Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren is famous for her children’s stories such as “Pippi Longstocking” and “Karlsson-on-the-Roof”, but Becoming Astrid takes us back in time when she was 16 years old and still Astrid Ericsson living in a Swedish village. We meet her before she started writing fiction and just before she gets hired for her first job at the local newspaper in Vimmerby. “It´s a very dramatic period,” says Danish director Pernille Fischer Christensen about the early stages of the Swedish author’s life. “It carries an important emotional story about courage and love. It´s also a piece of Scandinavian women’s history that has not been told before.”
Astrid Ericsson falls in love with her new boss, editor Reinhold Blomberg. The love is mutual but as he is going through a divorce and Astrid becomes pregnant, the young woman is forced to take off to Copenhagen to have their son in secrecy there. Mother and child are separated until Blomberg’s divorce is finalized. This was a heartbreaking time for her. “It’s a period of her life which defined her as a writer and I paraphrase: ‘I might have been a writer, but maybe not a world famous one if this had not happened.’”
The separation of mother and child is depicted as a force that Astrid Lindgren used in her children’s stories – seeing everything from children’s perspective – and throughout Becoming Astrid, the audience hears the voices of children as voice-overs reading their letters to the author about her big impact on their lives.
“We wanted her authorship to be in the movie – not in terms of how many books she sells, but in a deeper way. From my perspective, her true greatness was that she affected so many of us as children and most of us feel gratitude towards her. The things we read as children can transcend us and shape us as human beings and that´s what we are trying to tell the children with letters.” It is a film about a woman becoming a woman in her own right despite her religious upbringing and an author becoming an author. It reveals one of the reasons why she was so sensitive to children’s emotions and imagination.
“For me as a child, she meant freedom and joy of life,” adds Fischer Christensen. “Even in her dark stories, like “The Brothers Lionheart” which was about death. As a child, I would not think of it as a sad story but a story about hope and love and courage. Her characters were role models to me and I wanted to be Mio, I wanted to be Jonathan and Skorpan, Pippi, Lisa, Lotte, Emil. They were the heroes of my childhood. The essence of her stories is that we should continue to be curious and awake in our lives. That we should speak up and say what we believe in. That we should dare thinking things through from another angle and from another perspective than we have done before. That we should dare to rethink and turn things around and dare to raise questions. That we should not fall asleep but stay awake and attached to the child in us.”
The film stars Alba August (daughter of Bille August and Pernilla August) as Astrid Lindgren and Maria Fahl Vikander, who has a smaller job portraying Astrid Lindgren as an older woman and reads the children’s letters in her office. “First of all, Alba is a very mature actress for her age,” says the director about her casting choice. “She is what Astrid was: an artist. She is on fire. She is very intelligent and very vulnerable and lovable.”The cast also includes Maria Bonnevie as Astrid’s mother Hanna, Trine Dyrholm as the foster mother Marie, who takes care of her son in Copenhagen and Henrik Rafaelson as Reinhold Blomberg. The film’s Danish director, Pernille Fischer Christensen, is best known for A Soap (2006), Dancers (2008), Family (2010) and Someone You Love (2014).