Helena Bergström (SE)

Director, screenwriter, actor. Born 1964 in Kortedala, Gothenburg, Sweden. Trained at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Actor
Helena Bergström was raised in an acting family; her grandfather on her mother’s side was the legendary Olof Widgren. This made acting a natural choice of career. She debuted as a young teenager in a TV sitcom, Hem, ljuva hem (1978) directed by her father. Carrying on in TV, she created the satirical series Vidöppet (1983 and 1984) with other young upcomers Måns Herngren and Hannes Holm. After graduating from the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts (1985-1988) she worked at the Royal Dramatic Theatre (1988-89, 1990-91) and Stockholm City Theatre (1989-90, 1992-93 and again from 1994). She has also recorded an album of Edith Piaf songs entitled Sjunger Piaf (Singing Piaf) (2002), after playing Piaf at Stockholm City Theatre more than one hundred times.

Bergström made her breakthrough as a film actor in The Women on the Roof/Kvinnorna på taket (Carl-Gustaf Nykvist, 1989) and as tough city girl Berit in 1939 (Göran Carmback, 1989), a role that garnered many critics’ acclaim in an otherwise poorly received film. It was, however, through her meeting with director Colin Nutley that her potential came into its own in films such as Black Jack (1990), House of Angels/Änglagård (1992), The Last Dance/Sista dansen (1993) and others. She has a complex, relatively emotional acting style. So as not to burn herself out, as she puts it, Bergström has taken on relatively few roles, but those roles have been weighty.

P O Qvist (2004)
(translated by Matt Bibby)

 

Director
Helena Bergström debuted as a film director in 2007 with the feature-length Mind the Gap!/Se upp för dårarna, from a screenplay by her good friend Denize Karabuda. The idea for the movie came from their shared desire to see more and other types of female roles in Swedish film. But directing had long been on the cards for Bergström, who had tried directing TV shows in the early 1980s. Despite having five features as director under her belt, and having written the screenplay for two of them, she still seems to be defined and categorized as an actor. Nowadays she is primarily a director. Her actor identity remains in tact, but secondary in career terms.

“I see myself as a director who occasionally acts, not vice versa, not an actor who occasionally directs. As an actor you have to wait to be invited into someone else’s passion. As a director you don’t have to delimit your creativity, you can constantly have the next project on your mind.”

In 2011 Bergström directed her first play, Strindberg’s Miss Julie, at Stockholm City Theatre. A couple of years later the film Julie was released. Based on the play, it was written and directed by Bergström herself, and aspired to bring Strindberg to a younger demographic and allow young people the opportunity to talk about issues related to mental health. With A Holy Mess/En underbar jävla jul in 2015, Bergström continued to treat taboo subjects and difficult issues, but this time in a dramatic comedy based around new family constellations. The film was mainly well received, winning Best Film at the Gaygala, and was one of the most watched Swedish movies at Swedish cinemas.

Bergström herself has referred to A Holy Mess as her ‘graduation film’, the one in which she finally felt confident in her role as director. She aspires to tell moving, entertaining stories that cross boundaries, and feels that pigeon-holing films into genres is limiting. Her fifth title as director, Mending Hugo’s Heart/Vilken jävla cirkus, was released in late 2017. It is fundamentally about the mourning process, but is set in a circus with all the other narratives associated with that. This movie is close to Bergström’s heart, having worked on the concept and screenplay for four years. In autumn 2017 she also returned to the theatre and directed her second play.

Freya Kilander (2017)
(translated by Matt Bibby)

 

As part of the mentor and leadership programme Moviement, launched by the Swedish Film Institute in 2013, Tove Torbiörnsson interviewed seven of the participating directors. In the interview Helena Bergström, Susanna Edwards, Görel Crona, Lisa Ohlin, Anna Hylander, Karin Fahlén and Ella Lemhagen talk for instance about taking a film idea to finished film, about being ‘women directors’, about having access to the big budgets, about the quota system, and about seeing the world from a woman’s perspective. (Interview in Swedish)

 

Basic info

Main profession: Director
Born: 1964
Active: 1987-

Filmography

Regi:
Vilken jävla cirkus (2017)
En underbar jävla jul (2015)
Julie (2013)
Så olika (2009)
Se upp för dårarna (2007)

Manus:
Vilken jävla cirkus (2017)
En underbar jävla jul(2015)
Så olika (2009)

Idé:
Se upp för dårarna (2007)

Roll:
Tårtgeneralen (2018)
En underbar jävla jul(2015)
Den fjärde mannen (2014)
Medicinen (2014)
Någon annanstans i Sverige (2011)
Änglagård – tredje gången gillt (2010)
Angel (2008)
Ernst-Hugo (2008)
Selma (2008)
Heartbreak Hotel (2006)
The Queen of Sheba’s Pearls (2004)
Paradiset (2003)
Mrs Klein (2002)
Sprängaren (2001)
Gossip (2000)
Livet är en schlager (2000)
Still Crazy (1998)
Under solen (1998)
Jägarna (1996)
Sånt är livet (1996)
Änglagård andra sommaren (1994)
Pariserhjulet (1993)
Sista dansen (1993)
Änglagård (1992)
BlackJack (1990)
1939 (1989)
Ängel (1989)
Husbonden (1989)
Kvinnorna på taket (1989)
Friends (1988)
Råttornas vinter (1988)
VD (1988)
Uppvaknandet (1987)

Manusbearbetning:
Julie (2013)

Read more about the films at Svensk Filmdatabas (SE)

Awards

1994: Guldbagge för bästa kvinnliga huvudroll i Pariserhjulet (Clas Lindberg, 1993) och Sista dansen (Colin Nutley, 1993).
1992: Teaterförbundets Daniel Engdahl-stipendium.
1990: Svenska Filmakademins Kurt Linder-stipendium.

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