Pernilla August • Director
A debut without comprises, with Bergman by her side
by Camillo de Marco
Having gained international acclaim with Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, Pernilla August has had a long and award-winning career as a film and theatre actress, and now makes her feature debut, Beyond [+see also:
film profile]. Based on the bestseller Svinalangorna by Swedish-Finnish writer Susanna Alakoski, the film stars Noomi Rapace of Millennium renown. It was selected in the International Critics Week at this year’s Venice Film Festival, where Cineuropa met up with her. "It’s good to be back her,” said August. "I was here 19 years ago as an actress with Bergman. I was Nora in A Doll’s House, a play about a dysfunctional family and survival…just like in Beyond [+see also:
Cineuropa: Why did you choose this story for your debut?
Pernilla August: The book moved me. I was struck by what had happened to this girl, her family situation. I wanted to tell an important story, and this girl had enormous power, there was hope in that human tragedy. Sadly, these are common stories. But in making the film we were fundamentally interested in being natural, sincere, in making the characters and their relationships credible. This idea guided us in such a way that we all moved in the same direction.
What did you change when you adapted the novel?
It was difficult to find the right key to depict the growth of a young girl, and make her interesting for an adult audience. So I began thinking about who Lena was today and what had happened to her, what decisions she had to make to live the life she was living now. In that way, we finally found the right idea for developing the film.
Your point of view is affectionate, you make no moral judgments.
That came naturally when we were shooting, I only followed what was happening, and tried to tell the story through the eyes of that girl. I didn’t ever want to judge, it’s the audience who must judge.
Why did you choose Noomi for the main character?
Because she’s the best! She’s extraordinary. I’d seen her play Medea in the theatre and it seemed very interesting to give her the role of a mother trying to contain her anger and the emotions she feels. Both she and Tehilla Blad [who plays the main characters as a girl] have the ability to express characters directly and let viewers read their minds.
Did you think about Bergman’s films while you were shooting?
Not any one specific film of his, but about him, yes. I always feel him with me, as if he were by my side. Just the other day I was thinking about him. He always taught me to follow my instincts, without making compromises. A lesson that I learned from other directors as well.
What compelled you to direct after so many years as an actress?
I love working as an actress, but I always had directing in the back of my mind, ever since I was 20. As an actress, I saw how fun it was to be on the other side of the camera that I thought, “I want to be there.” Ever since making a short film six years ago, this excitement never left me; following the entire journey of a film, dealing with the lights, cables… Plus I learned many new things, like editing and mixing. Now I’m completely taken by directing. After so many years, I did it.
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