States. It received several Oscar nominations.
Von Sydow was twice nominated for Academy Awards, first in 1989 for his role in “Pelle the Conqueror” and then in 2012 for “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” about an 11-year-old boy whose father dies in the September 11, 2001 attacks.
One of his final roles was as a stern Russian admiral in Thomas Vinterberg’s 2018 English-language film about the 2000 Kursk Russian submarine disaster.
Von Sydow had two sons with his first wife Christina Olin. He married his second wife, French documentary filmmaker Catherine Brelet, in 1997, and the couple lived together in France.
He had to renounce his Swedish citizenship in 2002 when he acquired French nationality.
“I want to live in France. And I want to die in France,” he told newspaper Aftonbladet in 2012.


Satellite images show Ethiopia dam reservoir swelling

Updated 14 July 2020

Satellite images show Ethiopia dam reservoir swelling

  • The images emerge as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan say the latest talks on the contentious project ended Monday with no agreement
  • Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this month even without a deal

JOHANNESBURG: New satellite imagery shows the reservoir behind Ethiopia’s disputed hydroelectric dam beginning to fill, but an analyst says it’s likely due to seasonal rains instead of government action.
The images emerge as Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan say the latest talks on the contentious project ended Monday with no agreement. Ethiopia has said it would begin filling the reservoir of the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam this month even without a deal, which would further escalate tensions.
But the swelling reservoir, captured in imagery on July 9 by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-1 satellite, is likely a “natural backing-up of water behind the dam” during this rainy season, International Crisis Group analyst William Davison told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“So far, to my understanding, there has been no official announcement from Ethiopia that all of the pieces of construction that are needed to be completed to close off all of the outlets and to begin impoundment of water into the reservoir” have occurred, Davison said.
But Ethiopia is on schedule for impoundment to begin in mid-July, he added, when the rainy season floods the Blue Nile.
Ethiopian officials did not immediately comment Tuesday on the images.
The latest setback in the three-country talks shrinks hopes that an agreement will be reached before Ethiopia begins filling the reservoir.
Ethiopia says the colossal dam offers a critical opportunity to pull millions of its nearly 110 million citizens out of poverty and become a major power exporter. Downstream Egypt, which depends on the Nile to supply its farmers and booming population of 100 million with fresh water, asserts that the dam poses an existential threat.
Years of talks with a variety of mediators, including the Trump administration, have failed to produce a solution. Last week’s round, mediated by the African Union and observed by U.S. and European officials, proved no different.
Experts fear that filling the dam without a deal could push the countries to the brink of military conflict.
“Although there were progresses, no breakthrough deal is made,” Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s minister of water, irrigation and energy, tweeted overnight.
“All of the efforts exerted to reach a solution didn’t come to any kind of result,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry said Monday in an interview with Egypt’s DMC TV channel.
Shukry warned that Egypt may be compelled to appeal again to the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the dispute, a prospect Ethiopia rejects, preferring regional bodies like the African Union to mediate.
Meanwhile the countries agreed they would send their reports to the AU and reconvene in a week to determine next steps.
Between Egypt and Ethiopia lies Sudan, which stands to benefit from the dam through access to cheap electricity and reduced flooding. But it has also raised fears over the dam’s operation, which could endanger its own smaller dams, depending on the amount of water discharged daily downstream.
In a press conference on Monday, Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said the parties were “keen to find a solution” but technical and legal disagreements persist over its filling and operation.
Most important, he said, are the questions about how much water Ethiopia will release downstream if a multi-year drought occurs and how the countries will resolve any future disputes.
Hisham Kahin, a member of Sudan’s legal committee in the dam negotiations, said 70% to 80% of negotiations turned on the question of whether an agreement would be legally binding.