Runge was on the ground at the festival’s industry sidebar along with his producer Annika Sucksdorff, and lead actors Asta Kamma August (“The Pact”) and Gustav Lindh (“Queen of Hearts”). The movie is an adaptation of Alex Schulman’s bestselling novel by the same name. Bill Skarsgård (“It: Chapters 1 & 2,” “Deadpool”), who wasn’t there in Goteborg, also plays a leading role in the film.
The several clips played during the Goteborg presentation, which showcased the film’s dedicated performances, atmosphere and glossy production design, drew rowdy applause from industry participants and locals. Runge also revealed that Jacob Mühlrad, the celebrated Swedish art music composer, is creating his first film score for the movie.
“Burn All My Letters” marks Runge’s follow up to “The Wife” which earned its star, Glen Close, a Golden Globe award and nominations at the Oscars and BAFTAs. The director approached Mühlrad after seeing his last orchestral which was performed by the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
“It was absolutely mesmerizing and hypnotical,” said Runge, who had initially planned to work with Mühlrad on his science fiction project “Stardream” which was put on hold due to the pandemic.
Runge went on to collaborate closely with Mühlrad on the score of “Burn All My Letters.” “He has an energy and talent that constantly adds a creative enthusiasm that is like spring water for me.”
Mühlrad, who had previously scored Schulman’s theater piece “Tröstrapporter” (“Reports of Consolation”), said his deep conversations with Runge nurtured his musical composition. As “Björn digs into the the small delicate details of the characters and beautifully paints a picture of what he sees, the music comes to me”, said Mühlrad, who added that he aimed to “mirror the fine nuances of the main character Karin’s struggles and pain.”
Spanning 70 years and based on true events, the sprawling drama sees August playing Karin Stolpe, a young intellectual torn between her complex relationship with her husband Sven Stolpe (Skarsgård), a famous Swedish author, and her fiery love affair with another author, Olof Lagercrantz in the 1930s. The film shows the repercussions of this tragic love triangle and the weight of family secrets on the childhood of Karin and Sven’s grandson, Alex Schulman (Sverrir Gudnason, “A Serious Game”) in the late 1980s. Now in his early 40s, Alex is going through a crisis with his wife Amanda (Sonja Richter, “The Bridge”) and starts investigating his family history to better understand his own psyche. What he discovers about his grandmother’s tumultuous life and sacrifices has a profound repercussion on his marriage.
Runge said he was working on another project in England when his agent in Sweden called him and said that Annika at SF wanted to meet him. “I went to that meeting with an open mind and when the meeting ended, Annika put a book in my hands by Alex Schulman.
“I wasn’t so interested to read the book because he wasn’t my type of writer at all back in those days. But then I read it overnight, and I was hooked. I saw a drama of passion and strong characters, and I could also relate to the big issues about love, violence and classical family secrets, said Runge, who was also drawn to the narrative structure of the story which formed a sort of dialogue between three different time periods.
Runge said Sven Stolpe is “such an interesting character because a lot of people think he was a psychopath, but a very charming and very intelligent psychopath, and I think Bill Skarsgård really portrays all these different dimensions of that character.”
“You really are charmed by him, but you’re also quite scared by him because with one look, he can make you scared of his character,” said Runge, who added that August and Lindh also immersed themselves in their respective roles.
The director said the character of Karin Stolpe, which August plays, is the emotional anchor of the film. “We will see her struggle in a very closed-off environment and her fate will have an important influence on his grandchild Alex who is now an adult and guides us into this kingdom of the past,” said Runge. He said “there could be another title for this film: the different faces of Karin.”
Sucksdorff, meanwhile, said that she also felt during her first full viewing of the edit that Karin Stolpe was a “pre-historic #MeToo character, a feminist force.” “She really tried to fight the system and find her light but she couldn’t get out of her marriage for various reasons,” she said.
“Burn All My Letters” is produced by Sucksdorff and Jonathan Ridings at SF Studios with support from the Swedish Film Institute, in collaboration with SVT, Film i Väst and Film Stockholm.
Sucksdorff pointed out the book was being circled by several other companies after it came out in 2018. “I met Alex at a concert and told him what an amazing book it is and that I felt personally compelled to produce a film about it, and he said ‘what a pity you didn’t (bid) for it sooner because we’re close to making a deal with another company,” reminisced Sucksdorff. She said that the next day, she gave the book to Runge who read it overnight. A week later she and Runge pitched their vision for the adaptation to Schulman and ultimately won the rights.
Penned by Veronica Zacco, “Burn All My Letters” was developed with the support of the Creative Europe MEDIA programme of the European Union. The film shot in Sweden last year and is now in the final weeks of the editing. One of the most anticipated Nordic films of 2022, the film will be released this fall in Swedish cinemas by SF Studios.