We here at STARBURST recently had the privilege of taking a journey to the end of the world with Swedish Directors Pella Kågerman & Hugo Lilja to talk about their new Sci-Fi epic, ANIARA.
STARBURST: Congratulations on the film, its a really interesting story and the presentation is simply remarkable.
Pella Kågerman & Hugo Lilja: Thank you so much, I’m blushing [laughs].
What was it about the source material that made you want to adapt it into a film?
Pella: In Sweden, Aniara the poem is one of the most famous pieces of literature to come out of our country – everybody knows about it. It’s written in verses and the language isn’t easy to understand but both me and Hugo understood the story beats but my love for it really came after my grandmother had a stroke and in whilst she was in hospital we read it together – as she got better we started to roleplay the poem and that’s when I got to really understand the true meaning.
From my research, I can see that this incredible journey you have been on has taken over 4 years. Just how pleased are you to finally have out in the world for people to experience?
Pella: I feel happy but also embarrassed [laughs].
Hugo: I’m so happy that people in the UK and US can now experience the film and also learn about a piece of Swedish culture as well. We both worked really hard for many years – and it’s a story that deserves to reach a bigger audience too. It’s such an important and topical story and extremely relevant.
Pella: It’s surprising how true it is to real-life today – it’s very much needed.
There are a lot of themes in the film with the most predominant one being about our place in the Universe. How do you think audiences are going to resonate with that theme?
Pella: We were living in a different world when we started to write the film and then shoot it – when we were in our hotel room this morning we were watching BBC News and really saw that the film has come at a really interesting time in human history with the climate crisis and everything like that. It’s scary how crazy that was to us. After a test screening about a year ago, the audience didn’t quite understand it but now audiences are much more aware of these themes and real-life events.
The use of lighting and close up shots give the narrative a sense of claustrophobia, was this a stylistic choice from the very beginning?
Hugo: Yes, and I think we wanted to have a sort of naturalistic feel to it and we wanted to make it contemporary as well. Instead of trying to build a future that we cant visualise, we used contemporary buildings such as shopping malls to get a real-world and current-day feel. We also wanted to have a visual style that had a claustrophobic feel but having a nice setting with that vastness of space just outside the window.
Pella: We did shoot a lot with macro lenses, in the visual effects there are so many layers and a lot of close-ups too.
You’ve both worked with Emelie and Arvin on some of your previous short films. Was it their performance in those and the existing working relationship that made you cast them in the two lead roles?
Hugo: Yes definitely. When we were writing the script, we always had Emelie in mind for the Mima role so we based that around her. And with Arvin, we love him as an actor but at first, we thought he was maybe too young to play the captain, so we tried older actors. But then we realised he was much better at it and thought that it was better for the character as a whole if he was a lot younger and inexperienced when tasked with what happens in the film.
Can you share with us any details of the next journey you two are setting off on?
Pella: We both agree this is the biggest project that we have done in our career – we also have a lot of ideas for more Sci-Fi films so we both want to stay in this genre so that’s what we are going to be continuing to do.