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Pål Øie • Director

"I find it fascinating to see nature and civilisation co-exist, the primitive and the technological"


- Cineuropa met Norwegian director Pål Øie, whose latest film, Villmark 2 has hit Norwegian screens

Pål Øie  • Director

It was at the opening ceremony of the Mountain Festival in Gjendesheim that Villmark 2 [+see also:
film profile
, by Norwegian director Pål Øie, was screened for the first time, for a predominantly young audience that turned out in droves to see this horror film. After a heart-pounding open-air screening, the night, spent in a tent, was very calm, with no bother from trolls or savage beasts, perhaps to the great disappointment of amateurs of full-on non-virtual experiences. It was 11 September 2015. The previous evening, Pål Øie had granted Cineuropa a meeting in a sophisticated little cafe in Oslo.

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Cineuropa: Dark Woods (Villmark) was released twelve years ago. The film ended on a cliffhanger.
Pål Øie: Yes, and I’ve wanted to do a sequel for a long time. I wasn’t short on ideas, but nothing was happening. My bond with nature is very strong, so I went back to the mysterious lake you see in this film, and learnt that they were planning on demolishing Harastølen, a huge white building perched on a hill, which was difficult to get to and located nearby. I thought it was fantastic in every sense of the word, and had incredible visual potential. The place impressed me, and I started writing the screenplay straight away, which was then completed by Kjersti Rasmussen. Before any building is torn down, it is, of course, essential that you remove all hazardous materials, asbestos and mercury in particular. In Villmark 2, it’s then, when it is being stripped down to render it harmless that this huge house, which had been a sanatorium, a psychiatric hospital and a reception centre for refugees in real life, paradoxically becomes a threat. I find it fascinating to see nature and civilisation co-exist, the primitive and the technological. Here modern man is faced with the forces of nature for better and for worse. It gives you food for thought. 

As in Dark Woods, the plot revolves around five characters.
Exactly. I should point out that you don’t have to have seen Dark Woods to understand Villmark 2, the heroine of which is Live, played by Ellen Dorrit Petersen. Anders Baasmo Christiansen, a well-known Norwegian actor, plays Ole, who is hired along with the others to clean the old sanatorium. It’s a true joy to work with actors with a background in theatre. As in the majority of my films, a Swedish actor also appears in the credits, in this case, Tomas Norström

Did it take long to film?
35 days in total, 20 of which were spent in Budapest where I had already been three times location scouting, and where I had to manage a team of 75 people. Not easy. In Norway things were a lot easier: we were filming with natural light and a smaller team, without any stuntmen. It took more than three years to make the film, as trying to reconcile ambitions and funds takes time and patience. 

You have a solid university education, particularly in music.
Yes, I play the drums, I’ve been in pop and rock bands, and just recently I played with my old friends from Stranda, my hometown, which I’m still very tied to even though I’ve lived in Bergen for some thirty years. This knowledge of music helps me a lot in my work as a director, for example when it comes to choosing sound effects, which are so important for creating atmosphere. In this respect the roles of sound engineer Hugo Ekornes and composer Trond Bjerknes were essential. My sense of rhythm, of musicality, was also useful during the editing to breathe life into the film and give it the tempo I was looking for. I don’t usually, but for the first time with this film, I stuck to my editor, Sjur Aarthun, who was also director of photography, like glue.

Did you not trust him?
Quite the opposite. We get on very well: we even set up our own production company with the producer Einar Loftesnes, Handmade Films in Norwegian Woods. It’s true that with technical innovation and all the possibilities offered by digital media, the editing process has become simpler on the whole, and a lot cheaper as everything can now be done on PCs. At the same time, what with more specific things to focus on and there being a wider range of nuances, the choices involved are sometimes difficult, especially as I’m a bit of a perfectionist. That’s why I wanted to work closely with my editor. It took us five months to do all the editing, when two months are usually enough. It was exhausting but fascinating work.

(Translated from French)

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