Enjoying its world premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival, Bille August’s drama “Silent Heart” was honoured with one of the festival’s top prizes, the Silver Shell for Best Actress, awarded to Paprika Steen for her role as a daughter struggling with her mother’s painful decision. The last time a Danish film won a main award at San Sebastian was in 2004 with Connie Nielsen and Ulrich Thomsen both receiving a Silver Shell for their roles in Susanne Bier’s “Brothers.”
Paprika Steen was present at Saturday’s awards ceremony along with the film’s producer Jesper Morthorst.
Steen plays Heidi, the daughter of a terminally ill woman, in a drama about three generations of a family gathering over a weekend. The sisters Heidi and Sanne have accepted their mother’s desire to die before her disease worsens. But as the weekend progresses her decision becomes harder and harder to deal with, and old conflicts come to the surface. Ghita Nørby, Morten Grunwald, Danica Curcic and Pilou Asbæk play the other key roles.
The film “signals a return to form for the former Oscar-winner Bille August” and is “played to perfection by a superbly directed cast,” The Hollywood Reporter noted in its festival review. Read the full review
Jesper Morthorst has produced “Silent Heart” for SF Film Production with support from the Danish Film Institute. Domestic release is set for 13 November.
Winner of the Golden Shell for Best Film is “Magical Girl” by Carlos Vermut.
About Paprika Steen
Paprika Steen, born 1964, initially became known for her knack for the kind of ironic comedy which captured the zeitgeist of the ’90s. Within a few years, however, she would demonstrate a talent for dramatic roles – though more often than not, Steen would lace these with a mercurial wit and throw in a graceful aggression all her own.
Her part in Thomas Vinterberg’s Dogme triumph “The Celebration” (1998) serves as a fine example of that special Steen touch. Memorable roles from recent years include her abrasive, alcoholic actress in “Applause” (2009), feisty runaway wife in “Superclásico” (2011) and lustful sister-in-law in “Love Is All You Need” (2012).
“I don’t want to know too much about their private life”
In this excerpt from our feature on Bille August’s “Silent Heart,” written by Wendy Mitchell, the director explains how he works with his actors:
August has great respect for actors and actresses and says he understands their psyche even better having been married to two – previously Pernilla August and currently Sara-Marie Maltha.
“When I work with actors, I don’t want to know too much about their private life. I don’t want to mix it up. I want to stay professional,” he explains.
Even though the cast was together for seven weeks, he didn’t encourage them to get too friendly away from shooting. “Actors are not necessarily friends outside the shooting. They want to hold on to that privacy,” August says. “When they are creating a scene, they are in a special room, and you should never interfere with that. You have to respect that room.”
“We never had dinner together at night,” he continues. “The work was so intense and focused and concentrated. We didn’t want to destroy that space. It was keeping the characters’ integrity.”
He also protects the work by not doing rehearsals. “It takes away some spontaneity of situations. I don’t get how any director can rehearse. I want to save the moment for when the camera is there,” he cautions.
What the team did ahead of shooting was to meet for a week to do readings and go over the dialogue and discuss the characters’ backgrounds. “The actors become ambassadors for their characters,” he says. “I wanted to get them comfortable with their scenes. I don’t want big discussions on set.”