“I like the rhythm of melancholy, then absurd humour, then melancholy again”
by Annika Pham
- Denstad Langlo uses his best of his documentary skills to make an “off-road” movie set against the stunning mountains of northern Norway
Rune Denstad Langlo has been working since 1998 as producer on documentary films for Motlys Film. His first documentary was Too Much Norway, made in 2005 to commemorate Norway’s centenary. His second feature-length documentary 99% Honest was about hip-hop band United Minorities. North [+see also:
interview: Rune Denstad Langlo
film profile] is his feature debut.
Cineuropa: North was the opening film of the Berlinale Panorama Special. How was the official screening?
Rune Denstad Langlo: It was absolutely great. I thought the cinema hall would have around 200 seats, but it was gigantic, the biggest cinema I had seen and it was full. The response was fantastic. People laughed and cried. There was a great feeling during the screening and a true connection with the audience.
What was the starting point for North?
I first had the idea for the film four years ago when I was skiing. The film takes place in the area around Trondheim where I grew up. I was going through a bad period in my life, and in those circumstances, you often get ideas…I met with writer Erlend Loe who is very close to our production company, Motlys, and I convinced him to help me make it into a feature film.
On his journey up north, to be reunited with his former girlfriend and child, the lead character Jomar meets colourful characters. How did you write their stories and then find the actors?
The film is about Jomar meeting all those people and actually realizing that, although he acts strangely because of his depression, other people are even weirder. In northern Norway a lot of people live in isolation and have little interaction with other human beings. We called the film an “off-road movie”, as people in northern Norway don’t take the main roads.
When we wrote the script we just made up the characters as we went along. In terms of casting, because of my background as a documentary filmmaker, I enjoy working with non-professionals. Some of the characters were picked from the streets, others are friends or family. Some have theatre experience – like the young man Ulrik or the elderly Sami – but had never acted in a movie before. The lead, Anders Baasmo Christiansen, is an established actor but this is his biggest role yet. I tried to tell everybody, “It’s only a movie, let’s have fun”. That’s the best way to get the most out of people.
Is it again because of your documentary background that you used natural settings?
Yes, and for my next movie I want to work exactly the same way. I don’t like studios, professional actors. I don’t like big scenes, but intimate scenes with two or three people. I wanted North to stay as simple as possible, which is why I actually cut a lot of scenes that were in the script but that were kind of superfluous for the plot.
How difficult was it to shoot in extreme weather conditions?
It was a great experience. The experienced DoP Philip Øgaard (Kitchen Stories) was the first on my list. I was lucky because he really liked the script and said yes to the project even though I hadn’t made any features before. He was totally dedicated to making a good movie. That said, it was hard to work with the cold weather (-25 Celsius) and all the blizzards were real. We had to move the crew long distances in little time on snowmobiles.
Would you describe North as a comedy?
I wanted to have a melancholic feeling to the film. I’ve tried to capture that in my documentaries as well. I like the rhythm of melancholy, then absurd humour, then melancholy again
What road movies inspired you?
I really tried to follow the rules of road movies. I was inspired by David Lynch’s The Straight Story as well as Sean Penn’s Into the Wild. I already had the idea for North when I saw [the latter] and it made me confident that we had something special with North.
My next project Nater will be a small and intimate film about an 18 year-old girl, co-written again with Erlend Loe. It will be another absurdist comedy set in northern Norway. We learned a lot from North and want to make an even better film next time.