Hallvar Witzø • Director
by Elisa Cimino
- CANNES 2014: Cineuropa met up with Hallvar Witzø, director of the Norwegian short film Yes We Love, which got a Special Mention at Cannes
Following his Oscar nomination for his previous short, Tuba Atlantic, Norwegian director Hallvar Witzø was selected this year in the Cannes short-film competition with his 15-minute film Yes We Love – he went on to get a Special Mention for it. Produced by Hummelfilm, the project comprises four episodes set during the Norwegian National Day. The four characters have their own particular way of celebrating, refusing to do what the others do (singing, marching, grouping together) and expecting other people to let them do or say what’s most important for them. Bergen portrays a young boy refusing to take part in the march. Left in the car by his family, with only radio DJs debating about sausages for company, the boy turns on the engine and starts driving. In Oscarborg, an old veteran refuses to hear the speech and sing with the others; instead, he moves his wheelchair towards the buffet and starts eating cake in a frenzy. In Veksvik, a girl dumped by her boyfriend has a fit of madness and throws his scooter in the water, causing an explosion. Finally, in Svalbard, a man sings the national anthem and dances completely naked (except for a blue balaclava) in the snow. But he locks himself out of his house, and has to get on his scooter and drive around in order to get help… A funny and absurd tale about four people in search of their own freedom, no matter the consequences. Hallvar Witzø explains the intentions behind his film to Cineuropa.
Cineuropa: Why the title Yes We Love?
Hallvar Witzø: “Yes We Love” is the title of the Norwegian national anthem. In the first scene, my father and my uncle appear playing this song with their choir; they sing at the beginning and also at the end of the movie. It is a local choir from up in the north of Norway, and they also came down to Cannes, 31 guys, and they were singing on the Croisette on 17 May, the Norwegian National Day. They appeared in all the Norwegian and Scandinavian press.
Yes We Love shows four different people with a common goal: to claim their right to do whatever they want and to be respected for this.
Yes, these four characters are totally different and are in completely different landscapes. They try to be a part of everything, but they don’t fit in; they have something missing in their personal agenda. I find these characters funny; I wanted to see rebellion in their behaviour, but in a funny way, in a small and intimate context. It has negative consequences: there are explosions, people get hurt, and they don’t mean to – they only want to gain some attention or do what they want to do. But they are kind of forced to be part of the sheep flock. I thought it was funny to see people who are not demonstrating against the National Day celebrations as such, but who have other priorities.
How much does Norway feature in this film (in terms of the story, but also in the way you tell it)?
As far as I can tell, in Norway, it’s very important to be like the rest. When we celebrate the National Day, you celebrate. And if you have the national costume, don’t get ice cream on it. There are strict codes of how you should behave during Constitution Day in Norway. I like to think of myself as an international storyteller, but I never let go of my Norwegian roots. In modern cinema in Norway and in Scandinavia, it’s often about the obscure and strange things, the absurd but very naturalistic. And it’s very important for me to retain this aspect because this is how I see the world.
On the other hand, these stories could be set anywhere…
Sure. Svalbard could be set in the Alps. Also, here in Cannes, there could be a young boy who, like the one from the first episode, refuses to take pictures with his parents on the Croisette.
Why did you decide on a choral film?
This movie is based on a lot of small ideas that I had with my cinematographer, and we started making these scenes to be distinct parts, so as not to interweave with each other to be like a full story. I was looking for this shape. I came up with the Svalbard scene and then the others. We had these four scenes, and we said, “Ok, this is the movie.” I wrote several drafts of the script, trying to fit the scenes together, so not four totally different movies, but one film with four scenes that tell something that is very universal but funny and entertaining to watch. It was a totally different way of working on a film to how I had done it before. My previous film, Tuba Atlantic, was linear, a classic drama, and it was important to me to make my next movie in a totally challenging way. I wanted to make a film in one take, without cutting it, other than just three or four cuts, and creating the tension, the fun, the humour and the tragedy all in a single frame.