In the garden of dreams

A sense of magical realism permeates Siv Sleeps Astray, a children’s movie about facing the unfamiliar. “Strange things can happen in a dream, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a nightmare,” says Lena Hanno Clyne, who directed the film together with Catti Edfeldt.

Siv is eight years old and tends to keep herself to herself. One day a self-assured figure in a cerise pink coat and fur hat appears in the school playground. It turns out to be Cerisia, Siv’s new classmate. Siv is kind, assured and somewhat cautious, whereas Cerisia, who has recently moved from the capital city, has the super-confidence of a princess. Two children from different cultural and class backgrounds, they nonetheless become best friends. So naturally, there will be sleepovers… Siv gets invited to Cerisia’s elegant apartment, with its abstract art on the walls and a boisterous bohemian family at the dinner table.

“Siv isn’t really a timid girl, but she has to navigate her way through this unfamiliar world,” says Lena Hanno Clyne, who together with Catti Edfeldt has co-directed the magical children’s story Siv Sleeps Astray (Siv sover vilse), based on the book by Pija Lindenbaum.

Siv’s first night away from home is her first step into a new, slightly scary world. And things get worse when she wakes up in the night and can’t find Cerisia. But is Siv actually awake? Inanimate objects are on the move: in the kitchen she encounters some soft toy badgers from her own home that have now come to life.

“A first sleepover is a common hurdle in a child’s life. And in this case it’s with a strange family who eat strange food. The badgers become her guides, her mentor animals from home, and they give her a boost in this unfamiliar environment.”

Catti Edfeldt sees both girls as having gone somewhat astray, Siv in this different environment, and Cerisia as the free spirit who has assumed a tougher attitude to give herself some living space.

“The badgers give Siv strength, they become her inner voice,” she says.

Catti Edfeldt has a long list of films for children and young people in her CV, both as actor and director, and Lena Hanno Clyne is an experienced producer, screenwriter and stage and screen director. Siv Sleeps Astray is the first film they’ve directed together.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see what happens in the mind of a child during a film shoot,” says Edfeldt. “It’s a big thing for them to be somewhere where they feel so included, they’re not otherwise used to that among adults. It’s a unique situation for them: they recognise how important they are and that without their efforts nothing will come of it.”

This was a special film to be involved in, with its mix of CGA and live action and a number of incidents that might be considered creepy.

“But we think of it like a dream,” says Hanno Clyne. “Strange things can happen in a dream, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a nightmare.”

“We were very careful that things didn’t get too scary, but Siv is rather more astounded than frightened,” says Edfeldt. “Then again you shouldn’t make a children’s film too ‘child friendly’, you must never underestimate them.”

Lena Hanno Clyne explains that their ambition was to make a fully-fledged children’s film with everything from fun and games to worries and fear of the unknown.

“Fear is an important issue for our times, what with refugee crises and racism on the increase. It’s not easy to confront new things, but it can be hugely rewarding if you’re willing to go through the process. And that’s what Siv does; she stays there and she matures.”

The film was produced by animation specialist Petter Lindblad (last year’s Producer on the Move at the Cannes Film Festival), who was fascinated by the exciting challenges of combining live action with animation:

“Knowing from an early stage what the film was to contain and how we were going to make that happen together helped us to make the film smoothly and quickly, and with a strong end result too. We worked through several versions of the story board, animatic and concept pictures to help us work out visually the best solutions and how to plan the shoot,” he explains.

Lindblad sees a bright future for magical realism in Swedish film, mentioning a number of other similar projects for children and young people, both his own and other people’s.

“I’m passionate about stories that contain elements of magic, things that don’t exist in real everyday life. You experience an escape from reality in the cinema when you don’t know from the outset how the world of a particular film hangs together or what’s going to happen. A world where everything can happen.”


Previously published in Swedish Film 2016 # 1

  • Author Niklas Wahllöf

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