Magazine article Screen International

Alicia Vikander, Testament of Youth

Magazine article Screen International

Alicia Vikander, Testament of Youth

Article excerpt

Alicia Vikander tells Wendy Mitchell about doing Vera Brittain justice in Testament Of Youth and finding roles of emotional substance.

Alicia Vikander says she is drawn to "that rare thing of good female roles. Especially for young women, I try to find roles of emotional substance and not just only being 'the girl'."

That is certainly true of her part in Testament Of Youth, which sees her portray the young English writer Vera Brittain as she deals with the loss of her fiancé and brother in the First World War.

Growing up in Sweden, Vikander had not heard of Brittain. Yet she was immediately drawn to Juliette Towhidi's script. "I was so passionate about the project. She's such a powerful woman who had this strong life journey. It's knowing what journey women have made over 100 years. Emotionally it feels like a girl you could know now, but the rules and context of life back then were different - you needed a chaperone to take a train and you couldn't decide your own education."

A life in letters

Vikander prepared for the role by reading Brittain's books - not just the 1933 memoir of the same name but her letters as well. "The book that collects the letters between her and her brothers and Roland, that's what helped me the most. The novel was written by a woman in the early '30s looking back on her life, while the letters were her in the moment. It was the young woman's words."

She also had the chance to meet Brittain's daughter, Shirley Williams. They had tea together and "she shared her experiences, but of course that's a different woman that she knew than the period in the film; that was the woman leading up to the war, not a mother after the war".

'I try to find roles of emotional substance and just only being the girl'Alicia Vikander

Vikander, like the rest of the cast, worked with a dialect coach to ensure she had the correct regional tones of the time period. "Being foreign, it was intimidating to take on the part of such a British icon," she recalls, although her accent in the film is pitch perfect (she has lived in London for several years). "I had to try to nail a British accent. That was probably the toughest thing so far; I really wanted to get it right, to give justice to her."

The actress pays credit to UK director James Kent, who makes an impressive feature debut after working in television. …

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