Kjersti G Steinsbø • Director
by Maud Forsgren
- Cineuropa caught up with Norwegian director Kjersti G Steinsbø, who has just unveiled her debut feature film Hevn (Revenge)
Hevn (Revenge) [+see also:
interview: Kjersti G Steinsbø
film profile], the original title of Norwegian director Kjersti G Steinsbø’s debut feature film, co-produced by Norway and Canada, catches our attention straight away as the Norwegian word "hevn" means "revenge". Here in Norway we can guess what lies in store, all the more so as their is no shortage of films about revenge in the world, but we’re curious as to what form it will take in this film. Its working title, The Doll In The Ceiling, is more mysterious. It’s also the title of a piece of literature.
Cineuropa: Hevn (Revenge) is based on a Norwegian book
Kjersti G Steinsbø: Yes. It was producer Kristine Knudsen who contacted me about writing and making a film based on the novel The Doll In The Ceiling by Norwegian writer Ingvar Ambjørnsen. I hesitated as the book has a decisively gloomy feel to it and I wanted a lighter story for my first film. I ended up moving forward with it anyway as I found Rebekka, the heroine of the book, fascinating.
Is she a lone wolf righter of wrongs?
Not really. Rebekka is a lone wolf, but she’s an amateur when it comes to revenge. She doesn’t compare to a professional righter of wrongs. She’s intelligent, manipulative when she wants to be, and determined to avenge her sister, but she’s forced to change her plans, to improvise even, and not just as a result of circumstance. She’s an antihero with a complex personality. There’s a dark, troubled side to her, which is accentuated by her androgynous nature – her assumed name is, incidentally, Andrea. That’s why I chose Siren Jørgensen for the role, a new face, a talented actress capable of inspiring both trust and distrust. She’s surrounded by well-known Norwegian actors, such as Frode Winther in the role of Morten, the hotel manager.
Was it easy to develop the screenplay and the dialogue?
Not really, it took me more than two years. I found it hard to step back from the novel out of respect and admiration for Ambjørnsen, although he gave me total freedom to do so. We couldn’t keep the original monologues, so less room was given to Rebekka’s thoughts and private life. Instead, I tried to create a realistic world by setting the story in Fjærland, in the west of Norway, a region I know well. To do this, I created new characters, like Bimbo the hotel barman, played by Anders Baasmo Christiansen, and I used local extras, for example, the members of a real-life motorcycle club. Some scenes are rather gruelling in their intensity, but filming, which lasted six weeks, took place in a relaxed, cheerful atmosphere in the very hotel where the film crew was staying. We had a smashing team, actors and technicians alike.
At times your film makes us feel uneasy, it’s unsettling.
I think this discomfort not only makes us reflect on Rebekka and her mission, but on ourselves too. I hope I can make audiences ask themselves questions, perhaps even call themselves into question, as films about revenge can awaken primitive feelings in us, trigger instinctive reactions : we’re happy to see the bad guy punished. Who’s never felt the need to avenge themselves, or at least take their revenge?
We often never go further than wanting, desiring it.
That’s right, as making the leap from the virtual to the real, from thinking about it to actually doing it, is no mean feat. What is going too far? What would I have done in Rebekka’s place? People often say that the end justifies the means, but are we really aware of the consequences of our actions, of the collateral damage, once we set in motion certain mechanisms in which lies and blindness, bad faith and hypocrisy play an essential role? This is something that fascinates me. I provide the material but it’s up to the viewer to reflect on it and draw their own conclusions.
(Translated from French)