Back in March we had the pleasure of speaking with the talented Finnish director, Selma Vilhunen. With a diverse range of projects under her belt, including both fiction and documentary films, Vilhunen has captivated audiences with her ability to delve into complex narratives and portray compelling characters.
Her next feature, which is due for release in autumn, is called Four Little Adults follows the lives of a middle-aged couple who, amid a marriage crisis after an infidelity, decide to open up their relationship and try polyamory.
Questioning societal norms and what love is, the film is a touching comedy drama, as the character’s complex lives and emotions become entangled with one another.
Nordic Watchlist: We watched Four Little Adults a few weeks ago now and thoroughly enjoyed the film. It was a great experience and a fascinating subject that has not been touched on too much, I guess, in mainstream cinema. I think the only thing that I could ever think of was a series called Big Love where Bill Paxton’s character had three wives in this series in a polyamorous relationship.
Selma Vilhunen: I know of that series, but I haven’t watched it, there is another one called Trigonometry, and one that I have watched was Wanderlust. But there aren’t that many films or series’ out there that have open relationships or polyamory in their focus, though I believe that will soon change and there will be more. I have this feeling that this will become more ordinary in the future.
NW: I think Finland has become quite a pioneer in this. It came up in conversation a couple of years ago when I spoke to a director named Suvi West, who had made a Sami documentary.
She brought it up while we were talking as she had been reading a book about it, which is interesting because there is a book mentioned in your film. At what point did you become more aware of it and how did it influence your journey in writing the film?
SV: It is true that there has been quite a lot of conversation about polyamory and open relationships in Finland. I have learned that, compared to Sweden, for example, there is much more discussion on this topic in Finland.
For a few years now, I have been reading articles and coming across conversations here and there. There is something that has resonated with me and then, I came across a book. It is not the book featured in the film – that is entirely fictional.
However, I did read a book called More than Two by an American author. It was incredibly inspiring to me, on multiple levels, it also made me want to write about love, and the concept of polyamory particularly appealed to me. I find it quite beautiful on many levels. It serves as a metaphor for very profound love.
I read a book called ‘More than Two’ by an American author. It was incredibly inspiring to me, on multiple levels; it also made me want to write about love, and the concept of polyamory”
NW: When you started to write the film, did you speak to couples in those relationships?
SV: I conducted interviews with a number of people over the years while writing the film. My initial interview with the first person was quite basic, where I asked, “What is it all about?”
They explained simple principles regarding polyamory, consent, boundaries, and the importance of discussing common rules. They emphasized that there is no absolute right or wrong, but rather an agreement among individuals in the relationship.
NW: Talk to me about your incredible cast, most notably Alma’s exceptional performance, but additionally you have; Eero, Oona, and Pietro. Pietro in particular caught our eye as a new face we had not seen before.
SV: I worked a little bit with Pietro on a TV series that I partly directed in 2019 or 2020, that’s when I got to know them a bit. I got to know their work and their charisma which was really inspiring.
Pietro is also a spoken word artist and their writing is incredible. Writing a lot about sexuality, physicality, and gender questions in such a brave way that you become kind of a bit shocked and feel this kind of relief like, oh, you can actually say such a thing out loud, someone can actually be that brave, then maybe I can too.
So when I was writing this film I knew that I wanted this kind of person to be one of the characters. Someone who represents a new generation with a new perspective on gender.
NW: How great was it to work with this cast? I mean, they are probably up there as some of the best actors in Finland.
SV: Getting to work with these actors was absolutely like a gift. Like I still kind of think back to those days of shooting, rehearsing, editing, and I just feel like I have been given this gift of getting to work with these actors.
I am very happy I got these actors and you are right they are among the top actors in the whole country, they were so professional and so dedicated – such fiery souls.
They were so ambitious too, especially Alma, really put 110% into her role which in turn also pushed me as the director to to go even further. It’s inspiring.
NW: We have seen what she is capable of with her beautiful performance in Tove, which is finally a lot more accessible over here in the UK.
In terms of release dates has the film been released yet in Finland?
SV: It hasn’t actually, its release date is going to be 27th December. So its almost the end of the year when it will be in cinemas in Finland.
NW: What films are you excited to see this year?
SV: I often have quite a long list of films that I haven’t seen yet, just like everyone else. I must admit that there are some films that have already been in circulation, especially many films in Gothenburg.
However, let’s see…I’m really looking forward to seeing two films that Alma Posti will be starring in. One is Aki Kaurismaki’s next film, and the other is the newest film by Pirjo Honkasalo, another legendary Finnish film director, which is currently being shot. Alma is also starring in that one. So, those films are definitely the ones that I really want to see.
NW: And what are you working on next?
SV: I’m developing a film that is based on a Finnish novel written by Tommy Kinnunen, who has written well received novels, I think four novels altogether.
This story – the English title is Defiance or or ‘did not show regret’ is the actual literal translation – it’s a story that takes place in the aftermath of World War Two about five women who walk all across the the wilderness in Lapland after escaping a prison camp in Norway and walking back home.
NW: I am sold!
SV: I’m also writing something of my own, like an original story, and I’m quite excited about that one actually. It involves a robot.
That’s like a new area for me. I’m quite excited about that. It’s definitely a love story as I kind of realized that I’m forever interested in asking the question what love is all about. So I am back on that path again only this time one of the characters is a robot.
That comes with its own challenges as I am not a Sci-Fi enthusiast and I have to really design this character from scratch which is exciting but also a real challenge.
NW: Oh, that sounds really exciting. Well we can’t wait to see what you produce next!
The exact release date for Four Little Adults in the UK is to be confirmed but we are hopeful of an Autumn release – you can catch the film at festivals over the summer including the Scandinavian Film Festival in Australia, details on that can be found HERE