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Interview: Roar Uthaug • Director

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"I didn't want to favour the spectacular aspect to the detriment of the human element"


- Cineuropa met up with Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, whose fourth feature, The Wave, screened at Toronto, is Norway's submission in the Oscars race

Interview: Roar Uthaug  • Director

It is raining in Oslo when Cineuropa meets Norwegian director Roar Uthaug, whose fourth feature, The Wave [+see also:
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interview: Roar Uthaug
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, is Norway's submission for the Best Foreign-language Film Award at the Oscars. The critics' opinions have been favourable and box-office sales in Norwegian cinemas have been impressive since its release. A monstrous 80-metre wave is the hero of this first ever Scandinavian disaster movie, which had its world premiere recently at the Haugesund Festival and is also screening at the 2015 Toronto Festival.

Cineuropa: It was Fantefilm Fiksjon who produced your film.
Roar Uthaug: Yes, and it was Martin Sundland, a producer at this company, who one day started talking to me about Åkerneset, a mountain in western Norway with an enormous unstable section, which one day, sooner or later, is going to collapse into the Geiranger fjord, causing a tsunami. This threat really exists, just as there really is a surveillance and warning centre in this region, which is popular with tourists. Straightaway, Martin thought of making a film about this potential danger. I have to admit that I was reluctant: I knew that with films like Kon-Tiki [+see also:
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or Max Manus [+see also:
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, Norway certainly had built up enough solid expertise in VFX - computer-generated visual effects - and that reassured me, but how would we maintain suspense and dramatic tension once the tsunami had hit? Happily, the distribution company, Nordisk Film, came on board very quickly, and we were able to start the project. 

For a total budget of...
50 million Krona, about €5 million, which is not a lot compared to some superproductions. I talked to Martin a lot and developed a plot, but I preferred to leave the writing to the scriptwriters, John Kåre Raake and Harald Rosenløw Eeg. I wanted to take a step back from the story, to focus better on the directing. I really like working in a kind of triangle: producer, director, scriptwriters. Ideas are brewed, separately and as a group. I find these sorts of exchanges productive. Our story is enriched by images taken from archive documents connected with the disasters at Tafjord in 1934 and Loen in 1936. 

Did you have to resort to computers often?
Firstly, with the music: during editing I knocked together a musical model with Magus Beite, who then composed the film's score on computer before collaborating with sound engineer Christian Schaaning; then came the studio recording with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. As for the images, we used both computer-generated visual effects and special effects without digital intervention, sometimes separately, sometimes combined, as in the scene where you see two characters sat in a car face-on; VFX is replaced at the moment of impact by torrents of water that we actually poured onto the actors for the sake of authenticity. 

It was the first time you had worked with your actors, I believe?
Yes, but I already knew most members of the team. Kristoffer Joner and Ane Dahl Torp, who are very popular in Norway, have often worked together and make a credible couple. So I chose them very quickly: they play Kristian, the geologist, and his wife Idun, caught in the middle of a real race against the clock. However, it took several auditions to find Julia and Sondre, the couple's children. I really didn't want to favour the spectacular aspect to the detriment of the human element. For example, Kristian's colleagues at the surveillance centre, who are so-called supporting characters, are really important to me. It's the ordinary, humble people I wanted to show in all their simplicity. The local population helped us a lot during filming, I might add; three nights in a row, 85 extras ran tirelessly down the Ørneveien, a road that runs alongside the Geiranger fjord before soaring up towards the summits. Their enthusiastic participation really touched me.

(Translated from French)


international title: The Wave
original title: Bølgen
country: Norway, Sweden
year: 2015
directed by: Roar Uthaug
screenplay: John Kåre Raake, Harald Rosenløw-Eeg
cast: Kristoffer Joner, Thomas Bo Larsen, Fridtjov Såheim, Ane Dahl Torp, Lado Hadzic, Arthur Berning, Eili Harboe

main awards/selection

Les Arcs International Film Festival 2015

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