Director Hanna Bergholm joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss her highly-anticipated horror film, Hatching.
In Hatching, 12-year-old gymnast, Tinja (Siiri Solalinna), is desperate to please her image-obsessed mother, whose popular blog ‘Lovely Everyday Life’ presents their family’s idyllic existence as manicured suburban perfection. One day, after finding a wounded bird in the woods, Tinja brings its strange egg home, nestles it in her bed, and nurtures it until it hatches. The creature that emerges becomes her closest friend and a living nightmare, plunging Tinja beneath the impeccable veneer into a twisted reality that her mother refuses to see.
I read that when you initially discussed the film with writer Ilja Rausti, the main protagonist was male. Why did you decide to change the character to a female, and what did you feel you could explore differently through making that change?
When the screenwriter, Ilja Rausti, approached me and told me he had this one sentence idea: that a boy hatches a doppleganger out of an egg, I immediately told him the whole idea was fascinating but that I’d like to change the character into a girl. The reason why I said that was I have seen lots of films but rarely found very interesting and complex female lead characters. And that is why it is important to me to tell stories about women and girls.
When we changed the lead character into a girl, the whole story started to make sense to us, because Hatching is all about the lead character who always tries to do better to get her mother’s love. I think that is something many women and girls are feeling in our society – that we all have to do a little bit more, a little bit better, in order to be enough at work or in society in general.
You’ve said Hatching is, ultimately, a film about the fear of losing control. Can you expand on this and why, personally, this is a fear that you wanted to explore?
The theme of Hatching is about the fear of losing control because our lead character is afraid she will lose control of her forbidden feelings, like aggression and sorrow. She is afraid that her mother will see them and that her mother will no longer love her.
And the mother character is very much the same. She’s trying to control her whole life and her whole family, so she can show her life on Instagram and vlogs to get some likes from her anonymous viewers. I feel this kind of need, of trying to control things, is very interesting because then you are trying to control things to be something that you would be happy about, or others would be happy about. Some things you have to control but you can’t always control everything – otherwise you might break if you try to ignore all your anger or aggressive feelings and sorrows.
Can you tell us more about the Tinja and what ways you relate to her?
Tinja is a young girl who is very sensitive and wants to do everything to please her demanding mother. She is the type of person who sees other peoples’ feelings and notices them. In this film she hatches all her darkest feelings into this monster creature who she then hides in her wardrobe.
Actually this monster creature inside the wardrobe is from my own childhood memories. I was a child with a very strong imagination and I used to have lots of imaginary monsters living in my wardrobe. Eventually I got so used to them that I actually became quite fond of them as well, so some of these scenes with Tinja and this monster in her room are something that I remember from my own childhood.
Much of the film takes place in pastel-coloured rooms. Why did you choose this atmosphere rather than the traditional darkness of horrors?
I wanted to show the world of Hatching as the lead character of Tinja experiences it. Tinja feels that in the family dynamics there is something she can’t really understand, there’s something fake in her parents’ love. Therefore, I wanted to get this uneasy feeling for the audiences as well and to show the whole world as the mother has made it. She doesn’t allow any strong emotions in the family – there are no strong colours or all of the colours are very soft, pastel colours. She doesn’t allow any dark secrets, so there are no dark shadows in the family, you can see everything. It’s very soft and light.
I wanted to use all those things that are considered soft and lovely, like pastel colours and roses. There are so many roses in the wallpaper that it is almost suffocating, and everything is so pretty and well in place that it almost feels dead. That way I wanted to see the terrible need for control of the mother character.
In a way I wanted to show that this kind of lovely, light decoration and atmosphere in this family is actually more terrifying than the actual monster in the movie. The actual darkest scenes happen with the monster and that is where Tinja faces her darkest emotions, all her sorrow and all her fears. But in the end I feel there is some actual comfort in facing your emotions and I think it is important to face your emotions even if they are painful. That is why I think the biggest fear doesn’t live there, rather in the fake happiness that the mother has created.
What role does social media play in the film?
In the very early versions of the script, social media wasn’t yet a theme. It was about this mother who wants to keep up the happy appearances of the family to the whole world. Then I started to think about what are the ways of keeping up appearances in the modern world- and I think that is really social media. Most of us do it – we post pictures of our lives and we throw the piles of laundry behind us and show us and our lives in the best possible way – which is only human. But sometimes it might be a bit scary when the only thing we see is this fake show of a certain kind of happiness, because very often in these vlogs and social media posts, there seems to be an unspoken code about what happiness should look like. That’s fascinating but also a little scary.
So social media is a big theme in the movie because the mother is an influencer who shows off her whole family and her talented daughter. And through social media and her talented daughter, she kind of relives her unfulfilled dreams.
You’ve said you are afraid of horror films. How have you harnessed that fear to make Hatching?
I have always considered myself a person who is afraid of horror films and I have always been afraid of watching them. But exactly because I have such a strong imagination, my ideas tend to have many horror elements in them.
So when we started to develop Hatching I really forced myself to watch loads of horror movies. At first I was just terrified but then I got used to them and I learned that the horror genre is actually very fascinating genre. In that genre some emotions that are hidden inside the character can take an external form, and that is actually fascinating. The storytelling in horror is very creative and that is very inspiring for a filmmaker. Maybe because I have such a strong imagination, and I have been so afraid of horror films, I feel quite at home making horror as they are part of my imaginary world and I can get ideas from my own fears.
I think that also when watching horror films people can, in their own secure way, confront their own fears and deal with them, Therefore, horror films can serve an important role in our lives.
What are your hopes for Hatching and the impact it has on audiences?
We wanted to make Hatching not just a horror movie that scares the audiences, but we also wanted to tell a meaningful story through the horror elements. I really would like people to start thinking about the horror of unlovingness and the horror of not being accepted fully as you are. I would like this film to find horror fans but also drama audiences, especially those like me who are often afraid of horror films but would like to see new kinds of stories about women, girls and their emotions. I definitely made it for them too.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
At the moment myself and Ilja Rausti are co-writing a new feature film and we are staying in a similar genre. It is a fancy drama with horror elements.
It is about a woman who gets her first child and suddenly she starts to feel like she can’t connect to this baby who is demanding and sucks blood from her breast. She is convinced this baby is not actually human and that it is something else. This film explores the difficult emotions of motherhood. So we are staying with similar themes as Hatching, but it’s a totally different kind of film.
In general, I am looking for new scripts and ideas for films but it is always important to make my kind of films and feel that I can put my own DNA into the films I am directing.
Hatching will be released in UK cinemas on 16th September