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Jan Forsström • Director

Princess of Egypt, a universal story on love


- Princess of Egypt, the debut film by Finnish director Jan Forsström won the 32nd Bergamo Film Meeting

Jan Forsström • Director

“I am a screenwriter before being a director.” Claiming his background in Finnish literature, Jan Forsström, whose first feature film Princess of Egypt [+see also:
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was very well received at the Bergamo Film Meeting, where it received top prize.

“In the beginning, I did not think I would be able to work with images. I started to write. I wrote screenplays for many shorts and three features, before someone asked me, why don’t you try to direct? And then I threw myself into this personal story. I didn’t know who to trust it with. I decided to film it myself and it was a beautiful experience. I hope I can continue being a director.”

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A spectator asked how the director was able to work so well with little Luna Leinonen Botero without any experience directing. “The main thing was to find the right girl,” Forsström said. “This girl was amazing. Not being Finnish, there weren’t too many I could choose from. It was important to find the right combination between the child and the person who played her mother. I was very frank when it came to the film, there was no manipulation. And because she was learning to read, I got her to read the entire screenplay.” 

The film is about Marja who is in her twenties. She lives alone with her small child Julia and after meeting the man who turns out to be her own father, she loses control. Princess of Egypt seems to go in one direction, but then changes and the mother-daughter relationship becomes pathological.

“Yes, at the beginning I only wanted to describe a great love. I didn’t want it to just be the representation of a problematic mother. From a dramatic perspective, I needed to show a trajectory, playing with the audience’s expectations, at the beginning frightened by the figure of a father, without simplifying the story too much.”  

Director Solveig Anspach, who was at the festival, was fascinated by the child’s mother Emmi Parviainen, and wondered whether she was a professional actress. “I found her at the theatre academy in Helsinki,” the director explained. “She comes from a family of artists. Her father is a comedian. Mother is an actress. I did a few interaction trials with the child and it went well. At the moment she is a theatre star in Finland, but soon she will be a film one too.” 

Princess of Egyptis not a sentimental film, it has a very important social aspect. “I wanted it to be a psychological film essentially, a universal story about how love sometimes goes wrong, how it can become a possessive love. It has a sociological and political aspect: the mother is from a modest family in the north. She moves to Helsinki where she knows no one and has no friends. I also come from the north, I know what it means to live in a big city. Even if it is not at the centre of the story, I wanted to show how fear of the other can also transpire in Finnish society. The populist right-wing party won the last elections, and we are quite frightened…”

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(Translated from Italian)

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