‘The Wife’ Director Björn Runge Talks Upcoming Swedish Drama ‘Burn All My Letters’

‘The Wife’ director Björn Runge was at the Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden this weekend to tease his passionate Swedish drama ‘Burn All My Letters’, produced by SF Studios.

Runge was on the ground at the sidebar of the festival industry with his producer Annika Sucksdorff and lead actors Asta Kamma August (“The Covenant”) and Gustav Lindh (“Queen of Hearts”). The film is an adaptation of Alex Schulman’s bestselling novel of the same name. Bill Skarsgård (“It: Chapters 1 & 2,” “Deadpool”), who wasn’t there in Gothenburg, also stars in the film.

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.  - Credit: Stellan Runge

. – Credit: Stellan Runge

Stellar Runge

The several clips played during the Gothenburg presentation, which showcased the film’s brilliant production performance, atmosphere and design, drew loud applause from industry attendees and locals alike. Runge also revealed that Jacob Mühlrad, the famous Swedish art music composer, is creating his first film score for the film.

“Burn All My Letters” marks Runge’s sequel to “The Wife” which earned its star, Glen Close, a Golden Globe Award and Oscar and BAFTA nominations. The director approached Mühlrad after seeing his last orchestra which was performed at the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra.

“It was absolutely fascinating and hypnotic,” said Runge, who originally planned to work with Mühlrad on his “Stardream” sci-fi project which was put on hold due to the pandemic.

Runge then collaborated closely with Mühlrad on the score for “Burn All My Letters”. “He has an energy and a talent that constantly adds a creative enthusiasm that is like spring water to me.”

.  - Credit: Israeli Amit

. – Credit: Israeli Amit

Israeli Friend

Mühlrad, who previously scored Schulman’s play “Tröstrapporter” (“Reports of Consolation”), said his deep conversations with Runge informed his musical composition. As “Björn digs into the small, delicate details of the characters and beautifully paints a picture of what he sees, the music comes to me,” said Mühlrad, who added that he aimed to “reproduce the fine nuances of the struggles of the main character Karin and pain.

Spanning 70 years and based on real events, the sprawling drama sees August play Karin Stolpe, a young intellectual torn between her complex relationship with her husband Sven Stolpe (Skarsgård), a famous Swedish author, and his crazy history of love with another author, Olof. Lagercrantz in the 1930s. The film shows the repercussions of this tragic love triangle and the weight of family secrets on the childhood of Karin and Sven’s grandson, Alex Schulman (Sverrir Gudnason, “A Serious Game”) at the late 1980s. Now in his early 40s, Alex is going through a crisis with his wife Amanda (Sonja Richter, “The Bridge”) and begins to investigate her family history to better understand her own psyche. What he discovers about his grandmother’s tumultuous life and sacrifices has a profound impact on his marriage.

Runge said he was working on another project in England when his agent in Sweden called him and told him that SF’s Annika wanted to meet him. “I went to this meeting with an open mind and when the meeting was over, Annika handed me a book by Alex Schulman.

“I wasn’t so interested in reading the book because he wasn’t my type of writer at all at the time. But then I read it overnight and was hooked. I saw a drama of passion and strong characters, and I could also relate to the big issues of love, violence and classic family secrets, said Runge, who was also drawn to the narrative structure of the story that formed a kind of dialogue between three different periods of time.

Runge said that Sven Stolpe is “such an interesting character because a lot of people think he was a psychopath, but a very charming, very intelligent psychopath, and I think Bill Skarsgård really portrays all of these different dimensions of this character. “

“You’re really charmed by him, but you’re also quite scared of him because with just one look he can scare you off his character,” said Runge, who added that August and Lindh also immersed themselves in their respective roles.

The director said that the character of Karin Stolpe, played by August, is the film’s emotional anchor. “We will see her wrestle in a very closed environment and her fate will have a significant influence on her grandson Alex who is now an adult and guides us into this realm of the past,” Runge said. He said “there could be another title for this film: the different faces of Karin”.

Sucksdorff, meanwhile, said she also felt during her first full viewing of the montage that Karin Stolpe was a “prehistoric #MeToo figure, a feminist force”. “She really tried to fight the system and find her light, but she couldn’t get out of her marriage for various reasons,” she said.

“Burn All My Letters” is produced by Sucksdorff and Jonathan Ridings at SF Studios with support from the Swedish Film Institute, in collaboration with SVT, Film i Väst and Film Stockholm.

Sucksdorff pointed out that the book was circled by several other companies after its release in 2018. “I met Alex at a concert and told him what an amazing book it was and that I felt personally produce a movie about it, said “what a shame you didn’t (bid) sooner because we’re about to make a deal with another company,” Sucksdorff recalled. She said the next day she gave the book to Runge who read it overnight. A week later, she and Runge pitched their vision for the adaptation to Schulman and finally secured the rights.

Written by Veronica Zacco, “Burn All My Letters” was developed with support from the Creative Europe MEDIA program of the European Union. The film shot in Sweden last year and is now in its final weeks of editing. One of the most anticipated Nordic films of 2022, the film will be released this fall in Swedish theaters by SF Studios.

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