Chasing her dreams has taken Linnea Larsdotter from the pebbled beaches of Smygehamn to the skyscraper capital of the world. In between, she has played violin on Swedish national TV, sung jazz in Mallorca and danced swing in Thailand. But after performing in 12 countries and across three continents, she still yearns for adventure. Scan Magazine spoke to the multi-talented Swede about her latest film, medieval fashion, and finding somewhere to fit in.
Larsdotter is in New York where her latest film, Till We Meet Again, has just completed a successful festival run. The heart-breaking tale focuses on a pair of disenchanted millennials, Joanna (played by Larsdotter) and Erik (Johan Matton), who travel to Thailand in the hope of rekindling their relationship. Soon, the heady atmosphere and exotic backdrop sets the two lovers on very different paths. “Joanna,” Larsdotter says, “doesn’t know that she is lost. I think she believes that she is completely in control but, in reality, she is absolutely trapped in Her life and needs to take drastic action to break away from a path that isn’t right for her anymore.” It is a simple tale but powerfully told with heartfelt performances from Larsdotter and her real-life partner, Johan Matton (previously seen in Indigo and Nurse Jackie), who plays Erik.
Intriguingly, both Larsdotter and Matton actually lived in Thailand for a year before moving to New York in 2009. Since then, life has been something of a blur. Alongside appearances on TV, film and off-Broadway, Larsdotter has written screenplays, started a production company with her partner and – also with him – founded the Nordic International Film Festival (NIFF). Now, with Till We Meet Again notching up awards, it would seem that she has every reason to rest on her laurels. “No, I don’t think that I will ever be satisfied!” she laughs. “I’m always looking
for the next thing to do. There are just too many stories to tell.” Thanks to her and Matton, it is likely that more and more of those stories will have a distinctly Scandinavian flavour. Based at the renowned Scandinavia House on Park Avenue, New York, the Nordic International Film Festival seeks out new and upcoming independent films, as well as honouring the work of already established filmmakers. Entries are welcomed from filmmakers regardless of ethnicity, religion or worldview, but strong, inclusive tales are encouraged. It is ambitious stuff, but what is it that makes Larsdotter so evangelical about cinema from ‘back home’? “I think that all Scandinavians carry a sense of melancholy with them and that is reflected in our films,” she replies. “Norway is producing some really incredible movies right now, and I think by starting the festival we have created a platform for those films to reach a bigger, international audience. I get so inspired when I get to review these films. It’s very motivating to see fellow artists
creating fantastic new works.”
It is said that we are shaped by our environment. If that is true, then the wild seas and expansive vistas of Sweden’s most southerly town – Smygehamn – could explain some of Larsdotter’s own restless creativity. “I think growing up in Sweden gives you a lot of freedom. The society is like well-oiled machinery, and this allows people to express themselves. For my work, I think I need to be where I am right now, but I also know that I need my breaks in Sweden. To have silence and fresh air. The south of Sweden is very flat, and I grew up right by the ocean, so there’s this great sense of openness and freedom from boundaries and I crave that on a regular basis.” Family pulls her back home too. When she was just eight, Larsdotter began playing violin in a folk trio with her sisters, Sara and Julia. The Sisters Mikkelä rarely perform these days, but that early experience forged tight bonds. “It’s been a while since we performed now,” she explains. “Sara and Julia are both in Sweden and have lovely careers and families of their own, so our opportunities have been decimated. But working so closely with people who know you so well really shaped me as a performer. There’s no hiding. The communication happens through the music – not even verbally sometimes. It was a really beautiful way to start a professional career.” Is it true that those early performances also gave her a lifelong passion for medieval clothes? “Haha, it is true! It all started when I was introduced to medieval music by my sisters. I fell in love with it, thought ‘I should have a dress to perform in’, sewed one, thought ‘it would be fun to have another to switch between’, and that started a medieval avalanche! I couldn’t stop. I still adore the fashion, and even medieval food and architecture. I understand that I have a rather romantic idea of the era, but I try to balance it with actual studies so that I can stay informed.”
Lists and loves
In Till We Meet Again Larsdotter’s character goes travelling to find herself. Considering her own wanderlust, is that something she identifies with? “Yes, very much so. Joanna and I are very different as people, but yes. I think I’m on a constant search for self-discovery. Lately, I’ve been really drawn to places like Iceland and the Faroe Islands – places that have a colder, more rigid nature than the ones I’ve been exploring in Southeast Asia. I’m a so-called extroverted introvert, so I tend to gravitate towards places where I get struck by nature and my surroundings, more than places that have a bustling nightlife.”
Her bucket list is, unsurprisingly, pretty full. “I’m a huge adventure seeker, so there are quite a few adrenaline kicks on it. I believe we grow with each experience and I try to push myself to do things all the time. Even things that scare me. I’d like to write more – poetry and screenwriting. I was just in a play where two of my cast mates were both poets. They really inspired me. I also get super crafty for my nephews and my niece, and that works really well as a way for me to disconnect and create something tangible. But I like being busy. I get really restless when my schedule isn’t filled to the brim.” Naturally, there is “a lot of travelling” on the Swede’s list too. “I think,” she muses, “that I was always a little ‘too big’ in my personality to really fit into any one place. So I just took it upon myself to find lots of different places where I fit in just fine. Or rather, where I stand out just fine!”
Linnea Larsdotter is a vegan and loves cooking and trying new kinds of food. Since moving to the States she has
developed a love of mac ‘n’ cheese, especially with truffle oil and veggie bacon. “Other than that, I adore Asian
food,” she comments, “and have just discovered a huge passion for Vietnamese food.”