GÖTEBORG, Sweden — Alicia Vikander is at this week’s Goteborg Film Festival to help promote the Alicia Vikander Film Lab high-school initiative, and because Scandinavia’s largest film festival, held in her home town of Göteborg, southern Sweden, has always been part of her life.
Established in 2021 by Vikander (“The Danish Girl”), the Festival and the Sten Olsson Foundation for Research and Culture, the three-year film training program is for local high-school-aged students, with the program made available to educational establishments in the Goteborg area since last January.
“We’ve managed to get it on the curriculum,” said Vikander who is the biggest star at this year’s festival and a fixture at the event, reciting an Honorary Nordic Dragon Award, for instance, in 2018. “It’s a project where I’ve been able to get a lot of it done remotely on Zoom,” she told Variety at Göteborg.
On Monday at the Festival, a gala will take place presenting films by this year’s students. 12 short films will be screened. The films are between two and five minutes long. Since the launch, film teachers from the Festival have been visiting schools selected this year, once a month, and Vikander has visited the schools twice during the school year.
The participating schools in 2022 are Kannebäcksskolan, Nordhemsskolan and Skälltorpsskolan – the school that Vikander attended. Each year, three to four new schools join the project.
“For a long time, I wanted to find a way to give back,” says Vikander who trained as a dancer at the Royal Swedish Ballet School.
“My mum would never have had the possibility, for example, to pay for dance. If you get into the state Ballet, the state pays for you, and they also paid for my violin lessons. I played with the Philharmonic at 13. Then I did my first film in the Philharmonic. I got all these possibilities. Even if you don’t have financial support in Sweden you can get a cultural education.”
Another reason the initiative took flight is because she has a long-standing relationship with the Göteborg Festival.
“They have focused a lot on bringing in the next gen,” she said. “Now you don’t have to be 16, as you did when I was younger, to watch films. “Every child has a smartphone. We want to give them more technical tools. Where I went to school in the suburbs, there was more of a lack of things to do. From 12-15, before you go out into the world you need some direction.”
Vikander made a donation to help launch the venture. Additionally, she committed a SEK 300,000 ($290,000) scholarship grant that she received in 2021 from the Sten A Olsson Foundation to the lab.
Since leaving Göteborg aged 15, Vikander has established herself internationally as a star with films like “Tomb Raider,” “Ex-Machina,” or the mini-series “Irma Vep.” But she’s not too big for Sweden’s second largest city where she grew up.
“I love being back here, especially for the film festival,” she tells Variety. “Every year, it was a big event for my mother and her friends. I’ve been going to the festival for a long time, also often during the past ten years.”
Vikander says her time with the Royal Swedish Ballet School helped her understand movement on camera.
“In a way it’s my education because I never went to theater school,” she said. “But I went for nine years to the Royal Ballet School. It’s storytelling as well. You don’t use words. Filmmaking and theater is very much about movement, and knowing what transcends through a lense, movement wise. The awareness of movement in space with your body, even the blink of an eye. I’ve realized over the years that’s what we did. From a young age we learned how to use space.”
She hasn’t given up dancing altogether. In other interviews she said she feared she lacked the passion of her classmates to take dance further.
“I dance a lot. I’m a dancer person,” she said. “Now part of me feels like I can’t even claim I went to ballet school. I have a vague memory of how tough it is. I see that when I go to the Opera for example.”
Vikander’s success in acting has meant that she has worked for a long time knowing what’s next. Still, she’s had doubts, like others in her profession, given the project by project nature of the business.
“Even when my career was on a high, that hunt for the next job was still in me. Or fear of what’s not next was still in me,” she said.
These days she and husband Michael Fassbender take every second project to accommodate having a child, born during the pandemic.
“At the beginning of my career, just to get work in the beginning then you know you are super privileged. Then you get work and can do this full time. Then I never stopped and was already prepping the next film. When the world closed down, I had my child in the second lockdown,” she said. “Your priorities get very clear which is nice.”
Vikander’s next film release is “Firebrand” a Tudor drama directed by Karim Aïnouz, co-starring Jude Law. She’s expecting to film her next project this summer, but isn’t giving too much away.
“It’s going to take me far away from home and my culture. It begins in the summer with a director I’ve been a fan of for a lot of years. Work is taking you wherever you need to be,” she said.
Post-Brexit, the couple call Lisbon home. “My husband had been in London for 18 years. I had been there for seven. He and his friends were talking about moving south where it’s warmer. I had spent two years renovating my house in London,” she says.
“Then Brexit happened. It was a bit of a bummer. It was an emotional decision. We fell in love with a place there and told our friends we were moving. I was only home six weeks a year in London anyway, as busy as I was.”