Alba August talks about the congregation and the timeless appeal of cults

The municipality is an atmospherically dark and psychologically stimulating Nordic Noir series about a young woman who becomes entangled in a religious cult in Sweden. The main character, Anna, is captivatingly played by an actress Alba Augustus (Thousand hours), has a pure heart and palpable naiveté, both of which lead her down a harmful path. It’s a captivating combination for an exciting series in which viewers simultaneously cringe at Anna’s choices and yet, thanks to the sophisticated way of storytelling, fully understand it. The temptation to put yourself at risk leads to murder in Anna’s case.


When Anna moves to a neighboring Swedish town called Knutby to fully immerse herself in a church community where she feels at home, she eventually becomes a nanny for the pastor and his wife, wanting nothing more than to serve God among their neighbors. knitted sect. After growing up without her mother, whose death occurred when Anna was a little girl, she finally feels the relief of having a seemingly safe place to call home.

While things should be great from there, it’s not the end of a fairytale. It’s the start of Anna’s nightmarish journey, brimming with people with mysterious motivations and a twisted undercurrent of sexual manipulation. Within the church community there are both subtle deceptions and blatant displays of power. The brainwashing is obvious to viewers due to an omniscient point of view, but only one character – the Reverend’s wife, Kristina – seems resistant to the lures as Anna walks in blinded faith.

Based on Jonas Bonnier’s novel, Knutbyis this scripted series inspired by true incidents that also featured in the HBO documentary Pray, obey, die. The municipality effectively and emotionally explores what tempts someone, of their own free will, to become voluntarily ensconced in a cult. And even more so, how complicated it all becomes to leave once the reality of the group’s intentions is revealed. Alba August (daughter of the famous director Bille August) sat down with MovieWeb to talk about it The municipalitynow streaming in the US for the first time, through Viaplay.

How Alba August became addicted to belonging

Alba August in The Municipality on Viaplay
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From her home in Stockholm, August offered insight into what drew her to the role and, despite the inevitability of sensationalizing the real life events, what she hopes viewers will get from the series beyond captivating, gripping television.

“It all started when I read a book, in Swedish, about a real woman, ‘the babysitter’ everyone called her,” August explains. “I read her story and called my agent and said, ‘We need to buy the rights to adapt this book’…

August’s agent then discovered that a series was already in development at B-Reel Films and that the project would be based on Bonnier’s novel, not the book she was so drawn to. Unlike the book August had read, which focused only on the babysitter/babysitter, the series would be the whole cult community in which the real Sara Svensson was trapped.

August’s response, however, remained excited and insistent. “Okay then,” said the actor. “Well, I have to get in touch with them. I’m so obsessed with this story and this character.”

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From there, they notified the production company of August’s strong interest. Their response was favorable and they asked her to sign on to play Anna. While “Anna” and all names in the series have been changed, the plot unfolds just like the actual events.

August was delighted to be attached. “So that’s how it all started,” she explained. “And we developed the whole project from there. It was super cool because the producers were so curious and open to my opinion on everything. I was super involved from the beginning, which was so nice.”

Alba August’s attraction to the Knutby role

Alba August in The Congregation series (Knutby) on Viaplay
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When asked what it was about the real life character from Knutby that led her to be so interested in the performance, August explained how she identified with the role. “She’s got a drive, and yet she’s so nice that she wants to please everyone. She’s super complex and I was just fascinated with her. And of course with the other characters as well.”

On her interest in the world of religious cults, August further revealed, “I’ve always been super interested in psychology — I even wanted to be a therapist when I was a kid — and what the human mind is like and how we work and act together. I’ve always been drawn to the idea of ​​communities.” She continued:

“In a way, I think I’ve always dreamed of being part of a group like that, of belonging to a community. It’s the desire to be part of something, and I think that actually comes by feeling alone. I felt lonely as a kid, and in a way I still do, so I think I dreamed of a community and the idea was interesting.”

When asked if she herself found that fulfillment of belonging, August added nostalgically: “I experienced a bit of community when I went to theater school in Copenhagen in my early twenties, and even that was like a cult. We felt us like we were the most important people in the whole world, like what we were doing was magic. We felt like we were against the world.”

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It’s quite an interesting point for viewers to consider. Like Anna, don’t we all just want a place to belong? The thought alone normalizes the character’s initial intent, but August goes on to make it clear that this contemplation is not for the sake of cult salvation.

The pitfalls of fitting in

Cast of The Congregation on Viaplay
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It is staggering to realize how easily a group can be defined as a cult. Basically, it is a group of people united by shared beliefs about life. It requires leadership and deep dedication from its members.

How then does it all become so tragic? What is the cause of the error?

In addition to the real-life events that inspired The municipality series, there are many notorious cults. There was the cult of the People’s Temple (or Jonestown), Scientology, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and thousands more around the world. Why is it that most of them initially have positive intentions? What causes the horror stories we read about so often?

“I think this series is a picture of how the human mind works. These kinds of cult communities will always exist in the world,” said August. “I think it’s impossible to get rid of them.” August points out the one universally fatal flaw in these cults, their common denominator: “People with power will always sort of abuse it. So this series is ultimately an exploration of how maybe we can all learn from that.”

While The municipality is a very intriguing series intended for the entertainment of viewers, August added a conscientious reminder about the production’s intended takeaway, the actual people the story is based on.

“I want to give justice in some way to the people who were involved,” noted August, “especially my character […] She’s been through so much and I hope this, if at all possible, can give her her life back.”

The municipality was made into a film by Fredrik Agetoft and also stars Aliette Opheim (Black Crab) and Elinar Bredefeldt (Dystopia). It had its US premiere on May 11 exclusively on the streaming platform Viaplay, the Nordic home for dark, suspenseful and psychologically probing content, including scripted crime series and true crime documentaries.

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