"Apparently crime has a magnetic effect on me, but at least I am not alone"
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Michael Noer talks about Key House Mirror, his award-winning Ghita Nørby and Sven Wollter starrer, which is set in a nursing home.
If the title of Key House Mirror [+see also:
interview: Michael Noer
film profile] sounds confusing, it is probably because you have never been examined for mental illness or dementia – it is part of a memory test performed at Danish nursing homes, among other institutions.
Danish director Michael Noer used this setting for his third feature. After two movies about young criminals (in his debut, R [+see also:
film profile] – co-directed by Tobias Lindholm – they were behind bars, and in the second, Northwest [+see also:
interview: Michael Noer
film profile], they walked around freely in a Copenhagen neighbourhood), he has directed a romantic “coming-of-old-age” drama, starring Denmark’s grande dame of film and theatre, Ghita Nørby, and Swedish actor Sven Wollter.
Lily (Nørby) and Max (Jens Brenaa) have been married for more than 50 years, but since Max’s stroke, they have been living in a nursing home, where he is being cared for by professionals and she has put her own needs aside – but she is desperately longing for excitement and intimacy in her life.
When Erik, nicknamed "The Pilot" (Wollter), moves in next door, he and his passion for life immediately charm Lily, but neither her family nor the other residents at the home are fond of her new acquaintance. Misunderstood by her family and trapped in her life with Max, she decides to fight to escape the bars of her invisible prison and claim her freedom.
Produced by Tomas Radoor and René Ezra for Nordisk Film Production, Key House Mirror has so far toured 13 international film festivals, where – among other prizes – it won the Dutch critics’ KNF Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Italian film critics’ Award for Best European Actress at the Lecce Film Fest.
Cineuropa: When we talked last, you said, "My next film is a completely different ball game – when I announce it, most people will shake their heads and say it is impossible." But a nursing home?
Michael Noer: My grandmother was always afraid of ending up at a nursing home, like her husband, and I wrote her a note that said, "I promise you will never end up in a nursing home," which she kept by her phone. My grandfather went there after his stroke, when I was eight, and I kept telling my grandmother, "Read the note," but she is there now. And I decided to make a film about living at a nursing home.
But from young criminals to elderly nursing-home patients?
In many ways, Key House Mirror is much like R – a nursing home is not a prison, but for the film's protagonist, Lily, it turns into a prison, so she is forced to take a break from her own self-understanding and the dreams she has for the rest of her life.
Was it your intention to make a love story between elderly people?
I was heavily influenced by my research and, not least, by Nørby: life is not over until it's over. That's why the film became much lighter than I had thought – but it's also great to have that light, rather than darkness. We all know full well that we are going to die.
How did you go about the casting?
I had always thought of Nørby for the lead actress – nobody else was ever on my radar. And in my opinion, Wollter is the best actor in Scandinavia to play that very precise vulnerable but charming role, which was so central in a film about love and courage. Erik has experienced so much in his life – or so he thinks himself – but Lily hasn’t, so the nursing home means something totally different to each of them: to him it is just another kind of hotel, but to her it's a prison.
You mixed a cast of professional actors with real-life workers and patients at the home. Did that help to create the authenticity?
It always helps to listen to reality – in this case, to listen to the facts from the people working or residing as patients at the nursing home. But at the same time, it is important to listen to and be inspired by the actors' ideas and feelings.
What about your next film?
I need blood on my hands again – apparently crime has a magnetic effect on me, but at least I am not alone.