Second feature film as a director 'The Serious Game' opened last Friday in Sweden.
What was your first reaction when Lone Scherfig and producer Patrik Andersson approached you with the idea of directing A Serious Game?
Pernilla August: I said: YES! I want to do this. Why don’t you direct it yourself? But Lone just wanted to write the screenplay. It was a challenge to adapt Hjalmar Söderberg’s novel, because it is a national treasure in Sweden. But as Lone is Danish, it wasn’t such a daunting task for her.
Did you find the book set in 1912 had enough hooks to make it relevant to today’s audience?
PA: The book is a classic. Why? Because it deals with timeless emotions-love, passion, betrayals, and choices that you make in life. I could totally relate to these feelings. Love hurts and we wanted to tell how serious it is. The book is told from the point of view of the young journalist Arvid [Sverrir Gudnason]. He puts his lover Lydia [Karin Franz Körlof] on a pedestal. But we decided to come closer to her, understand who she really. Lone wrote it in such a way that we would feel connected to all the characters.
Production designer Anna Asp who worked notably on Fanny & Alexander with you and your first feature as a director Beyond, is now your regular collaboration. How did you work together to re-create Stockholm in the early 20th century?
PA: It was an entirely collaborative work with Anna, my DoP Erik Molberg Hansen and costume designer Kicki Leander. We started working almost a full year before shooting. We had discussions, went to photographic and art exhibitions to be immersed with visuals from that time, we spent a week in my summer house. It was so wonderful. I’m not interested in taking all the decisions. I want everybody to put their head and heart into the project. I’d rather have everyone say yes and then we see how it goes.
What we decided quite early was …not to have runners, umbrellas or even cobblestones. There were simply no cobblestones in Budapest where we shot the film. In retrospect, I’m very happy about this decision. It has created a clear and simple frame. Had it been shot in Stockholm, you would have recognised places and that would have taken away energy and focusing on the story itself. The film is character-driven and the characters lead us into the old Stockholm and their way of life at the time.
As an actress you’ve been directed by some of Scandinavia’s greatest masters, starting with Ingmar Bergman whom you said ‘had the most influence on your career’. What was his magic touch with actors?
PA: What we have in common is the way he gave private instructions. He would go away with me all the time when we were working on stage, he would whisper in my ear, give me energy on a very personal level. That would go directly into my heart. Sometimes when you get instructions out loud, the other actors also hear and that can be a bit unsettling. He inspired me on that level.
Today what gives you most pleasure? Working in front of the camera, behind? Working for film or television?
PA: Ultimately, the story is the most important. I have to feel connected to a story. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to work on the TV series The Legacy. It’s so much faster than working on a film; I just learnt by doing it.
With the producers at DR and the entire team, we decided very early that we should do the show as if it was a film, with just one hand-held camera. It felt very familiar.
Acting is my favourite, and I will never, never give it up. It is so joyful. I have the luxury to be able to choose.
PA: We are currently filming the third and last season of The Legacy. I actually have a small part. I play a farmer who has pigs. She is angry all the time. It’s quite funny. I will also direct the last episode.