Home Entertainment ‘Borgen’ Star Sidse Babett Knudsen Goes ‘Animalistic’ in Gustav Möller’s Prison Drama ‘Sons’:...

‘Borgen’ Star Sidse Babett Knudsen Goes ‘Animalistic’ in Gustav Möller’s Prison Drama ‘Sons’: ‘For Her, It’s Personal’ (EXCLUSIVE)


Sidse Babett Knudsen went “completely visceral” in Gustav Möller’s prison drama “Sons,” premiering in Berlinale’s main competition. 

“My approach was almost animalistic. That’s how she felt to me. She doesn’t know how to live: she has resigned into someone who can just survive,” says the acclaimed “Borgen” and “Westworld” actor who plays Eva, a prison guard with a secret.

“This environment matches her psychological state, driven by grief and guilt. Eva believes she is invisible. When people actually ask her questions, it takes an unnatural amount of time for her to respond. She can only function within these restricted walls, trying to give these inmates some kindness.” 

When she spots a young inmate connected to her past, she immediately asks to be transferred to his block. A complex relationship forms, but Mikkel (Sebastian Bull) doesn’t know all about Eva. 

“Sons” is produced by Nordisk Film Production, with Les Films du Losange handling sales. They have shared in exclusivity with Variety the the film’s trailer.

“This mother-son metaphor hangs over the entire film. There is something very maternal about Eva’s relationship with the inmates, also because this job mirrors parenting in so many ways: You have to be controlling and nurturing at the same time,” notes Möller. 

“We talked to one prison officer when we were writing the script [with Emil Nygaard Albertsen], he was on set every day and even ended up playing a small part. He told us that especially in the morning, it really feels like you are a parent – with 20 kids. That’s literally what he said.” 

Möller, also behind Oscar-shortlisted “The Guilty” about a police officer assigned to answer emergency calls – later remade by Antoine Fuqua with Jake Gyllenhaal – isn’t afraid of putting his characters in claustrophobic spaces, he admits. 

Next, he is set to reunite with Gyllenhaal on “Snow Blind,” making his English-language debut. 

“With every project I make, regardless of whether it takes place in Denmark, Sweden or the U.S., I want to work with creative, like-minded people,” he stresses. 

“These confined stories allow you to create a whole microcosm. As a filmmaker, it’s inspiring to work with such restraints. Then again, I started with two rooms [in ‘The Guilty’] and now, it’s the whole prison. Maybe next time it will be one very big location?,” he laughs. 

But a fascination with the prison film genre also played a big part.

“It presents you with very interesting tools: you have extreme characters and clear rules and power structures. At the same time, I felt that many stories based there are told from a similar point of view. Once I started to look at the prison officer as a possible protagonist, the story came to me like a bolt of lightning.” 

“It’s such a contradictory job: you are supposed to help the inmates and punish them. This fascinating paradox reflects on the whole justice system. It builds people up and tears them down.”

Soon, Eva – quietly yearning for revenge – will need to make that choice too.

“We talked about this combination of ‘civilized society’ and animalistic drives. She is almost numb from pushing down her feelings for so long. When this inmate arrives, something starts to stir inside her again. It’s beyond her control,” adds Knudsen, appreciative of the film’s relentless tension. 

“In prison, if a day goes by without any incidents, that’s your success rate. Time passes and no one gets killed – wonderful. It’s all set in the world where people are ‘wrong’. They have committed crimes. But there is some freedom that comes with it, because you don’t have to live up to any expectations,” she says. Möller adds: “I visited a couple of prisons and the common feeling everyone describes is unpredictability. Everything can be calm and then violence erupts, and then it goes away again. We tried to emulate it.” 

“I was so fascinated by this woman wanting to be there, by someone who voluntarily puts herself in prison. She lost something and goes there to find it, perhaps – that’s how I saw it. She is an outsider, but not because she is a woman. She is an outsider because for her, it’s personal.” 

“Sometimes, as an actor, I feel like I need to guide the viewer. But Gustav never forgets about the audience. When I saw ‘The Guilty,’ I was so impressed by him,” says Knudsen. 

“It’s really important that we don’t make films just for the people who make films. That’s so boring! You have to want to invite the audience in, instead of saying to them: ‘You are too stupid to understand it.’ It’s a demanding film but, just like ‘Anatomy of a Fall,’ it meets the viewers as well.”