June 3, 2019 Interview – Pella Kågerman
Growing up with her grandmother, Sweden’s Pella Kågerman was encouraged to read and explore literature in an active way. In fact, performing and role-playing the books they read together became a favorite pass time, so it is no wonder that Kågerman would develop the ability to read a text and create the story onscreen for film.
This in mind, she and her partner, Hugo Lilja, take the widely known and adapted Nobel Prize winning poem, Aniara, and create their first full-length feature film. A daunting task the pair made seem effortless, their award winning Aniara made its way to theaters and On Demand in the USA on May 17th thanks to Magnolia Pictures, earning even more attention. Grateful for the opportunity, Kågerman recently sat down to chat about her involvement with her film, her influences, what to expect next from her, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – A student of film, first tell us, what inspired you to pursue film-making professionally?
Pella Kågerman – Hugo and I have quite different backgrounds. As a child and teenager, Hugo was really into role-playing games like Warhammer RPG and that kind of stuff while I was more interested in Documentary film-making and art. So, Hugo went to film school and made genre short films and I went to art school and made art! Over the years that we have worked together, we have kind of taken over each other interests. In the end of the day, it’s our mutual interest in society and philosophy that has urged us to make films.
Cryptic Rock – That’s interesting that the two of you switched focuses. It is obvious it has solidified the two of you as a solid team. Prior to working on Aniara, you were involved in other projects. What were those experiences like leading up to your debut feature?
Pella Kågerman – Hard to say. I’ve directed many short films on sexuality containing nudity and I guess that you can see a rest of that in Aniara. We even had a shot of an erect penis that we had to edit out for the US release.
We also worked on another feature before Aniara, that never got made. I guess that what we have learned is to just carry on. To not give up.
Cryptic Rock – The film world is certainly better off that the first attempt didn’t deter you from moving forward. Aniara is in fact your debut feature film which you both wrote, directed, and produced. A very ambitious project, how did the concept of the film arise for you?
Pella Kågerman – In Sweden, Aniara is a very well-known poem. I read it to my grandmother after she had gotten a stroke. As she was getting better, we started to role-play the story, pretending that the big hospital we were at was the spaceship, the doctors the crew, and the patients the passengers. That’s when I got obsessed with the plot and how brutal and true it is. Like a metaphor for life itself.
A few years later we asked the writer Harry Martinson’s daughters for permission to make a film adaption. Luckily, we didn’t have to produce the film ourselves! Then Hugo would have lost all his hair. Now he has only lost a third of it…
Cryptic Rock – Thank goodness for that! In the film, as time goes on, the remaining crew and passengers eventually get so depressed they basically give up their humanity. Do you personally believe that people would lose hope so quickly if the Earth and life as we know it would disappear?
Pella Kågerman – I do think that we will freak out completely! Maybe not exactly as fast as they do in the film. Let’s hope we do not have to make that experience.
Cryptic Rock – It’s definitely not an experience to look forward to. Do you think that there is room for people to learn from our mistakes so if we did have to start over somewhere else, the ending would not be as tragic as the Aniara?
Pella Kågerman – Yes, but I’m not sure it will be possible to start over somewhere equally amazing as Earth. So, the question is rather how much time it will take for us to learn from the mistakes. We seem to be a bit too slow there.
Cryptic Rock – You have done your part attempting to show the consequences if things don’t change soon. Let’s hope people pay attention. You have said in other interviews that you read Harry Martinsson’s poem with your Grandmother. Did her views on the poem influence any of the creative decisions you made for the film? If so, how?
Pella Kågerman – Yes! She’ll be my muse forever. As mentioned before, her hospital visit played a huge role in our understanding of the text and even in our visual approach, working with a sort of contemporary corporate aesthetics.
Cryptic Rock – It’s truly amazing you could take such a bleak experience and turn it into art, she would be proud of you. Every character reacted differently to their new doomed fate floating aimlessly in space. Do you feel like you would react the same way as one of the characters? What do you think your role on the Aniara would ultimately be?
Pella Kågerman – We actually didn’t think of this until recently. Spontaneously I think I would have joined one of the cults, maybe even the sex cult. (Laughs) I know Hugo identifies with the Mimarobe, who never gives up.
Cryptic Rock – Interesting to hear. What steps do you think people should take so that the Earth’s future does not mirror your film?
Pella Kågerman – I think we should listen to the scientists and keep fossil fuels in the ground. We should probably make the words “expanding” and “shopping” get negative connotations.
Cryptic Rock – That would be a step in the right direction. The film themes are quite social/economic/environmental. Is there any special interest you would like to explore in any upcoming projects?
Pella Kågerman – All our future film’s will probably deal with those themes! We have a genre project taking place in the Nevada desert coming up.
Cryptic Rock – It will be exciting to see what you have coming up next! Last question. If you are a fan, what are some of your favorite Horror and Sci-Films and why?
Pella Kågerman – We’re in love with the Documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune (2013) that’s about Jodorowsky’s crazy ambitious attempt to adapt Frank Herbert’s Dune. It’s very exciting that Denis Villeneuve will direct a reboot of Dune now!