Hilma star Tom Wlaschiha on artist’s relationship with Rudolph Steiner
Directed by Swedish auteur Lasse Hallström, Hilma is a sumptuous retelling of the female abstract artist’s life and how her pioneering work was overlooked and disregarded until decades after her death. Af Klint is considered to be one of the first abstract artists of the western world with her work pre-dating Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian by several years. Starting from her childhood summers in Adelsö and her growing fascination with spiritualism, which heavily inspired her work, Hilma charts Af Klint’s career as she started creating her art to her final days when she retreated to the island of Munsö, to care for her ailing mother.
Af Klint worked with several other female artists, including Anna Cassel, Cornelia Cederberg, Sigrid Hedman, and Mathilda Nilsson, known as The Five, who would create their work with instructions from spirits called The High Masters, who would speak to them.
These women saw themselves as vessels to carry out work, which often resembled diagrams.
Wlaschiha, 49, takes on the role of Austrian social reformer, spiritualist, and architect Rudolf Steiner, whom Klint desperately sought approval from throughout her lifetime – something which he denied her.
Despite working with her fellow female artists and yet rejected by the patriarchal artist world, Steiner was a key figure in Af Klint’s life.
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The film sees Hilma reaching out to Steiner a number of times and presenting her work with the hopes of finally gaining recognition.
Speaking about why Klint wanted Steiner’s endorsement, the German actor said: “This was very interesting for me as well.”
He went on to say: “Hilma is an independent woman, very independent for the time, and yet she is obsessed with Steiner’s ideas and he is her idol and she’s longing for his approval.
“I think it’s partly because I think she feels that his ideas are hers that they’re kindred spirits in some way. All those ideas were quite new at the time. The spirits, the spiritual world existing outside our real world.”
Wlaschiha said Af Klint might have had a lot of friends but she didn’t necessarily have many people who “really understood what she was thinking” and so Steiner represented this for her.
He added: It’s even more tragic over the course of the story, she comes to find out that Steiner is a total patriarch in the old sense of the word and he doesn’t want any other gods next to him.
“I don’t know if he felt threatened by Hilma or really didn’t take her seriously but from what I’ve read and what it says in the script, it seems as if he felt a little threatened by her.”
The star, who is known for Game of Thrones and Stranger Things, was “somewhat familiar” with Af Klint before joining Hilma, saying he’d seen her some of her work a number of years ago and “because they’re so unusual they stuck with me, for me.”
Adding: “It’s unlike anything else that I’d seen.” However, he admitted he didn’t know much about Af Klint’s life prior to working on Hilma apart from being a forgotten artist lost in the annals of time.
But he said it was a different story with Steiner. “Every German and Austrian knows Rudolph Steiner because he’s still has quite a big effect on everyday life in Germany.”
Steiner was the founder of Waldorf schools with the philosopher creating a form of education based on developing pupils’ intellectual and artistic skills by focusing on imagination and creativity with limited standardised testing and teachers given free rein over the curriculum.
Waldorf schools are still prevalent in Germany as well as Steiner’s education philosophy spreading around the world.
Wlaschica went on to say: “I was aware that he was quite a controversial figure.”
He admitted it was a bit “tricky” portraying a real-life figure, saying: “As an actor, you want to do him justice not just make something up.” Wlaschiha carried out copious research into Steiner in preparation for the part.
The real-life Af Klint was instructed by spirit, who told her the works she’d created wouldn’t be appreciated in her life-time and so she asked for them to sealed for 20 years until after her death in 1944.
However, it wasn’t until 2018 when Klint finally got the overdue recognition she deserved with Stockholm’s Moderna Museet showcasing her work.
Af Klint had always spoken of a temple in which the works would be displayed but sadly this divine structure was never realised, nonetheless it appears the artist is now being celebrated.
Hilma is the latest film delving into the life and times of Af Klint, following on from the 2019 documentary Beyond the Visible — Hilma af Klint and the short film Point and Line to Plane.
Hilma will be released in UK cinemas on 28th October. Early 2023, Hilma will also be available on Viaplay UK, Viaplay’s streaming service set to launch in the UK this autumn
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