Hrafnsdóttir, who lives in Reykjavik, is usually in front of the camera acting in film and television roles including Margrete-Queen of the North, Valhalla Murders and The Minister.
Although she has directed some short films, this is her debut full length film, which is adapted from a novel called Grand Mal/Quake by Audur Jonsdóttir. The story revolves around a single mother who loses her memory following an epileptic seizure and then begins to uncover memories of a traumatic childhood.
Today see’s Quake have it’s premiere at Gothenburg Film Festival – we spoke with Tinna to find out more about the making of the film.
‘Quake’ marks your debut as a director – has working behind the camera been something you have always dreamed of?
Deep inside my heart I always knew that I wanted to become a director. In a way I rather see myself as a storyteller because I not only direct, I also act, write and produce. I have the need to express myself and influence others by showing people life and stories that tell them something about themselves.
But I realized that it would take a lot of strength to dive into the special lifestyle of the artist, the uncertainty of opportunities, the praise, the rejection, the publicity, and the fact that I come from a family that has already been very active in the field of arts here in Iceland made me at first worry about that people might compare me to them since I decided to follow the same path.
“Deep inside my heart I always knew that I wanted to become a director. In a way I rather see myself as a storyteller…”
I was very well aware of these facts in the beginning, but I was also aware of how extremely important it was for me to stand by who I am, to follow my beliefs and listen to what my heart wanted. That is something which is very important in all kind of creation, to know what you want and the way to attain it by being true to yourself.
So, I of course decided to pay no attention to my fears and gave myself the chance to prosper as an independent individual which was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I really love what I do and have many other stories to tell.
Name some directors who have been your inspirations leading up to making this film?
There are few of them, but here in Iceland Benedikt Erlingsson has been a huge inspiration for me. He also started his career as an actor and his films are in my opinion exceptional in so many ways.
Ruben Östlund, Krzysztof Kieslowski and Mike Leigh also give me inspiration among others. There are so many talented directors out there.
Anita Briem takes the lead and her performance is outstanding – did you find being an actor yourself, this helped getting the best from your stars?
It made everything much easier to be an actress myself, to know their “language”, the experience and understanding directors need to have to be able to get the best out of the actors.
The casting of Saga was a bit of a challenge for the role demanded a lot from the actress. But when I auditioned Aníta Briem I knew that she would be the perfect one to bring Saga to life. She’s extremely talented and gave so much for this role which was so beautiful to experience. I had casted another actress for the role of Johanna but when we changed the timing of the shootings and she had to step out due to another project, I decided to take that role since I knew Jóhanna so well being the scriptwriter myself.
So it was quite easy for me to step into her world and feelings on set.
The film is an adaptation from the book ‘Grand Mal/Quake’ – when did making this into a film come to mind? Were you concerned about any challenges bringing the book to life?
When I read the book I instantly felt strong connection to it and what Saga the main character goes through, the journey from denial to acceptance. I just knew that this was the story that had to become my first feature film for I personally connected to it and the inward-investigative side of it was something I wanted to highlight in the script writing in order to raise the suspense.
But stories like Grand Mal, about the complications of human relationships and existence, have always been my passion. The first challenge was to get the filming rights. Since this would be my first feature the author and the publisher took some time to consider whether they should wait for someone more experienced to film it but I’m proud to say that when Auður Jónsdóttir saw my first short film HELGA she got convinced.
Also, being a first-time director, getting finance from abroad was also difficult but we managed and produced the film with the grant from The Icelandic Film Centre.
What have you got planned next after the release of Quake – will you be directing again or back acting (maybe even both)?
Hopefully both. I’m now developing my first series, Home is where the heart is, which I co-write with Ottó Geir Borg. It’s a satirical family drama with strong global themes and if everything works out we will start shooting next summer. I also have few other projects in the pipeline so these times are very exciting for me.
Quake has it’s Icelandic release on the 31st March 2022
Interview by Alex Minnis