With his first two feature efforts, Fucking Åmål (1998) and Together (2000), Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson earned a strong following for his acute, gentle sense of social satire and his remarkably well-drawn and sympathetic characters. Though his third feature, the soul-shredding Lilja 4-Ever, marked a notably dark turn in terms of content for Moodysson, his sense of characterization was perhaps stronger than ever, and the stark tale of a young Russian girl forced into prostitution gained him international acclaim. A native of the South Sweden burg of Lund, Moodysson was the son of hardworking farmers who hailed from the small community of Smaland (literally "small land"). When the opportunity arose for Moodysson's father to study engineering in the 1960s, he relocated to the university town of Lund, funding his education with work at a local hardware store; it was there that Karl Frederik Lukas Moodysson was born in January of 1969. The future director was exposed to an early film influence when he watched the film Fanny and Alexander; he strongly relating to the character of Alexander due to his parents' recent divorce. A misfit in school who turned to poetry to express himself, Moodysson penned five poetry collections and a novel by the age of 23. He later turned to film in order to explore the world around him, and in the process he claims he became less "self-centered."
Moodysson's film studies began at Stockholm's Dramatiska Institutet, and following his graduation, he helmed a trio of short films that found his abilities as a filmmaker growing considerably. By the mid-'90s Moodysson was ready to make the leap to features, and it was the burgeoning director's boredom that ultimately lead to his debut feature, Fucking Åmål. The tale of a teenage girl coming of age in a small town where nothing ever happens, the film won Moodysson international attention for both his smart characters and the tenderness with which he portrayed them. His follow-up feature, Together, triumphantly avoided the dreaded sophomore slump to tell the softly satirical tale of an idealistic commune. With characters equally as well-drawn and multi-dimensional as those in Fucking Åmål, it was this film that showed a filmmaker truly coming into his own and subtly shifting into a notably more political style. Christened Sweden's Angry Young Man and reviled by many for his defiant speech upon winning the awards for Best Screenplay and Best Directon at the Guldbagge Awards (Sweden's main film awards) for Fucking Åmål, Moodysson took the reputation in stride with the belief that his films would ultimately be his legacy.
If Together hinted at a more politicized direction for the filmmaker, his third feature, Lilja 4-Ever, unquestionably solidified his growing concern with international politics and their effects on the downtrodden. After witnessing Gothenburg's anti-capitalist riots in 2001, Moodysson's political passion was re-ignited, and he was inspired to write the unrelentingly bleak tale of a young girl left alone when her mother abandons her to seek out a better life in the United States. Determined to expose the dark side of capitalistic society, he crafted a horrifically affecting film that truly made the audience experience the hopeless plight of its protagonist. Swearing to avoid the lure of Miramax and the career path of fellow Swedish director Lasse Halleström, Moodysson eschewed the acceptance of the West in order to retain creative control of his films and to avoid moving to Los Angeles. In 2002, it was announced that the remake rights to Together had been acquired by Focus Features and that the film was to be directed by filmmaker Miguel Arteta.