J-P Valkeapää channels Billy Wilder in his new film, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants
by Marta Bałaga
- The Finnish director, whose last film, They Have Escaped, won four Jussi Awards in 2015, including Best Film, is currently in pre-production with his third feature
Produced by Helsinki-filmi and directed by J-P Valkeapää, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (previously known as Mona) promises to be quite a departure for a filmmaker best known for his frequent detours into fantasy and teenage protagonists. “Yeah, we went for a longer title,” he laughs while talking to Cineuropa in between storyboarding. “I will play with these notions again, so I wouldn’t say the story is exactly straightforward. But in comparison to my previous films, this one will be more linear. It’s something I haven’t done before.”
While not exactly a thriller, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is a love story with a twist, as a man (played by Tom of Finland [+see also:
interview: Dome Karukoski
film profile]’s Pekka Strang) struggles with the loss of his wife in an accident and slowly regains the will to live after meeting another woman, Mona. “It’s about a man who lost someone and can’t let go of the memory – until he meets a new person who helps him to make his memory more concrete.” Echoes of Vertigo are certainly not coincidental. “We are in a similar territory, but there is this black humour, too. I don’t usually like the actual shoot. Before I start, I always watch [documentary about the production of Apocalypse Now] Hearts of Darkness – at least there is a positive outcome for the disaster. But this time, I am actually curious to see what we will come up with.”
Still, some things remain the same. Once again, Valkeapää has chosen to work with the same team, from producer Aleksi Bardy to acclaimed cinematographer Pietari Peltola, whose work on Valkeapää's previous effort, They Have Escaped [+see also:
interview: J-P Valkeapää
film profile], earned him a Sven Nykvist Cinematography Award at the Göteborg Film Festival. “Pietari is one of the most talented cinematographers in Finland, and his understanding of light is something I really admire. Most scenes will take place at night, and there are certain aspects of the film that don’t differ much from my previous work, but I am trying to shoot it with only one lens. I was looking at some of Pasolini’s films from the 1960s, like Accattone, which were shot the same way. I think it can create an interesting visual perspective.”
While the subject of the film, not to mention the nocturnal scenes, make it seem like a rather dark proposition, Valkeapää continually underlines the importance of levity. “Yes, it will be bloody dark, but I am not interested in the nobility of sorrow. I am more interested in anger,” he states. “Also because anger can be fun. There is a lot of desperation here, and desperation is one of the main sources of comedy – at least for me. If you look at The Apartment by Billy Wilder, which for the most part also happens at night, it’s about suicide, depression, disappointment and not being loved. It’s heavy stuff – and still, it’s a funny film. It was always in the back of my head. I hope there is a bit of Billy Wilder somewhere in my film.”
Supported by the Finnish Film Foundation, and directed and written by J-P Valkeapää, Dogs Don’t Wear Pants is being produced by Helsinki-filmi’s Aleksi Bardy. The shoot is set for autumn this year, and the film will be distributed by SF Studios.
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