Berlinale #4 – Interview with Alba August

European shooting star Alba August about playing her life-changing role – the young Astrid Lindgren – how it was to grow up in Sweden with famous parents and about the MeToo debate in Sweden.

Astrid Lindgren grew up in tough times in the 1920's, when the children had to work on their parents farm. © Erik Molberg Hansen

Astrid Lindgren (Alba August) grew up in tough times in the 1920’s, when the children had to work hard on their parents farm. © Erik Molberg Hansen

The Swedish newcomer actress Alba August is one of the European Shooting Stars at this years Berlinale. She plays an impressive young Astrid Lindgren in the biopic Unga Astrid/ Becoming Astrid (running in the section Berlinale Special), who experienced early what it meant to become a young mother in the 1920’s unintentionally, having an affair with an older men. She was being forced into a role, which had nothing to do with her expectations of life and of being a self-determined woman. Struggling and fighting for her independence, the result of this is well known, many many great books for kids and adults.

AK: Alba, do you like the Berlinale so far?

AA: I find the Berlinale a very nice place, because people are discussing films and the stories. The focus stays on the work, wich is good.

AK: How do you feel about being one of the European shooting stars? Did you expect this coming, or was it a big surprise?

AA: Yes it was a big surprise. But I find it really nice actually. What I like the most is being in this group with all the other young actors and I really didn’t know what to expect from them, but they are really great and smart and talented. We have some interesting discussions about film and we are talking a lot about film and theater and how you can combine the two.

Alba August, the daughter of Bille August and Pernilla August, plays the young Astrid Lindgren impressively. © Erik Molberg Hansen

Alba August, the daughter of Bille August and Pernilla August, plays the young Astrid Lindgren impressively. © Erik Molberg Hansen

AK: How did you feel when you heard that you would be playing the young Astrid Lindgren, who is such an icon? Did you have much respect?

AA: Yes of course. When I got the script, I was very touched when I found out about this background of hers, which I didn’t know anything about and while I was doing more research on her, reading all of her books again. She has always been an ideal and a heroine for me. So I had even more respect for her, because she really went through tough things, and she was so brave and took so much responsibility. But yes, it took a lot of preparations to understand her and who she was.

AK: How did you prepare yourself for the role?

AA: I had to figure out how it was to live in the 1920’s. What role did religion play by that time? What role did the family have? And also physical things, like learning to type write and stenography. It is super hard to learn that and to dance in a special way, like Charlston.

AK: Yes, in that one scene you dance in a very unique way I would say. I like that scene a lot.

AA: Thank you. Yes, to figure out her body language and her way of speaking was important too. We really liked that preparation work and we put a lot of energy in that.

In 'Becoming Astrid' tanzt Astrid Lindgren (Alba August) einfach mit sich selbst und wartet nicht bis sie hierzu aufgefordert wird. © Erik Molberg Hansen

In ‚Becoming Astrid‘ Astrid (Alba August) dances rather by herself instead of waiting for a man asking her to dance with him. © Erik Molberg Hansen

AK: What is your favorite Astrid Lindgren character of her books?

AA: Actually Madikken, because the story is about two sisters. Me and my sister, we saw ourselfs like Madikken and her little sister. My older sister, she is crazy. She also made up things and lived in this fantasy world, like her. We loved that book!

AK: Your father is the Danish filmmaker Bille August, your mother the Swedish actress Pernilla August. How was it for you, to grow up in a family of artists?

AA: I grew up in a normal home in Stockholm with my mother. And of course many friends of my parents were working in the creative scene, they were actors or creatives, directors. The people I looked up to were artists in some kind of way. And also I have been in the theater and on film sets a lot as a child, so that helped me to feel safe on the set, it is familiar to me. It feels natural to me to be there, it is like a playfield in a way. Sometimes when I am filming, the best friend of my mum happens to be the make-up artist, that is very cosy to have somebody you know around. I had a very free childhood, I could basically do whatever I wanted.

AK: What did your parents say about this award?

AA: They were super proud of course.

AK: When did you start acting? When did you decide to become an actress?

AA: I have been doing creative things all my life, I started doing theater when I started going to school which was a theater school. It was a surviving tool for me to survive school. The task of sitting still and listening to a teacher, that was hard for me. My concentration is not made for that. In my High school I had ten hours of theater playing every week. That was very nice to be able to work with your body.

AK: Is acting also a way to deal with insecurity in a young age?

AA: I don’t know, I was always fascinated with human beings, different characters, people in general and being someone else and trying figure out different people. It is always hard to put it into words, why you love doing something. I love to tell stories by acting, it is a really nice thing for me.

Astrid Lindgren became a mother in her late teenage years and had to struggle a lot to be able to bring her son up as a single mother. © Erik Molberg Hansen

Astrid Lindgren became a mother in her late teenage years and had to fight hard, to be able to bring up her son as a single mother. © Erik Molberg Hansen

AK: When people think about Sweden, they have a certain romantic picture of it, of a typical life style, the nature and the books of Astrid Lindgren. Do yo think this film will maybe change this or enforce that?

AA: Well, Swedish nature is amazing. I did not grow up myself in the nature, but I know that Astrid Lindgren did and that it has been an important thing for her. I know, that she loved being a kid, when she could be free in the nature and play and be in her fantasy, and follow her feelings and just be impulsive. She struggled a lot when she became an adult and had to follow certain rules to find her identity. We focus a lot on the nature in the film. It gets you a feeling of it, how beautiful it is.

AK: Do you think this is the true picture of Sweden or are there other parts?

AA: Yes, there are other parts. But it is a true picture of that part of Sweden.

AK: Astrid Lindgren was very independent, a feminist. Would you call yourself a feminist?

AA: I would definitely call myself a feminist. In Sweden the word feminist is not so negative connotated, it is more natural. Like equal rights.

Astrid fell in love with an elder man (Henrik Rafaelsen) and feels a lot of resentment. © Erik Molberg Hansen

Astrid fell in love with an elder man (Henrik Rafaelsen) and experienced a lot of resentment. © Erik Molberg Hansen

AK: Do you have an opinion to the MeToo debate?

AA: I think it is a beautiful thing happening that women are coming together and helping each other on this matter.

AK: In Sweden the movement is very big. The actresses are sticking together, it is a strong and open movement? In Germany they are a bit behind on this, but it is getting there slowly.

AA: Yes, it is very sad and hard to be facing this. But when I talked to groups of female actors, there is a lot love in the air. It is really beautiful, that they are holding each others back on this. There are lying better times ahead for my generation, hopefully.

AK: Being one of the European shooting stars, you will certainly have a great career coming up. What do you think, you will be like in 10 years ahead of now?

AA: I would hope that I didn’t change myself and stay myself. And that I won’t be so affected by things happening around me. But my focus is not so much about succeeding and becoming a star, but to work with people that I find interesting and in projects I like a lot.

Thank you Alba August for the interview!


Annika Kuhlmann
Ist Mitgründerin von THE VORTEX und Kulturmanagerin. Sie studierte Nordamerikanistik, Publizistik und Psychologie (im Nebenfach) an der FU Berlin. Am liebsten schreibt sie über Tanz/-Theater, Dokumentar-Filme, Feminismus und Zwischenmenschliches und führt für ihr Leben gerne Interviews. Nebenbei ist sie auch für das Marketing verantwortlich.

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