Haugesund: Sweden’s Pernilla August Adapts ‘The Serious Game’

A classic, now and then, ‘Game’ receives its third big-screen makeover

A serious game, B-reel films
Curtesy of B-reel films

In 1977, this year’s Haugesund honorary guest, director Anja Breien adapted the classic novel ”The Serious Game” by Swedish novelist Hjalmar Söderberg. Now in 2015, New Nordic Films at Haugesund, at its Works in-Progress sessions, will show the first glimpses of what is to become the third adaptation of the 1912 novel, one of the most lavish and prestigious of Scandinavian films, which is set for release during the year to come.

Directing this time is Pernilla August, one of Sweden’s leading actresses (Palme d’Or for Best Actress for ”The Best Intentions” in 1992) and whose breakthrough as director came with ”Beyond” (2010), which won her a Guldbagge for Best Director, the Nordic Council’s Film Prize, as well as first feature prize at Venice.

”The Serious Game” tells the passionate love story of a young couple – a journalist and the daughter of a painter – who fall madly in love, but marry others. Lead actors are Swedish star Sverrir Gudnason (Arvid) and Karin Franz Korlof (Lydia). 

”Soderberg creates psychological suspense worthy of Dostoyevski,” wrote Publisher’s Weekly upon reviewing the novel in 2002. 

Film’s producer Patrik Andersson (together with Frida Bargo) has seen the previous films of ”The Serious Game,” including Anja Breien’s 1977 take.

”It’s made with an intense reverence for Soderberg’s book. We want to go a bit further,” said Andersson at B-reel. 

”Personally, I have felt that although the book has been made into film twice, we now had the possibility of putting our perspective and a new take on the story of Arvid and Lydia, to bring new life to these characters that have chosen paths in life based on what they think is expected of them, rather than choosing with their hearts. It’s the ever so timeless core of this melancholic and beautiful story. Hjalmar Söderberg’s book has touched many hearts over the century and continues to be seen as the key Swedish love story – even though it’s a very existential text as well.” 

”We shot the film in Budapest, Stockholm, the archipelago of Åmål, in the Film Väst region, over 40 shoot days and on an approximate €5M ($5,5M) budget,” Andersson added.

”Post started in early March and we wrapped late May, apart from an additional shooting day next week. We wanted to wait the water of Vanern [Sweden’s biggest lake] to become at least a bit more swimmable before shooting  specific scenes.”

Last year, Swedish shingle B-reel released Mikael Marcimain’s period-piece ”Gentlemen,” another great Swedish classic, recreated via ambitious, newly-built sets. To manage the demanding setting of ”The Serious Game,” which is set against a beautiful Stockholm backdrop at the turn of last century, Pernilla August reunited with Anna Asp, the set designer from ”The Best Intentions” and ”Fanny Alexander,” the latter winning her an Oscar.

”The biggest challenge was recreating Stockholm’s fin de siècle-era in both contemporary Stockholm and in Budapest,” says Patrik Andersson. ”Yet the excellence of our grand master production designer of Anna Asp created the perfect balance of taking us back into time, without letting the world overtake our emotional story of impossible love. Which was Pernilla’s intention from the very beginning.”

Andersson added that “The Serious Game is currently being edited in Copenhagen, aiming for early 2016 delivery. The film is slated for domestic theatrical release via Nordisk Film in Sept. 2016. Sales are handled by TrustNordisk.