Hatching‘ is a compelling new psychological thriller and body horror film by Finnish director Hanna Bergholm with a quirky style and and even quirkier storyline.

The main character, Tinja, is a adolescent gymnast who’s desperate to be perfect and please her image-obsessed mother. After finding a wounded bird in the woods, she brings its egg home and nurtures it until it hatches. The creature that emerges becomes both friend and foe to Tinja and her family as the dark tale twists into a living nightmare.

The film captivated us and you’ll find yourself thinking over the themes, metaphors, and layers of the film long after it’s finished. An impressive feature debut from the director that had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year. We got in touch with her to find out more about the making of this story and bringing the creature form the egg to life:

Director Hanna Bergholm

Nordic Watchlist: We wanted to start by discussing the horror genre with you – it seems that this year Nordic horror is getting a real showcase with the likes of See No Evil, The Innocents, and Hatching – have you always wanted to make a horror film and what or who were your inspirations going into making your debut?

Hanna Bergholm: I have always been afraid of horror films because I have such a strong imagination. After seeing a horror film, I start to imagine the movie monsters everywhere. But because of that I’ve always been interested in telling stories about fear.

My ideas often have horror elements in them. Horror is a great genre for a filmmaker because in that genre the inner emotions of the character can get an external form. I really love the new Nordic genre films because they, like Let the Right One In, tell a meaningful story through the genre. My inspiration for Hatching didn’t come from any other film though.

The idea of having an imaginary monster hidden inside your wardrobe, like our main character has in the film Hatching, came from my own childhood memory.

NW: Tell us about how your paths crossed with Ilja Rautsi and how the story evolved from his initial idea to bringing Hatching to life?

HB: We met with screenwriter Ilja Rautsi in director’s and screenwriter’s speed meeting event. There Ilja pitched me his one sentence idea: ”A boy hatches an evil dobbelgänger out of an egg”. And I replied: ”Cool! But let’s change the lead character into a girl”.

It was very important to me to have a girl as a lead character because I think that there are still far too few interesting female characters in films. We developed the story together with Ilja and all the themes came from the first one sentence.

I thought that if the girl is hatching something it means that she tries to hide some of her emotions and some sides of her character. An egg brought to my mind a perfect surface that hides something else underneath.

In hatching an egg there is also a theme of motherhood and growing up.

NW: Siiri Solalinna puts in an absolutely brilliant performance; Where did you discover the actress, how did you know she was the right one for the part, and how did she deal with the storyline for someone so young?

HB: We auditioned 1,200 girls all around Finland for the role of Tinja and found Siiri through the auditions. Siiri had never acted anywhere but she caught my eye right away with her ability to through herself into any kind of emotion.

We had long rehearsals with all the actors where we all got to know each other and we rehearsed all the scenes. When directing a child it is very important to me to direct only the fictional emotions of the fictional character and not to mess with the real emotions of the child. For example, when Siiri was acting fear it was very important that she herself felt safe.

We also had a nanny for her in the shootings who took care of her while she was not in the shot. Siiri said that she didn’t find the story or the scenes distressing because she knew it was all fiction and not real.

NW: The creature that is revealed is a wonderful and disgusting creation – who did you get on board to bring it to life and how hard was it to do?

HB: I designed the look of the creature with two wonderful Finnish concept artists, Petteri Mäkinen and Emilia Lindholm. I wanted the creature to have a real physical presence and therefore I wanted it to be an animatronic puppet instead of a CG character.

I knew that we need the best possible person to make the puppet, so I googled: ”Best animatronic designer in the world”. Google told me that he is Gustav Hoegen who has been the lead animatronic designer in latest Star Wars films and Jurassic World. I sent him an email telling about this film and he got excited in making the puppet for us with his team. I also contacted SFX makeup designer Conor O’Sullivan who’s work I had been admiring in Saving Private Ryan, The Dark Knight and Game of Thrones, and he also agreed to come on board and make the SFX makeups with his team.

When filming the scenes with the puppet, we had five puppeteers moving the puppet’s body with rods and Gustav moving the facial expressions and fingers with remote controls. The puppeteers had been working in Star Wars films and they were super professional and nice. It required several takes to make the puppet look real. In post the VFX company Umedia removed the puppeteers from the shot and added some nostril.

NW: Hatching is the most expensive Finnish film ever directed by a woman – how important a step forward do you think this is for the film industry in Finland, especially at a time when it is really in the spotlight?

HB: In the past in Finland, like almost everywhere, the majority of feature films were directed by men. The budgets for the films directed by women have also been lower and women get the chance to direct their first feature later than men.

I really hope that we will now start to see the arise of equality in film business in Finland and all around the world. In previous years there hasn’t been many genre films made in Finland. Now the Finnish Film Foundation has openly said that their task is to make sure that there is variety in films, different genres and themes. That is what I also hope, to see many kind of films from many kind of filmmakers.

NW: What are your plans next, aside from pushing Hatching?

HB: We are just co-writing a new feature film with Ilja Rautsi. It is a horror fantasy drama about a mother who gets her first child and starts to feel that she can’t connect with the demanding troll-like baby. The film is about the difficult and painful side of motherly love.

NW: What other films and TV series are you excited to catch in 2022?

HB: I haven’t yet seen The Innocents or Lamb. I’m really looking forward to watching them!

Hatching has won the Grand Prize and Youth Jury Award in Gerardmer Film Festival, France.

The Finnish premiere of Hatching is this week, and in Sweden it will be in cinemas from March 25.
It will be in cinemas and on VOD in the US from April 29 as well as coming to the UK in Autumn.

Interview by Alex & Claire Minnis