With Every Heartbeat (Q&A): 2011 AFI Fest

The film ends to satisfied applause and out of the crowd comes the unlikely writer/director and producer of the film. As most filmmakers at festivals prove, they’re humble, dressed in jeans and tennis shoes, and never as glamorous as the movie stars; it’s wonderful.

Alexandra Therese Keining makes her biggest feature debut yet with this film, taking on role as both writer and director. Josefine Tengblad produces as well as acts in the movie, playing Frida’s (Liv Mjones) understanding girlfriend Elin.  

After a few welcoming statements, I jolt my hand up, knowing these talkbacks only allow for a few questions and a lazy arm will never get a word in. I ask, “How did you go about intimate scenes in the film? They were absolutely wonderful and did you allow the actors to improvise or have them follow the script?”

Keining replies that she had a scene schedule and that she talked to the actors ahead of time about what she wanted. Tengblad chimes in that ‘Sex scenes are hard, so Alex choreographed it for the actors. She would say, ‘hand there or arm there’ and within that the actors could play.” Keining remarks that they had plenty of time to shoot these parts of the script, with long hours that gave them more freedom.

Tengblad begins to describe the journey that the film went on and that “It took three years to develop because of the hard facts. People backed out with money. Even with Sweden’s superstars, the subject matter scared people away.” Apparently, when big names signed on, such as Lena Endre (known for the Dragon Tattoo series), investors rushed to get their piece. But even the actors couldn’t distract the public from the provocative subject matter.

Keining says that the team really had to push each other not to let the project go, that they believed in telling this unconventional love story. The interviewer remarks that reviewers have said the film is too “beautiful” and asks Alex’s thoughts on this. She replies “that is the kind of movie we wanted to make.” She goes on to explain that they wanted to accentuate the beauty of love with the lighting, cinematography and dialogue.

Keining elaborates on the film’s exploration of family dynamics. She explains that in the story she wanted “to put weight on Mia from every angle, including her father,” making the script more than just a love story. “Allowing conflicts to arise from various places in Mia’s life is a dramatic process that fuels the feelings between every character.” Keining gushes, “Coming out to parents fascinated me.” This situation is explored not only between Mia and her father, but also Frida and her mother, who helps Mia’s father come to terms with it all.

Although many audience members remark that the film has an unexpected happy ending and “all a little too Hollywood to believe,” both Tengblad and Keining stress that the happy ending doesn’t occur for every character. “In the end, the happy ending isn’t complete because Mia’s dad wasn’t completely for her new relationship.”