“It’s pretty hard to age with any sort of dignity”
by Annika Pham
- The Norwegian filmmaker speaks about the great experience he had in working with an all Nordic cast and crew and especially about his relationship with Danish scriptwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson
Often compared to Ridley Scott because of his glorious background in advertising, Hans Petter Moland is one of the most prominent contemporary Norwegian filmmakers, known for his striking portrayals of human beings often placed in harsh surroundings. A Somewhat Gentle Man [+see also:
interview: Hans Petter Moland
film profile], his sixth feature film, is his third collaboration with Swedish star Stellan Skarsgård, following Zero Kelvin (1995) and Aberdeen (2000). At the film’s press conference after it’s official competition screening at the 60th Berlinale, Moland spoke –with his typical sense of humour – about the team spirit in which the film was made and more particularly about his relationship with one of Denmark’s top scriptwriters, Kim Fupz Aakeson.
Your characters are heartbreaking and at the same time extremely funny, especially Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) and his land lady (Jorunn Kjellsby). What can you tell us about them?
Hans Petter Moland: It’s pretty hard being a human being surrounded by nasty shits! These people are not in the top tier of society nor in the prime of their life. Yet, it’s amusing to see how they struggle to retain a sliver of dignity. At the same time, it’s pretty hard to age with any sort of dignity knowing full well you’re not necessarily young and beautiful and rich and happy, everything that we’re all supposed to be aspiring to.
This film was truly made with a team spirit. All the actors had better things to do, but they all agreed to make it happen. We all did our best to make it on a short schedule and fairly slim budget (around €2m). We had a great time doing it. Stellan/Ulrik and Jorunn Kjellsby, his landlady, are some of the bravest people on earth, wonderful human beings and they felt they were in an environment where they could to do something exceptional.
You’re Norwegian, the scriptwriter [Kim Fupz Aakeson] is Danish and your lead actor is Swedish. How did you all work together?
The script was brought to me as a kind of wonderful gift by the producers. Kim’s script was one of the greatest ever given to me. Anybody who would have a nationalistic restraint would be a fool. Our languages are quite similar, but we have our own turn of phrases, and the way the script was written, by a Dane made me look at our language in a different way.
Stellan Skarsgård hasn’t kept much of his “Swedishness” in the film…
Stellan plays a character which has a tough job: he kills people. This kind of job requires a true talent that is not easy to find. So sometimes you have to recruit abroad, such as in Sweden, where people are tougher and nastier…at least, that’s the way we see it in Norway!
Could you detail how you worked with Kim Fupz Aakeson to bring the film to the screen?
A film is a collective effort. The script is the core, the skeleton, the thing that everybody attaches themselves to. But it is not a Bible that cannot be altered or played with. Also, the director’s interpretation is not enough by itself. You’re confronted with locations, physical realities. However, if a script is very good, with a refined and exact dialogue and great tone of voice, it can become incredibly precious, which was the case with A Somewhat Gentle Man.
The writing was a collaborative effort with Kim. Although I immediately loved the script, I had issues with some elements in it. But Kim is a very productive and gifted person, so he turned it around fast. It’s all part of the creative process. Even actors bring something that hopefully will surprise me and the audience.
Where you inspired by the Coen brothers?
I took inspiration from my own brother!!