Synopsis by Mark Deming
A shameful chapter in Swedish history is brought to light in this powerful drama. In 1934, Sweden instituted a law that permitted authorities to require the sterilization of people considered to be unfit to have children. While the official justification for the regulation was to prevent the spread of inherited disease, in many cases young women who were from poor families, were thought to be promiscuous or were believed to have low IQ's found themselves placed in state institution where they were forced to have their tubes tied. In 1951, Gertrud (Julia Hogberg) is a naïve teenager from a large family who is sent to a state home for the retarded. Gertrud doesn't fully understand why she is there or what being sterilized means, but many of her fellow inmates do -- one is living with epilepsy, some come from poverty-stricken backgrounds, while others are mentally ill. All the young women are told they will remain in the home until they agree to be sterilized, and Getrud begins to feel it's a fair trade for being able to return home. However, things take a dramatic turn when she falls in love with one of the groundskeepers, Axel (Christoffer Svensson), and she finds she's become pregnant. Den Nya Manniskan (aka The New Man) was inspired by actual events that occurred under Sweden's forced sterilization laws, which remained on the books until 1976.