Hanna Bergholm on Hatching: ‘I’m interested in exploring difficult emotions’

Hanna Bergholm spoke to us about her feature debut, Hatching, the story of a girl who nurtures a bird-like doppelgänger in secret. 


As a Finn, I rarely get to type these words, but today I do. There will be a Finnish film premiering in UK cinemas on Friday, September 16. Not only that, the film in question is a full-blooded horror film, directed by a woman. 

Hatching first premiered in Sundance in January 2022 to a raving reception. It screened as part of Sundance London in June, which is when I hopped on a call with director Hanna Bergholm to chat about all things horror and Finnish film industry. 

Of the film’s original reception, Bergholm beams while telling me of how Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and The Playlist all praised it in their early reviews. The acclaim has only continued since and even Edgar Wright tweeted about this bizarre body horror. 

But how has Hatching cracked the very difficult global film market? 

“People loved the basic premise, even when we were still in development,” Bergholm says, making it seem simple and almost obvious that a film about a girl hatching a hideous doppelgänger from a bird egg would be a global success. “Many said they hadn’t seen that before, but that it also felt timely, especially the social media aspect and the protagonist’s pressure to perform well.”

Finnish cinema is almost synonymous with Aki Kaurismäki, who has often projected a very restrained and outdated view of my country in films such as Drifting Clouds, The Man Without a Past and Le Havre. His illustration of Finland and its people lacks nuance. Most people know Finland as an uber-happy country, where people are reserved but friendly. Perhaps there’s a hunger to see the darker side of such a country, I suggest. 

“Possibly. People have also said they felt like this could happen in their countries” Bergholm details. While the film was shot in Latvia, Bergholm made sure you see no signs or writing which would specifically place the events in Finland. 


Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

“I wanted to create a world that could be anywhere and it would resonate with everyone.”

Bergholm graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 2009 and rather surprisingly, Hatching is her feature film directorial debut. You could never tell just from watching Hatching, one of the most assured and artistically confident debuts in years. 

What is surprising though, is that Bergholm admits not loving horror and in fact, being scared to watch them. 

“I’ve always felt that horror isn’t for me, because I’m scared of it, but precisely for that – I always had a very active imagination as a child, I always imagined all kinds of monsters in my closet, just like Tinja – my films seem to always have an element of horror.”

hatching cast

Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

Before Hatching, Bergholm had done a slate of shorts, including 2018’s Puppet Master in which a woman allows a man to turn her into a puppet. It screened at Cannes as well as Fantastic Film Festival and Finland’s own Night Visions, a genre film festival focused on cult and horror films. 

Screenwriter Ilja Rautsi, who provided the original, one-sentence idea for Hatching, gave Bergholm plenty of recommendations of great horror films to watch. I assumed Bergholm would have screened some to her cast and crew as a form of inspiration, but she immediately shakes her head. 

“I avoid showing any specific films as references to my crew, because those films already exist. I want to make something that’s it’s own thing.”

And if Hatching is anything, it’s definitely unique. Rautsi’s original idea was simply: A boy hatches an evil doppelgänger from a bird egg. Bergholm was immediately drawn to it. 

Hatching film

Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

“I wanted to make it about a girl, just because I want more stories about girls and women in cinema.” 

It’s a meaty subject and Bergholm weaves a lot of complex ideas and themes into it. She describes the meaning of the hatching itself as the main character, Tinja, trying to hide something of herself, only to have a monstrous creature be born out of the egg. 

Bergholm describes the creature – named Alli in the film after a popular Finnish nursery rhyme – as representing all of Tinja’s insecurities and things she’s afraid her mother would find out about her. Tinja is a gymnast, constantly being pushed into perfection by her mother; Alli is deformed, disgusting and can barely move at first. Yet, there is an innocence to the gruesome creature. 

“I wanted it to be disgusting, but not completely evil. Its eyes, for example, are really innocent. I described it as a smelly teenager that rages against their parents, but really just wants to be held and cared for.”

hatching alli

Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

Alli, in its early form before it begins to transform into Tinja’s evil twin, was controlled by five puppeteers, while the facial expressions and the bony fingers could be controlled with a simple remote. Aside from a few VFX shots of Alli’s eyes and pupils, the entire creature was animatronic, giving the film a lot of authenticity. 

But the most impressive thing about Hatching is the performance by Siiri Solalinna, who was only 12 when they shot the film. She was among the 1200 girls who auditioned for the part, but her immediate ability to throw herself into the scenes and her physicality won her the part. 

“Of the roles of Tinja and Alli, I spoke to her in a manner that a 12-year-old could comprehend. I didn’t analyse it quite as deeply as I would have with an adult perhaps,” Bergholm explains while also reminding that it’s vital, especially with children, to remind them that what they’re acting isn’t real. 

“It’s important not to manipulate the child’s own mind. If she conveys fear, she’s still safe, she’s just acting.”

hatching tinja

Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

Bergholm also tells me of Solalinna’s ability to cry on cue, something most adult actors struggle with and use things like menthol drops to help. Solalinna just needed a moment or two of focusing on her own to open up the waterworks. 

Horror films are still a rarity in Finland, a country that mostly produces mature dramas, screwball comedies or an endless stream of war films; we’re very proud of our history and aren’t afraid to show it. But Bergholm says things are improving, or at least changing. 

She tells me there is a lot of support and camaraderie amongst Finnish creatives and she had several people give her feedback on an early cut of Hatching and she even phoned up Dome Karukoski, who directed Tolkien a few years back, for a chat. But women are still the minority in the film industry, Finland or elsewhere. 

“The big, expensive Hollywood productions are still handed to men. If you look at the Oscars, there’s still so few women nominated, same with Cannes. We’ve still got so much work to do, but we’re talking about change more.”

hatching tinja alli

Credit: Picturehouse Entertainment

We end our chat with me being nosy and asking about her next film. She tells me it’s called Nightborn and will follow a new mother who begins to suspect her newborn isn’t quite human. 

“It sucks blood from her breast, screams all night and looks strange, it’s also a little hairy and she can’t connect to it.”

Sounds like motherhood is a recurring theme for Bergholm, no? 

“At the moment, yes. I’m always interested in exploring people’s difficult emotions that feel wrong somehow.”

Hatching is in UK cinemas September 16. 

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