Berlinale 2018: 'Becoming Astrid' is a Swedish Story of Perseverance
by Alex Billington
February 27, 2018
This is the story of Astrid Lindgren, a Swedish woman who went on to write the massively popular series of books about Pippi Longstocking. Becoming Astrid is a feature film about the teenage years of Astrid's life in Sweden. She was born in 1907, and in her youth struggled to find her independence and place in the small town of Näs where she was raised. From the moment the film started, I had a good feeling about it, with the score and the opening scene of an elderly Lindgren reading cards that children have sent her at her home. The rest of the film takes place in the 1920s in Sweden, telling the true story of a young Astrid and her love for an older newspaper man. It's a lovely, engaging tale of an intelligent woman who strived to be different.
Directed by Danish filmmaker Pernille Fischer Christensen, Becoming Astrid stars Alba August as Astrid. She grew up with two sisters and one other brother, and always wanted to be different, rejecting the farm work her family offered. In her teens, she took on a job with a local newspaper in Vimmerby. Working there, she ended up in a relationship with the chief editor, who was married, but he eventually proposed to marry her in 1926 after she became pregnant. She declined and moved to Stockholm, learning to become a typist and stenographer, but decided to keep the baby. She eventually gave birth to her son, Lasse, in Copenhagen and left him in the care of a foster family. So, this isn't exactly the story of the author of Pippi Longstocking that I was expecting, but nonetheless a heartfelt story about this fiercely independent, open-minded woman.
What really makes the film work so well is the performance by Alba August as Astrid. She's playing a slightly younger woman (August is 24, Astrid in her teens), who is a bit naive, but also determined and passionate. And she takes on this role with just the right amounts of emotion, and heart, and zeal. August is endlessly watchable as Astrid, and yet still complex, and it's most captivating to see her deal with the great struggles in her life. Because she does persevere, she does keep on going, and she doesn't need a man or anyone else in life to support her. She is talented, and open-minded, and determined, and can accomplish anything, and perhaps this is the story that Becoming Astrid is really about. It's not the story of Becoming The Writer of Pippi Longstocking, it's the story of Astrid, and all that she went through that made her the person she was.
To top it off, the film has a lovely score by Nicklas Schmidt that enhances the emotion in the story, which is complimented by gorgeous cinematography by Erik Molberg Hansen. It's best to go in to this film not thinking about it as anything related to Pippi Longstocking (or any of Astrid's work later in her life), but as simply the coming-of-age story of a Swedish woman. And it's an inspiring, empowering story that is much more adult than you might be expecting, which is actually a good thing. But there's so much to appreciate, and so much to admire about the film. It's the kind of film that pulls you into its story, and into the warmth of its characters, allowing you to be swept away by feelings, perhaps reflecting upon yourself along the way.
Alex's Berlinale 2018 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing