An interview with Lone Scherfig director of An Education

An Education happens in the post-war, pre-Beatles London suburbs. A bright schoolgirl is torn between studying for a place at Oxford and the more exciting alternative offered to her by a charismatic older man.

Lone Scherfig director of An Education , was born in Copenhagen and studied film at the University of Copenhagen and the National Film School of Denmark. She has written and directed short films, radio dramas and television series. Lone has collected 22 awards and 11 nominations for her work. Italian for Beginners (the fifth Danish Dogma Film) received a FIPRESCI award and a Silver Bear Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Robert Award for Best Original Screenplay from the Danish Film Academy. Her features include The Birthday Trip and On Our Own. Her first English language film Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself received the FIPRESCI prize and a host of international film awards. Lone conceived the characters which formed the basis for Andrea Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize winning film Red Road. Lone is a recipient of Denmark’s prestigious Carl Dreyer Honorary Award. Just Like Home, her last feature before An Education, screened at the Toronto Film Festival in 2007.

Bijan Tehrani: What initially motivated you to make An Education?
Lone Scherfig: When I read the script, I was seduced by David just like everybody else. I wanted to make close-ups of this male character and be in this world for a while. I wanted to look through the eyes of this girl that I could understand and identify with.

BT: One thing that is very impressive about the film is the visual style. How did you come up with the visual style of your film?
LS: We wanted to do something that had the innocence that Jamie has. When you see things for the first time through her, it should be something that is not pretentious, but we are in her mind and the film works to get an impression of this girl’s view of the world. I think it is hard to make period films entertaining and I don’t want the audience to sit and focus on costumes and production design. They should interpret the story and then, after the film, they can absorb the time and space.

BT: How has this film been received by younger audiences?
LS: I don’t know, but when we tested the film, they liked it: They understand it and they related with the characters. This is about a character that gets an education for her sake, and decides how she wants to live, so I feel that this is an important message to send to young people. We see many issues that effect youth. We have underage sex, drugs, and racism; on the other hand I think that the film has very strong values and I would not mind my daughter watching the film.

BT: There is a touch of Tony Richardson filmmaking present in this film. Did you intentionally draw influence from this director?
LS: No, my cinematic background is Scandinavian. I love more southern European films and the directors that I feel closer to are French and Italian. I looked at the films that were made during the 60’s just to get a better understanding of the period and to interpret the language.

BT: An Education is a very international film in terms of the cast and crew. As a Scandinavian, what do you think that you bring to the film in terms of your own background?
LS: I did a lot of research to make up for my lack of knowledge on British culture. I know that there are things that you take for granted as an Englishman that I don’t, so it makes it easier to understand for people that are not British. You do not need to be British to understand this film. Peter and I are the only outsiders.

BT: How did you go about casting the film?
LS: The casting director found many, many girls and Carey was one of them. I liked her from the beginning and it is wonderful to see how her career is taking off at a wonderful speed.

BT: How did you actually work with Carey Mulligan?
LS: We just talked everyday and I let her try things out and expand her range and help each other. We rehearsed a little bit, but not that much; you don’t want to over-rehearse a comedy because it flattens it. We never had any conflict and I would love to work with her again.

BT: And how was it like working with Alfred Molina?
LS: He was wonderful! He was just a pleasure and he would always make everyone around him happy. He got the character straight away and he understood the actor completely. He grew up in England and he said that he had met men like his character when he was a child.

BT: What was it like working with the Director of Photography on this film?
LS: John and I love the same things and the same films, and he is a great person. John has a great crew that he works with, which is important in creating a nice atmosphere on the shots, even if we shot the film in six-and-a-half weeks, we still had time to try things out.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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