Swedish star Pernilla August made her directorial debut in 2010 with “Beyond,” which won Critics’ Week in Venice. Now, her second feature, “A Serious Game,” unspools in the Berlinale Special.
The offer to direct Hjalmar Soderberg’s classic novel came from B-Reel producer Patrik Andersson and Lone Scherfig, the Danish writer-director who penned the script.
”I’ve been longing for a love story. So when I re-read the novel I was quite easily drawn into the project,” says August.
Set in Stockholm at the turn of the last century, “A Serious Game” is a tale about love, adultery and the choices people make in life. Arvid and Lydia fall in love but marry others due to social circumstances and other issues. When they meet again 10 years later – both married and with children – they have a fiery affair.
To manage the demanding setting of a beautiful Stockholm backdrop, August reunited with her close friend Anna Asp, the set designer who won an Oscar for “Fanny Alexander.” Asp had to re-create Stockholm’s fin de siecle-era mainly in contemporary Budapest.
Film’s main roles are played by Sverrir Gudnason and Karin Franz Korlof, along with Michael Nyqvist and Danish Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, who won the Berlin Golden Bear for his performance in ”A Royal Affair” in 2012.
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More than 10 years ago, August shared the same acting award together with the ensemble of the Swedish drama “Daybreak.”
”It was a great experience, especially to a share a prize like that. And I’m happy to be back in Berlin, and now as a director,” she says.
What led to the decision to shoot the pic with hand-held camera and in 4:3 format?
“I am very much inspired by Andrea Arnold, especially ‘Wuthering Heights,’ which is also a true classic playing with the style in a modern way. That’s what we were looking for. It’s pure intuition. I have no motivation more than it’s very portrait-friendly.”
Of all the grand Scandinavian filmmakers you’ve worked with, who is most influential in your directing?
“Hard to say. Bo Widerberg and Ingmar Bergman are sort of my school. Of Bergman I learned to be confident with my intuition. And also the seriousness of the work. I’m not afraid of it, neither in my acting. I love it and I want to explore it, as in life.
But I’m also inspired by Bille (August) and Roy (Andersson). It’s like a puzzle, all these people you meet in life do affect you.”