"Driven by strong female characters"
by Annika Pham
- Black Ice as described by its director, whose career is on the rise after his multiple award-winning debut feature Homesick
Black Ice [+see also:
interview: Kai Nordberg
interview: Petri Kotwica
film profile] is Petri Kotwica’s second feature film, following his award-winning debut Homesick (2005), also produced by Finland’s Making Movies. The 44-year-old filmmaker, who studied philosophy, literature and theatre direction at Helsinki’s University of Art and Design, spoke to Cineuropa at the latest Berlinale, where his film screened in official competition.
Cineuropa: Black Ice is a jealousy drama with many twists that wrap up rather peacefully in a linear way. How difficult was it to write?
Petri Kotwica:: the main difficulty with the script was that the story involves points of views from two protagonists with almost an equal weight, plus of the same sex, which is quite uncommon. There is no female/male dichotomy in this film. I had the ambition to end this film by having the two lead actresses seeing eye to eye – again, something contrary to the traditional structure of a Hollywood movie.
You struggle with the antagonist, then you either win or lose at the end. But I counted on “collateral damage” in the film, in the sense that I knew some people would not accept my ending, in which one of the main characters dies but the movie still goes on until the peaceful resolution. I wrote the script during different stages of pre-production and financing, but only made cosmetic changes to it.
What were your inspirations for the film? Hitchcock comes to our mind, as well as Kubrick.
The intensity in the film is perhaps reminiscent of Kubrick films, but my other influences are Krzysztof Kieslowski and Ingmar Bergman.
It’s interesting that the film is directed by a man because it’s almost an anti-male film, in which women are strong, determined and sincere whereas men are untrustworthy, almost pitiful and clownish.
That must have some relation to my hating certain episodes of my own life. Looking back, I see myself acting like a clown perhaps. I see so much of this male attitude around me as well. But it’s clearly a story about two women so there is not so much screen time for the male character.
Your settings and locations were very varied. Was that important for the plot, to show the characters in various aspects of their everyday life?
Absolutely. As a writer, I often try to use environments as a metaphor for the characters’ inner states, such as the architecture, the healing elements.
The way you shot Black Ice was very different from Homesick, your previous film. Yes, it was totally opposite. Homesick was shot in 16mm, very hectic, grainy and almost ugly looking. Here, we have no handheld camera. We have very floating, tracking movements. The style comes from the content.
How do you work with your actors and actresses? Are you open to suggestions?
I started writing this in the beginning of 2001. When I had written the very first version, I started rehearsing with the two lead actresses, Outi Mäenpää and Ria Kataja, to see how motivated they were. Then I took some time off, stepped back a bit to think about the women’s characters. I wanted to finish the script in two or three months, but it ended up being in two or three years!
Prior to shooting Black Ice, we spent a lot of time analysing the scenes. At that point, I reduced maybe a third of the dialogue because I found that the actresses were able to express a lot without that much dialogue.
I will always be willing to make a film with a strong female character in the story – from 21 to 42-years-old – and I definitely want to make another film with Outi Mäenpää.