Movies

Movie review: ‘Becoming Astrid’

‘Pippi Longstocking’ author’s youth is subject of a brilliant new film

By Rick Romancito
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 11/29/18

The beloved children’s stories written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), including the Pippi Longstocking series, might seem on the surface to have been conceived by a woman not as challenged as the real-life writer.

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Movies

Movie review: ‘Becoming Astrid’

‘Pippi Longstocking’ author’s youth is subject of a brilliant new film

Posted

The beloved children’s stories written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren (1907-2002), including the Pippi Longstocking series, might seem on the surface to have been conceived by a woman not as challenged as the real-life writer. But, one look at the times and places in which Lindgren lived, and one can imagine what she might have had to endure.

Of her fun-loving literary invention, Lindgren once said, “Pippi represents my own childish longing for a person who has power but does not abuse it. And pay attention to the fact that Pippi never does that.”

Actually, Pippi was born out of a suggestion by one of her children to simply tell a story. As anyone knows who is familiar with the books, Pippi is a wild child and a symbol of nonconformity, a super strong little girl who has imaginative adventures that she shares with her monkey Mr. Nillson and her horse.

This film is a look behind that inspiration, and while its plot may seem rather predictable or not terribly surprising in some respects, it, like Lindgren’s stories, is all about how the story is told.

The film, directed with tremendous skill by Pernelle Fischer Christensen, features a wonderful performance by Albe August as Lindgren. Although she is the daughter of film legends Bille August and Pernilla August, Albe infuses her portrayal with an infectious naturalism.

Not once do you sense she is an actress performing for a camera with a complex production unit crowding a set. She is a kind of flesh-and-blood iteration of Pippi, but grounded in the reality of a life with enormous challenges of its own.

The film tracks Astrid as a teen living with her family in Näs, near Vimmerby, Småland, Sweden. Exhuberant, funny and mildly rebellious, she is known for her storytelling talents. One day, her dad (Magnus Krepper) informs her that the editor of the local newspaper has taken notice of her writing and would like to interview her for a position as his intern.

Excited and flattered she jumps at the chance and wins the job after meeting her boss (Henrik Rafaelsen). This proves to be a major turning point in her life, not only because it provides a chance to express herself as a budding writer but also for the darker changes that emerge when the married editor, who is also a father, develops feelings for her.

I won’t describe what happens after this because the story unfolds as a series of discoveries and obstacles that Astrid must find the courage to overcome. As a hint, the film opens with Astrid as an elder writer opening mail from her many young fans on the occasion of her birthday.

Among the notes wishing her well is a pointed question from a child. It reads: “How can you write so well about being a child when you haven’t been one for so long?”

This is a great-story-behind-the-story sort of film that is told with great acting and brilliant cinematography. Highly recommended.

In Swedish with English subtitles.

Tempo grade: A

“Becoming Astrid” is not rated, but it does contain brief sexual situations, nudity and mature content.

This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 2) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (Dec. 3-5) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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