I recently got the chance to talk to Satu Helena Mikkelinen about her role in ‘In A Better World’. Here, Satu talks about how she got involved in the project and what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set…
Hey Satu. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘In A Better World’.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
I think ‘In A Better World’ is a beautifully complex film with several plotlines entwined into one. In very basic terms, it is about the lives of two families coming together through the friendship of two boys. It’s about a doctor, who commutes between his home in Denmark and his demanding work in an African refugee camp; it’s about his wife coming to terms with a troubled marriage; it’s about a widowed man, dealing with his own and his son’s grief; and it’s about two boys trying to come to terms with the complexities of life, and the choices between revenge and forgiveness, anger and empathy. I strongly urge people to watch this fabulous film and see the whole story themselves, as I believe the plot to be more of an internal and emotional one.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play Hanna, an English businesswoman and a colleague of Claus, played by Ulrich Thomsen. Hanna is a friend of the family, and so she is also close to the son, Christian, who is played by William Jøhnk Nielsen. Hanna is present at the funeral of the wife and mother of the family at the beginning of the film, just before Claus and Christian return to Denmark.
How did you get involved in the movie in the first place?
I happened to be in Copenhagen visiting a friend, when another friend of mine heard about an audition for an English-speaking part. At this stage I was only happy to audition for such a film, so you can imagine my joy when I got the part and was given an opportunity to work with an amazing director like Susanne. I was in Copenhagen for the first time, and only there for about five days at the time of the audition, so it really was quite a coincidence that I ended up having a chance to be part of this particular film.
How would you say this film is different from other thrillers?
I don’t know if I would classify the film as a thriller to be honest. I’d say it’s a drama with elements of other genres, but it’s really a rite of passage film for all of the characters. I just watched it again, and it has such amazingly intricate moments of deep human emotion. The acting is superb and the story is a poignant depiction of the human plight – you’re “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” – it’s so hard to find the right answers and ways to behave in today’s world. I would say what’s unique about the film is that it really touches universal themes on so many levels. It’s about the real stuff, the tough decisions we all have to make and the consequences of making them.
The film stars Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, William Jøhnk Nielsen and Markus Rygaard – with Susanne Bier onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on the film?
As I mentioned, my character was a family friend in Claus and Christian’s life in London, so I only worked with Ulrich Thomsen, William Jøhnk Nielsen and Elsebeth Steentoft, who plays Claus’ mother in the movie. They are all such professionals, including the young William. I can only say that it was a pleasure to work with them. And the crew is of course world-class, so the experience as a whole is one of the best I’ve ever had. I must say, that Susanne really knows what she wants and how to achieve it, in casting and on set. She really is an amazing director, and I’m extremely happy that she was deservedly named the Best European Director at the European Film Awards in 2011. The way she directed the two children was phenomenal, and the result is easy to see on-screen. I really think the two child actors steal the show.
Let’s talk a bit about you Satu. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I don’t know if I had a choice, it’s more like acting chose me. I started acting quite late, after having a couple of other careers behind me, so it’s been extremely tough going. I’ve had to ask myself often why I even bother. But I just love this craft. I think there is nothing better than to be able to search for those truthful emotional moments between people and then live them. Acting, at its best, really allows me to experience deeper levels of emotional life. And most importantly, it can be such great fun!
What advice would you give to people wanting to get into the industry?
Follow your heart and intuition. I mean, this industry is a tough one to break into. You never know where and how the opportunities present themselves, so the best you can do is to love your craft and try to hone your talent every day, so that you will be ready when the opportunity knocks. I don’t know, it’s been hard to find work, so you also need to be comfortable with uncertainty and also have something else that you love doing.
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
You know, I have a really old iPod, and it keeps running out of battery constantly, so I rarely listen to it. But there’s some Indian music on it, and some Billy Joel, Damien Rice, Norah Jones and Katie Melua, among other things.
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would they be and why?
There are so many people I would have loved to have met or would love to meet, but off the top of my head I’ll say Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and The Dalai Lama. They all have done such great things for humanity. I watched The Dalai Lama speak earlier this year as he visited Helsinki, and he just emanates such peace and joy. We all could use some of his attitude towards life and other human beings. I only just started to read Mandela’s biography and watched the movie about Gandhi. This world needs more people like them.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
Currently I’m doing an MA degree in Film Screenwriting at Salford University, and recently I’ve been writing a number of short films. This year the plan is to write first drafts to two feature-length films. Last Autumn was extremely busy with studying as well as teaching and acting. Recently, I also finished filming a role for the Finnish Broadcasting Company and I’ve been also filming a pilot for a TV sketch show that I’m involved in as a writer and actress. All good things!
Thanks for the interview!