Hanna Bergholm’s "Hatching" explores themes of motherhood with an audaciously fresh eye.
Twelve-year-old Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) lives in a gorgeous home of roses, pastel colors and perfect ambient lighting so her image-conscious, celebrity mom (Sophia Heikkilä) will never have an unflattering shadow cross her face on her social media posts. But mom's desire for perfection takes a toll on Tinja, a gymnast, who can't always meet her mother's standards.
One day a black bird smashes a window into the idyllic setting and this leads Tinja to discover a mysterious egg that hatches into a doppelgänger. But the deformed, bird-like creature proves difficult to control.
"It's kind of like a smelly teenager, that is raging to its parents and at the same time just actually wants to be loved as it is, and also that it's not an evil character. It's not all bad," said director Hanna Bergholm. "It kind of really wants to be loved."
The original idea from screenwriter Ilja Rautsi was to have the character be a boy, but Bergholm suggested changing the gender.
"I wanted to make this story about the relationship between mother and daughter," Bergholm said. "And there is this theme of growing up in 'Hatching.'"
The creature is a reflection of Tinja's desperation to please her mom. Bergholm creates a film of visual beauty in which nothing is out of place in a home designed not to be lived in but rather to serve as a social media backdrop.
"I really wanted this film to be not a typical horror film in a sense that it doesn't happen in darkness because I wanted to tell this story through the experience of our main character, the girl. And what she's experiencing is that she can't really understand the dynamics of her parents," Bergholm said. "The mother is really controlling everything and pushing her daughter to succeed. And the mother is showing her family on her Instagram and telling how happy they are. So I really wanted to use only pastel colors because the mother doesn't want any strong emotions in the family. And there are no dark shadows because mother doesn't allow any dark secrets. I wanted to use all the things that are considered to be lovely, kind of like pastel colors and a lot of roses. There are so many roses everywhere that it is kind of suffocating and everything is so well in place and so organized that it kind of starts to look a bit dead. And that's where I was aiming at to get this kind of pretty, but uncomfortable feeling for the audience."
And she succeeds brilliantly. Part of the success of the film lies in her depiction of the creature and her choice to use practical effects. So the creature is a not computer generated being, but rather a mix of animatronics and puppetry.
"I really wanted it to be totally deformed, because this creature is totally different than what the mother wants her daughter to be," Bergholm explained. "The mother really wants her daughter to be this perfect gymnast with a perfect controlled body. And this creature is just totally deformed."
It is creepy and disgusting and yet you feel compassion for it. It becomes a metaphor for Tinja's twisted relationship with her mom and a physical manifestation of all her anger and violence at not being able to please her mom and not being able to navigate the world in a way that her mom sees as successful. Tinja's treatment of the creature is another window into mothering. She begins wanting to be nurturing and kind, but when the creature proves difficult, her patience wears thin and she turns to cruelty at times.
"Hatching" is an impressive feature directorial debut from Bergholm.