Interview With Directors Pella Kagerman & Hugo Lilja (Aniara)

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31st August 2019

I Think You Need To Be Close To Death To Get The Messages Of Martinson’s Work

You can read our reviews of Aniara here and here. Read our interview with actor Arvin Kananian here.

Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Pella and Hugo, congratulations on the film. Happy that’s finally out there?

Both: Yes!

LV: How long did it take to make it?

Hugo Lilja: Four years.

Pella Kagerman: Yeah four years. I think now the film is more relevant than when we start making it. We didn’t know how bad it was with the Earth and how the apocalypse would look like. What happening now is the apocalypse.

LV: It’s based on a poem by Harry Martinson. Why did you chose that poem and not another one?

PK: Well, it was written in the 1950s and he won the Swedish Nobel-prize so I think in Sweden, he’s our national hero. Our parents were forced to read all of his work and a lot of theatre plays and operas were made based on his work. I went with my grandmother to see one of these adaptations and then sadly the night after that, she got a stroke and she ended up in the hospital. During that night, I start reading his work. I think you need to be close to death to get the messages of his work. That when I felt that we had to make a movie about this.

LV: How did you choose what’s being adapted from the poem into the film and what isn’t?

PK: Well, there were things we had to leave out but mostly we have to add more. The poem is a lot darker than the film and so we had to put some hope, friendship, and love in it.

LV: How did you shot the scenes on board of the spaceship? Was it a lot of special effects or was there an actual set?

HL: Well, most of them we did on-set. We called it “no-set Sci-Fi” because we tried to build as little as possible in the studio. We used exterior settings such as shopping malls. We also chose not to use a lot of special effects.

PK: The idea of shooting this film in shopping malls wasn’t only because that would be more affordable but we also wanted that familiar look. If they would build Mars today and people could immigrate to that then they probably would have shopping malls on the spaceship as well. I once went to psychoanalysis and one of the people there said that if you’re an artist, filmmaker, writer, etc. that you’re very much a tool of your own time. You’re very limited in your fantasies to predict something for the future.

LV: How did you choose the cast?

HL: Emelie Jonsson plays the leading role and we thought of her already when we were writing the script. We wanted her for that role

PK: In the book, it’s not clear whether her character is male or female and while everyone thinks, we used a female. However, that doesn’t change much to the basics of the character.

LV: If people said to you “Here’s your chance to go to Mars”. Would you do it?

PK: I wouldn’t

HL: No, me neither

LV: Let’s say that if you would go: what would be the thing you would miss the most?

PK: Friends and family and I think I would even miss the bad times from here.

LV: When did you know in life that you wanted to become a director and to become part of the film industry?

PK: We’re coming from very different backgrounds. Hugo comes from playing games like “Dungeons and Dragons” and other sci-fi games while I come from the art school and psychoanalysis. In the beginning, I didn’t understand that Sci-Fi was everyone’s philosophy. I’ve read somewhere that Sci-Fi was now the most important art form or genre because it will help us with the big questions we have in front of us. I think what makes us such a great team is that we kind of “stole” each other interests. It was kind of like “bad cop – bad cop”. No one was the good cop here.

LV: Are you guys going to collaborate again?

HL: Yeah of course. We already have at least one project we’re making together and then we have two almost completely separate projects.

PK: We would also stay in the Sci-Fi genre.

LV: Can you maybe talk about the project a little bit more?

PK: Well, it’s about centaurs but not looking like the ones you’ve seen before. Not human-like looking.

LV: One last question: Do you have any advice for people out there who want to create films as well?

HL: We talked a lot about failure. Don’t be afraid to fail.

PK: Learn how to fail ok or not to care too much about your failure.

Thanks a lot for the interview!

Liselotte Vanophem had a chat with directors Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja about their "Aniara", Sci-Fi and filmmaking.

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