Bent Hamer • Director
by Maud Forsgren
- Cineuropa met up with Bent Hamer, the director of 1001 Grams, which has been picked to represent Norway in the upcoming Oscars race
Cineuropa sat down with a cheerful and relaxed Bent Hamer in Oslo, just as he was in the middle of promoting 1001 Grams [+see also:
interview: Bent Hamer
film profile], his seventh feature film, for which he also wrote the screenplay. The renowned Norwegian director was about to leave for Sandefjord, his hometown, for a short break. His schedule for the autumn includes visits to cities such as Tromsø, Trondheim, London, Chicago, Tokyo and Lübeck, as well as two trips to Los Angeles. It should also be pointed out that, following its attention-grabbing performance at the latest Toronto Film Festival, 1001 Grams has just been picked to represent Norway in the next race for the Oscars (read the news). This is the third time that Hamer, who has already picked up a whole raft of prizes, has been a contender for this prestigious award.
Did you encounter any difficulties?
It’s always a challenge to work with state institutions. You have to know how to convince them, know how to inspire them with confidence in order to get the authorisations you need. I was lucky enough to have the invaluable support of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris, where several scenes of the film were shot, as well as backing from its Norwegian equivalent, Justervesenet (the Norwegian Metrology Service), which keeps a very watchful eye on its prototype kilogram made of a platinum-iridium alloy. I was therefore fortunate enough to have met some prominent figures from various scientific communities, the majority of whom, luckily, had a proper sense of humour. I had to spend a good two years preparing and doing my research because I was keen to master the subject fully in order to adopt a credible approach to what I was doing.
Your attention to detail is well documented.
I demand a lot from my actors, my crew and myself, it’s true.
All this care and attention when it comes to measurements and figures... you must surely be a science and technology enthusiast.
Not really, despite appearances. Rather, I find I’m inspired by minor events, often unusual ones – stories that may seem insignificant at first glance. As it happens, the trigger for this film was a radio show that talked about the rituals involved in measuring weights and lengths. Because my wife had been chastising me for having a few too many strange old gentlemen in my movies, I decided to entrust the lead role to the actress Ane Dahl Torp; she plays Marie, a young woman who is going through a break-up, whose house bears a strong resemblance to a sterilised lab. She works with her father in the Justervesenet, an environment where “seriousness”, “precision” and “prudence” are not empty words. Stein Winge, a very well-known theatre director, is the actor I picked to play Ernst, her father. During a convention at the BIPM, where the one-kilogram standard is housed and where she has gone to check the famous Norwegian prototype, Marie meets a colleague, Pi, played by Laurent Stocker, from the Comédie-Française.
You pay a great deal of attention to the aesthetics: the vibrant blues that remind you of Klein, a nod to Magritte with the parade of umbrellas, and the father’s workshop-cum-library, which I think conjures up images of The Astronomer or The Geographer by Vermeer. Evidently, painting is something close to your heart.
Yes, I did a lot of work on the colour palette with John Christian Rosenlund, the DoP. This really enriched our artistic vision of the film. I have to say that Edward Hopper is one of my favourite painters because of his habit of freezing images: those frozen moments in time show us individuals who are weighed down by the burden of solitude and isolation. They’re only together in a superficial way; they cross paths with each other without actually touching.
Like most people.
And yet we are hungry for contact, for certainty, for accuracy. Some people even turn this quest into a matter of pride. But this need for reliability is not always met, despite our best efforts, and we are forced to ask ourselves important, essential questions. How much is a human life worth? How can we measure the immeasurable, or define the indefinable? Are the assessment criteria unalterable? This longing to receive reassurance actually conceals our fear of nothingness, of death.
“He who carries the heaviest load is he who has nothing to carry,” as Pi and Marie tell us...
(Translated from French)