Hollywood director Lasse Hallström brought a stellar cast to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, to shoot a biographical drama “Hilma” telling a story about a Swedish artist, one of the first abstract art creators in western countries. Vilnius was specifically chosen for its Old Town appeal, professional Lithuanian production teams, and Film Tax Incentive.
Hollywood-famous director Lasse Hallström and production company Viaplay Studios transformed Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, into a 19-20th century Stockholm for his latest biographical movie “Hilma” about a Swedish artist and activist Hilma af Klint.
The drama revolves around Klint’s non-traditional art and spirituality, which made her a standout Swedish artist and one of the first abstract art creators in the western countries. Klint was also one of the first feminist pioneers and have made her artistic breakthrough in a male-dominated field. Her most notable body of work is “Paintings for the Temple” cycle containing 193 paintings in different series and groups.
The director Lasse Hallström, best known for globally renowned movies such as “The Cider House Rules,” “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” brought a star-studded cast with him to Vilnius: Lily Cole, Rebecca Calder, Maeve Dermody, and others.
Hallström said filming in Vilnius was an amazing journey and the skills of the Lithuanian production team made it all the more special.
“The crew is so talented, skilled, and experienced in all capacities. It’s one of the best crews I have worked with,” Hallström said. “When you do a period piece, you need to find a lot of exteriors and interiors. We were trying to recreate Stockholm of the late 1800s, and there was a lot of Old Town imagery that looked good for our purposes.”
According to Hallström, Vilnius also left a good impression on him during the filming.
“The atmosphere, the restaurants, living in and walking around Vilnius Old Town—it was a great experience,” Hallström added.
According to Helena Danielsson, the film’s producer, the capital of Lithuania made a perfect city to film in due to its comparatively small size and close proximity to shooting locations.
“Besides having all these wonderful surroundings and friendly people, I think it’s unique and amazing that everything in Vilnius is so nearby. Even if I stay in the Old Town, I can just walk to shooting locations as they are only a stone’s throw away. In Vilnius you don’t feel the stress of a gigantic city with all its transportations and long hours in queues. You just feel very harmonious,” Danielsson said. “You also have all these locations, studios, and especially wonderful crews. I am very impressed by how friendly, professional, hardworking and loyal to the project they are.”
The film was shot October through November, and shooting in Vilnius took eight out of the total ten weeks of production. The most notable urban locations were chosen for recreating 19-20th century Stockholm: Vilnius Town Hall, an 18th century building in the Old Town with historical, political, and symbolic significance, Pilies Street, one of the oldest streets in Vilnius, combining Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural styles, and Pond Park in the most bohemian district of the city, Užupis.
The project team was composed of 150 professionals, of whom 100 were Lithuanians. The production tasks were coordinated by Lithuanian film production company Paprika Filmai.
“This isn’t the first project implemented in collaboration with Viaplay Studios. The trust well-earned during past projects, the high level of professionalism and dedication to work of Lithuanian film industry staff as well as film tax incentive benefits were the main factors that brought this project in,” commented Arnas Ringaitis, producer at Paprika Filmai.
“Hilma” joins other large-scale projects shot in Vilnius recently: the Welsh production of the feature film “Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher” about a 19th century boxing champion was wrapped up this September, and German TV drama “Sisi,” focusing on the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, was filmed during the summer.
Foreign filmmakers are largely attracted to Vilnius due to convenient and picturesque shooting locations, accommodating production teams, and Lithuanian Film Tax Incentive, which provides up to 30% of funding to film productions.