Alternative lifestyles against conformity
by Camillo de Marco
- Jörgen Bergmark - Venice 2009 - Critics' Week
A Rational Solution [+see also:
interview: Jörgen Bergmark
film profile] is the one dreamed up by Erland, when he falls in love with Karin, the wife of his friend Sven-Erik: for a time, the couple go and live at Erland and his wife May’s house, respecting the ten agreed cohabitation rules. But the experiment puts a strain on everyone...
Cineuropa: Let’s start straight away with the magic words "Ingmar Bergman". All Swedish filmmakers have to contend with him and A Rational Solution, with its exploration of marriage and relationships between couples, is particularly indebted to the master.
Jörgen Bergmark: There are two major traditions in Sweden: a realist and poetic one, and another of theatrical origin, which takes Bergman as its reference. I think I belong more to the first, and I’m surprised when someone says that my style fits into the second. At the same time, I realise that there’s no escaping Bergman, nobody can say he hasn’t influenced them. It comes automatically, he’s part of our culture, of our subconscious; we even drink him up for breakfast every morning. In order to make my own film, I certainly didn’t need to watch his again. [laughs]
What was the starting point for the film?
Jens Jonsson (screenwriter, ndr) and I found out about this marriage guidance course, supported by the Catholic Church in order to defend the core value of the family, where they talked about sex, adultery and relationships between couples. So Jens threw away everything he had written up to that point and we began to discuss the idea that everything can be solved if we are honest... Jensen and I were going though a difficult patch in our love lives and we knew how much it can destroy you emotionally.
And you came up with a "rational solution"...
We thought about what would happen if... Of course, we had never heard about this solution, but we’d heard many similar stories, especially in provincial towns, where people want to avoid causing scandals and ruining their children’s lives.
The film criticises a certain Christian hypocrisy, in Scandinavian communities and elsewhere, which aims to uphold family values at all costs, without considering new forms of extended family that are emerging.
There are two levels. The first level involves a general criticism of the established order, which we want to overturn and challenge with new, alternative lifestyles, in our love affairs, social life and at school. On the other hand, however, we don’t follow the example shown in the film; we have totally traditional family lives.
In cinema, marriage issues are usually explored in the context of middle-class families. You’ve chosen a working-class setting for your story.
Jens and I grew up in a small town in northern Sweden, where there is a paper mill factory. Our parents were the first generation to do any studies. I find that in Scandinavian films, the working class is portrayed as a bunch of violent, stupid drunkards and wife-beaters. We wanted to present them in a fair light and show that they too are capable of discussing social issues and entering into political debate.
Cheated husband Sven-Erik wants to symbolically cut himself in two with the electric saw; he has an identity problem, which reflects perhaps a social malaise.
We went to Rotterdam’s CineMart to meet potential co-producers, and the representatives from Lucky Red said that the film was "very Scandinavian". It’s possible to recognise our society through its cinema. Sven-Erik is a very complex character, torn by doubts about religious values. He believes that the relationship between his wife and Erland is merely superficial.
How did you get from the screenplay for Bent Hamer’s Kitchen Stories to A Rational Solution?
Kitchen Stories is also a film about rationality and passion, after all. But Bent isn’t interested in relationships between men and women. I’m more interested in love stories.
This co-production - Sweden, Italy and Germany- cost €2.4m. Was it difficult to find funding for the film?
It was more difficult in Sweden, where we received €800,000 in state funding. Our Italian co-producers were the first to read the script and believe in us, despite the fact it was a debut film. Once the script had been approved, the producers left us free to shoot the film as we wished. I must say that the pitching system for finding co-producers works well in Europe.