First Look: Swan/Koistinen film by Tekla Vály


We are privileged indeed to be given the first look at the new movie by Tekla Vály, based on the recent EP by Astrid Swan and Stina Koistinen, simply titled “Swan/Koistinen”. The music brings together two artists we have featured a number of times here on SWIT. The compositions cover the gamut of emotions associated with serious illness, and cancer in particular – fear, anger, sadness and in the end some kind of acceptance and perhaps even peace. It is at times an uncomfortable listen and indeed for many still an uncomfortable subject. It is a huge credit to both artists that they have created something so beautiful and compelling from their personal stories of living with incurable conditions and celebrating the importance of co-survivors (or thrivers/metavivors) . The final song “Singing” is a powerfully moving, uplifting embrace of that survival, and of life, and leaves me in tears of both sorrow and joy. The songs, co-composed by Swan and Koistinen, recorded and produced by Swan, are made of hospital atmosphere, human voice, electronics, piano and Canadian pop visionary Owen Pallett’s string arrangements.

Without new targeted treatment, Swan’s time is reaching its end. The average life expectancy for women with advanced breast cancer is about three years. “I am constantly living in a grey area, where I’m more conscious about my death than most people are. But most of the time, I’m not thinking about it. If I would, I couldn’t do anything.” “Yeah, it really takes away your ability to function and the joy out of life”, Koistinen agrees.

The women themselves, of course, speak much more eloquently of the music than an observer ever could so please do read the interview with them both here in this issue of “Flow Magazine” (second last article).

Tekla Vály’s 17 min film is the elegiac visual accompaniment to the EP.  Staying away from direct narrative, it’s sepia-tinged washes of colour evoke dreamscapes and weave in themes of empowerment, life and beauty. Shot in Finland and Italy, Vály scripted the film to interpret the musical story of becoming engulfed in an illness narrative, which strips you from yourself – creating the need to reconstruct something where the loss is. While the music is exact in its narrative about being diagnosed, hospitalised, and then learning to live as a chronically ill woman and beyond, the film operates on an emotional terrain, which comes to the truth from a wholly different place: magical realism.

Vály comments “I wanted the videos to be dreamlike like life itself. Life and dreams are born from moments, glimpses, colours, light and moods that, as an experience in our minds, are linked together as a puzzle and a series of events that create a story. The themes of the EP are tough and difficult topics, so I wanted to focus the film on the power of life and the momentum of beauty.”

Many times great art springs from adversity and that applies to both the music and film here.  My admiration is boundless.

Swan/Koistinen (feat. Owen Pallett) one and only live appearance is this August at the Helsinki Flow Festival.

Screenplay: Tekla Vály (together with Astrid Swan)
Filming: Tekla Vály
Editing: Tekla Vály
Models: Astrid Swan, Stina Koistinen, Hanna Päivinen, Tiina Sysimusta, Tekla Vály


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