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Self-discovery with a twist

Paula Fleri-Soler takes a behind-the-scenes look at Wildling.

Bel Powley in Wildling.

Bel Powley in Wildling.

Wildling is a teenage girl’s coming of age story which comes with a terrifying twist. Since birth, Anna (Bel Powley) has been raised in isolation by a man she knows only as Daddy, who has done everything possible to conceal the truth about the girl’s origins from her.

But, when the teenage Anna is suddenly thrust into the real world under the protection of no-nonsense police officer Ellen, it soon becomes clear that the young woman is far from ordinary.

Unable to adjust to a normal life, Anna finds herself drawn instead to the wild freedom of the forest while struggling to resist the growing bloodlust that has awakened inside her. This moodily atmospheric thriller combines supernatural scares with a myth-like tale of self-discovery.

Writer/director Fritz Böhm says the seeds of the idea for Wildling were sown when as a child, he once visited a public swimming pool where he noticed a particularly hairy man jumping off the diving board. Recalling that mankind descended from apes, the young Böhm asked his dad whether this man was more ape than him.

“He smiled and said, ‘perhaps’,” recalls the director. “Ever since, I’ve been obsessed with the connection between us humans and our savage ancestors.”

Böhm goes on to describe Wildling as a fantasy about mankind’s primitive roots. He also credits his mother as inspiration, who read fairy tales to him every night, making him fall in love with strange mythological creatures like Rumpelstiltskin, the Snow Queen or the Big Bad Wolf.

This moodily atmospheric thriller combines supernatural scares with a myth-like tale of self-discovery

“I found myself way more intrigued by these bad guys than by the actual protagonists. Their stories were just so much more heart-breaking. So with Wildling, Florian (Eder, co-writer) and David (C. Palmer, Executive Producer and Creative Consultant), and I created our own misunderstood creature.”

In the story, Wildlings are a nearly extinct parallel branch of homo sapiens that has survived until present day. Yet, as Bohm explains, he and his team wanted to make them as realistic as possible and not purely fantastical.

“We were originally inspired by werewolf motifs, but quickly ended up stripping away all the supernatural elements such as the full moon, the silver bullets, the magic amulets and so on,” he notes.

“We decided that our transformation would happen slowly over the course of the whole film and be more grounded in actual biology. This made room for us to explore the inner struggles of our creature.”

Anna’s story is partly inspired by the tragedy of Kaspar Hauser, a German youth who grew up in the isolation of a darkened cell in the 18th century, completely oblivious to the outside world. German director Werner Herzog made a beautiful film about him, 1974’s The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser.

“Since I already knew my story was going to end on the notion of freedom, it was the story of Kasper Hauser that helped me understand what I had to begin with: captivity,” says Böhm.

“At its core, the film is about identity and the importance of embracing your true nature. It’s the key to being free.”

English actress Bel Powley brings Anne to life in Wildling. Powley is steadily building up a solid filmography following her 2015 feature-film debut in the coming-of-age drama The Diary of a Teenage Girl, in which she starred as the title character in the movie based on Phoebe Gloeckner’s acclaimed graphic novel of the same name.

2015 also saw Powley in the comedy/drama A Royal Night Out which followed young Princesses Margaret (Powley) and Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), as they sneak out of Buckingham Palace to celebrate VE Day on May 8, 1945, by mingling with the masses. Powley has since worked on several movies, apart from many appearances on TV and on the stage in London and on Broadway.

Wildling also stars Brad Dourif as Daddy, Liv Tyler as Sheriff Ellen Cooper, Collin Kelly-Sordelet as Ray Cooper and James LeGros as Wolf Man.

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