Hanna Bergholm • Director of Hatching
“I wanted people to start liking this creature”
by Marta Bałaga
- In her new work, the Finnish director addresses every girl’s biggest fears – and a weird creature hiding in the closet is not the worst of them
Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), a 12-year-old gymnast, wants to make her mother (Sophia Heikkilä) proud. But one day, she does something that good girls just don’t do: she picks up an egg in the forest and brings it home to hatch. What comes next could destroy the fragile façade of her perfect family, but it also provides her with a much-needed companion. We spoke to director Hanna Bergholm about Hatching [+see also:
interview: Hanna Bergholm
film profile], screened at Sundance.
Cineuropa: You show this “perfect”, pink universe in the film, created by Tinja’s image-obsessed mother. It should be appealing, but it just feels strange.
Hanna Bergholm: Tinja lives in the world that her mother has created, where there is no room for error. She is an influencer, projecting this idea of perfect happiness, but she can’t really feel it herself. She fills her void with all these “lovely” objects and pastel colours, but you get the impression that you can’t live there. You can’t sit on the sofa; you are surrounded by glass. It’s a genre film, so I wanted to exaggerate a bit, and when a bird flies into the house, it breaks so many items – it just shows how easily this world can crack. It’s not a full-blown fairy tale, not a Tim Burton movie, but yes, there is something weird about it. I wanted to make people uncomfortable.
You tapped animatronic designer Gustav Hoegen to create the creature, but it doesn’t stay in the film for that long; it changes. Was this always supposed to happen?
Screenwriter Ilja Rautsi had this idea from the start. He had this one sentence in mind: “A girl hatches an evil doppelganger out of an egg.” Although originally, it was a boy. It was already there, and then we started to think: “Okay, when it hatches, it needs to be something else.” It’s a child, a pet, a friend, then maybe just her mirror image. When Tinja takes care of this hideous, disabled creature and loves it as it is, the creature starts to evolve. When she rejects it, tells it to go away, it changes again. Love makes you whole, and rejection breaks you.
Just like in the relationship with her mother: everything is fine, as long as she does what’s expected of her. You say something crucial here about the way we perceive each other, especially as women.
That’s why I wanted it to be a girl. This idea of perfection is more relevant in women’s lives. “Act nicely, remember to smile.” There is this expectation for women to be… more. “Be a little bit better. You are not good enough yet.” It goes beyond their relationship – it’s how our society operates.
One can’t help but think of body dysmorphia or even eating disorders when she is feeding her “friend”.
It’s never mentioned explicitly in the film, but it was something I wanted to imply. She is feeding it with her vomit, so bulimia comes to mind. There is something screaming in her closet, and then she does it, and the screaming stops. There is a sense of relief for a moment, and she is hugging her emotions, so to speak.
Whenever someone mentions a girl with an oppressive mother, there are so many references, starting with Carrie. Were you afraid it was going to be too recognisable?
We didn’t want to focus on her reaching puberty or show that bad things start when she gets her first period. Tinja is a bit younger, so we wanted to concentrate on her being that age and starting to change, and her not being accepted as she is. We wanted to show how that affects her.
Your film is a daylight horror. You don’t go for that usual basement or abandoned cabin in the woods.
That was very important, and we talked about the light a lot with my DoP. The sun is always shining – we actually shot it in Latvia – but its warmth never reaches the house. It’s cold and almost devoid of shadows, because Tinja’s mother doesn’t allow any secrets. Shadows, which are usually scary, are actually comforting for the girl. She can face her emotions there. The traditional “horror house” here is the house of her mother’s lover. When Tinja first goes there, she feels uneasy – also about this whole situation. But later on, she sees it in a whole different light. It’s the only real place in the film.
A horror film works much better if you can feel for the creature, however threatening it may seem. It’s not just something that needs to be defeated.
At first, it was described as an “evil” doppelganger, but we decided to skip that. It’s not just evil – it’s a proper character. There were moments when I got a bit lost, and started to think it needed to be much scarier and kill people, but every time we tried something like that, it felt wrong. I wanted this creature to be like King Kong or ET, especially with those big eyes. It’s not a predator. We came up with all kinds of nice little details, like the scene when it grabs the girl’s finger, just like a baby. We wanted people to relate to this creature, and maybe even start liking it.
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