Becoming Astrid (Unga Astrid)
As one of the most seminal figures of children’s literature, Astrid Lindgen has created fantastic worlds for kids to learn and get lost in. Danish filmmaker Pernille Fischer Christensen fashions her own fantastic world to depict Astrid’s early years, and her struggle to find her voice and identity as a young, independent woman in 1920s Sweden.
Becoming Astrid opens on our titular heroine (Alba August) as a curious, precocious teenager bored by the parochial dances in her small, provincial town. Her talent as a writer gains the attention of local newspaper editor Reinhold (Henrik Rafaelsen). Soon enough, she is inspired to follow her passion for writing and find her voice. Complications arise as Astrid begins an affair with Reinhold, only to realise the eventuality of heartbreak and disappointment when Reinhold’s wife refuses his request for a divorce and pursues him in court over charges of adultery. Astrid decides to vanish by herself to Stockholm to have her secret love child and start work as a secretary.
Although the story is conventionally told within the period biopic frame, the camera work is dynamic and often handheld, actively displaying Christensen’s gorgeous set design and composition. The director excels when confronting the dark corners of Astrid’s story as she is required to give up her child to a woman in Denmark for fear of judgement as an unwed mother. August delivers an absolutely captivating performance, bringing the strong-willed writer to glorious life.
Becoming Astrid would benefit from taking more inspiration from the subject’s fantastic style, but instead relies on by the numbers period drama conventions – the clumsiest being the use of a much older Astrid (Fahl Vikander) in the 1980s opening, and the answering of fan mail as a framing device. Nevertheless, the film is a warm, beautifully composed portrait of a writer finding her voice.
Becoming Astrid (Unga Astrid) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
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