First published at Film in Revolt.
Kena: Did you intend Stupid Young Heart for a youth audience?
Selma Vilhunen: No, never. Like my previous film Little Wing which is the story of a twelve-year-old girl, I intended it for people of various ages… That’s the case with this film as well. I wanted it to be appealing somehow to young audiences, but at the same time want a diverse audience to see all of my films.
K: What is it apart from the characters that you feel a youth audience would connect to that adults wouldn’t? Or that teenagers would connect to in a different, more enhanced way?
SV: I do think it’s notable that the main characters are young, and it’s their world and their universe that’s being portrayed. The screenwriter, Kirsikka Saari, and myself tried our best to tell the story from their point of view, so I hope young audiences feel that they can relate to the characters and see their world on screen. It really matters to be able to see yourself on screen, and truly recognise yourself. I hope young audiences can use the film as a tool when connecting with other people, that they can refer to the film and say ‘I’m that person’, or ‘I feel like that character in that situation’, ‘this is my world’. I hope it increases understanding between people.
K: This film is the definition of jam-packed: it would be enough material to fill a movie with if it were just the story of Lenni and Kiira’s impending parenthood, or just about Lenni’s involvement with the far-right… why combine the two into one film? Why did you want to tell both stories in parallel?
SV: The story was created by our screenwriter Kirsikka Saari, she was simply intrigued by these two things that don’t necessarily have much to do with each other. She wanted to write about teenage pregnancy and equally study the far-right, and in Lenni’s character she found a way to combine these two urges, and find a story where these two themes meet. In Lenni’s case, he’s lacking adult role models and support in a tough situation, and these right-wing activists spot Lenni in a weak situation. As far as we’ve learned, this is commonly how people become radicalised. They are most often lacking something essential in their lives, like a sense of belonging or direction, and they are often adolescent men. Kirsikka heard a story about a 15-year-old right-wing activist guy in a maternity hospital getting ready to become a dad, and that’s when she became inspired and realised she wanted to tell this boy’s story – although Stupid Young Heart is a fictional story – and that became the inspiration for Lenni’s character.
K: This the only film I’ve seen that deals with young people – proper young people, at 15 – engaging with the far right in its contemporary context, why is it important for you to expose young audiences to this theme?
SV: To me that’s the most important thing about this story. I like the way Kirsikka digs beyond the surface and tries to understand the reasons behind why people make these choices. It is a fact that this society is becoming increasingly polarised, and I wanted to do my share by telling this story, by increasing people’s knowledge about this phenomenon. We tried to show the reasons behind these decisions, and why these decisions are not very wise; they are simple solutions to highly complicated questions. When you begin to build your identity on exclusion, hate and finding differences, it always will lead to violence, and you will eventually turn against yourself, too. I’m interested in studying weakness and strength in all of my films, and so this is a continuation of that. Lenni tries to find strength, but from a weak place. In the hopeful ending, he finally gets a small hold of a stronger strength within himself.
K: What was your favourite scene to film from Stupid Young Heart and why?
SV: I really enjoyed filming the labour, because it had such strength to it! I was looking forward to filming it, because in the screenplay it’s quite a lengthy scene, and it was already written as a strong, very physical battle that balances the violence we have seen so far. After we had rehearsed with the actors and our specialist midwife teacher, everyone was ready, the rehearsals went so well and it was incredible to see the power in those scenes. I also enjoyed filming the play fight in Lenni’s friend’s house with just ‘the boys. Lenni and his friend end up fighting, but playing. And the boys enjoyed filming it, I think that was their favourite scene. I really enjoyed making all that violence – we had two super Stunt Coordinators from Holland. All of the choreographing and rehearsing was quite fun. I enjoyed all of the fist fights, but this one especially because it had fun and humour to it.
K: What were some films that inspired you in your youth?
SV: When I was a child, I liked the Soviet Film White Bim Black Ear about a dog, a very touching film, and I also liked Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter – a Swedish series based on Astrid Lindgren’s book. As a teenager my favourite films were Dances with Wolves and Pretty Woman.
K: Are you working on any new projects we could hear about?
SV: I’m in the very early stages in writing a new film that I would also like to direct. This one is not especially targeted to teenagers, it’s about middle-aged people and their messy love lives, and their attempts to cope with broken hearts. It’s called Four Little Adults. I’m investigating those quite tight categories that we try to squeeze romantic love into, and how people don’t often stay in those boxes.
Thank you so much for chatting with me.
See Stupid Young Heart on Monday 10th June at 2:30pm and on Sunday 16th June at 1:45pm, both at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter.