Anja Breien (NO)

Film director. Born in 1940. Educated in Paris, she is one of the pivotal Norwegian film directors of her generation, directing both features and shorts.

Anja Breien was born and raised in Oslo. She studied at IDHEC (now FEMIS) in Paris, the only woman in the directing programme in her year. Breien’s first feature was Rape/Voldtekt (1971), the story of a young man accused of rape who becomes a victim of the legal system.

She received great attention for Wives/Hustruer in 1975, about three former schoolmates who  goes on a three-day binge in Oslo. The film was inspired by John Cassavetes’ Husbands from 1970, and was made as a riposte to that. It was not only a popular film, but also a contribution to the 1970s debate about women’s liberation and female representation. Breien also made sequels in 1985 and 1996.

Breien took over as director on the Norwegian-Swedish co-production A Serious Game/Den allvarsamma leken (1977), which was based on the novel by Hjalmar Söderberg. It was shot in Stockholm with a Swedish cast, and was well-received.

This was followed by two major works. Next of Kin/Arven (1979) is an ensemble film following ten family members through an inheritance settlement, following the death of the director of the family shipping company. The Witch Hunt/Forfølgelsen (1981) tells the story of a small west-Norwegian village in the 17th century, and how a newcomer is branded a witch.

The stylish crime thriller Paper Bird/Papirfuglen (1984) was a collaboration with author Knut Faldbakken. In Twice Upon a Time/Smykketyven (1990), the realism of Breien’s earlier films gives way to an imaginative depiction of a Don Juan-like figure, a man in midlife crisis who attempts to have relationships with several women simultaneously.

Anja Breien also directs short films and has used this format to explore a range of different genres and expressions. They vary widely from Solvorn (1997), based on her grandmother’s photographs from the Sogn district, via the poetic stories of Å se en båt med seil (2001) and Uten tittel (2005), to Yazidi/Jezidi (2009), about the vulnerable Yazidi people of Iraq and Turkey.

Anja Breien has donated her archive to the National Library of Norway, which in 2015 produced a DVD of the films A Serious Game, Next of kin and The Witch Hunt.

Trond Olav Svendsen
(Translated by Matt Bibby)

Basic info

Main profession: Director
Born: 1940
Active: 1966-


Fra tyggegummiens historie (2012)
Jezidi (2009)
Riss (2009)
Uten tittel (2005)
Å se en båt med seil (2001)
Solvorn (1997)
Hustruer III (1996)
Smykketyven (1991)
Fjellet (1989)
Hustruer – ti år etter (1985)
Papirfuglen (1984)
Forfølgelsen (1981)
Arven (1979)
Den allvarsamma leken (1977)
Gamle (1975; sammen med Espen Thorstenson)
Hustruer (1975)
Mine søsken, goddag (1974)
Herbergistene (1973)
Murer rundt fengselet (1972)
Voldtekt (1971)
Dager fra 1000 år (1970; episoden Vokse opp)
Ansikter (1969)
17. mai – en film om ritualer (1969)

Fra tyggegummiens historie (2012; sammen med Per Hjorth)
Riss (2009)
Uten tittel (2005; sammen med Tonino Guerra)
Å se en båt med seil (2001; sammen med Yrjan Svarva)
Hustruer III (1996; sammen med Katja Medbøe og Anne Marie Ottersen)
Trollsyn (1994)
Smykketyven (1991; sammen med Carl-Martin Borgen)
Hustruer – ti år etter (1985; sammen med Knut Faldbakken og skuespillerne)
Papirfuglen (1984; sammen med Knut Faldbakken)
Forfølgelsen (1981)
Arven (1979)
Gamle (1975; sammen med Espen Thorstenson)
Hustruer (1975)
Mine søsken, goddag (1974)
Herbergistene (1973)
Voldtekt (1971; sammen med Per Blom)
Dager fra 1000 år (1970; episoden Vokse opp)
Ansikter (1969)
17. mai – en film om ritualer (1969)

Riss (2009)
Fjellet (1989; sammen med Eric Arguillère)
Herbergistene (1973)

Fjellet (1989)
Mine søsken, goddag (1974; sammen med Ola Solum)
Murer rundt fengselet (1972)
Ansikter (1969)
17. mai – en film om ritualer (1969)

Mennesker møtes og søt musikk oppstår i hjertet (1967)

Sult (1966)
Det store varpet (1960)

Et øye på hver finger (1961)

Read more about the films at Svensk Filmdatabas (SE)

Published works

Trollsyn, filmmanus, Aschehoug 1994
Kaniaw, roman, April Forlag 2006
Prosjekt S, filmmanus, Transit Forlag 2015 (sammen med Per Hjorth)


Gina Krog-prisen 2010
Liv Ullmanns ærespris 2008
Humanistprisen ved Lilla Filmfestivalen i Båstad 2005 for Uten tittel
Æres-Amanda 2005
Hommage á Anja Breien ved Filmfestivalen i La Rochelle 2003
Beste kortfilm ved Filmfestivalen i Toronto 2001 for Å se en båt med seil
Prix UIP Berlin for beste kortfilm ved Berlinalen 2001 for Å se en båt med seil
Arne Skouens ærespris 1992
Amandaprisen 1985 for Hustruer – ti år etter
Aamotstatuetten 1982
Juryens spesielle utmerkelse ved Filmfestivalen i Venezia 1980 for Forfølgelsen
Sølvklumpen 1979 for Arven
Sølvklumpen 1975 for Hustruer
Diplom fra den internasjonale juryen ved Filmfestivalen i Locarno 1975 for Hustruer
Diplom fra den internasjonale ekumeniske juryen ved Filmfestivalen i Locarno 1975 for Hustruer
Sølvklumpen 1972 for Voldtekt
Filmkritikerprisen 1972 for Voldtekt
Diplom ved Kortfilmfestivalen i Oberhausen 1970 for 17. mai – en film om ritualer Evangelisk pris ved Kortfilmfestivalen i Oberhausen 1970 for 17. mai – en film om ritualer
Sølvmedalje ved Filmfestivalen i Venezia 1970 for Ansikter
Spesialpris for redigering ved Nordisk Kortfilmforum 1969 for 17 mai- en film om ritualer
Statens filmforfatterstipend 1967

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