‘Beautiful Beings’ Duo Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson & Sturla Brandth Grøvlen Expand Their Unique Collaboration Contenders International

Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s coming-of-age drama Beautiful Beings debuted in the Panorama section at the Berlin Film Festival, where it won the Europa Cinemas Label award. The film has also been selected as Iceland’s entry for the 2023 Oscars.

The film follows Addi, a teenage boy raised by a clairvoyant mother, who adopts a bullied kid into his group of violent misfits and begins to experience a series of dreamlike visions.

RELATED: The Contenders International – Deadline’s Full Coverage

“It’s inspired by my youth growing up in the suburbs of Reykjavik,” Guðmundsson said of the film’s origins during Deadline’s Contenders Film: International panel. “I was part of this group of boys who used their violent behavior to deal with things. It’s still a fictional story, but the origins come from my neighborhood back in those days.”

Beautiful Beings, from Altered Innocence, is Guðmundsson’s second feature collaboration with Norwegian cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, and the film shares a similarly intimate visual language with their previous work. 

“We’ve known each other for many years and did two short films together before we did Heartstone, which was Guðmundur’s debut film, and I think it was through the process of the short films that we started developing this very intimate and intuitive style of shooting,” Grøvlen said.  

Guðmundsson described the process of shooting on set with Grøvlen as a “dance” between the pair and their actors. 

Beautiful Beings is also Guðmundsson’s second feature to be predominantly based on the lives of Icelandic teens. He told Deadline that the young actors drafted in for this film were discovered during an open casting call. 

“We have an open casting in Iceland because we have a limited number of kids who want to be in films of that age,” he said, “so we try to get them all in for the casting, and then it becomes the long process of finding the right group dynamic.” 

Guðmundsson added that his casting process takes place over a year before shooting starts, where he places the young performers in a workshop where they are trained and slowly introduced to the script. He added that his eventful adolescence shaped his interest in stories about young people. 

“These are just the stories that have come to me so far,” he said. “Maybe because I had a rich youth as a kid. And I realized how grown-ups don’t see the same world as us. And I often wished I could show my parents how my friends really were, both the good and bad sides.”

Check out the panel video above.

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