Patrik Syversen • Director
by Maud Forsgren
- Cineuropa sat down with Norwegian director Patrik Syversen to discuss his fifth feature film, Afterparty, out now in Norway
The tale that Norwegian director Patrik Syversen is trying to tell in his fifth feature film, Afterparty [+see also:
interview: Patrik Syversen
film profile], takes place in the Majorstuen neighbourhood of Oslo, not far from Frogner Park, home to Gustav Vigeland’s famous statues, so similar and yet so different at the same time, and so human. In this low-budget independent film, distributed by Arthaus, which both Syversen and Fredrik Pryser (of the company Fredrik Fiction) produced, two young women, played by Marte G Christensen and Silje Storstein, see their friendship come to an end over the course of less than 48 hours.
Cineuropa: It’s sort of a humdrum story, when you get down to it.
Patrik Syversen: And yet, it’s quite an important one for those of us who are almost 30; not quite settled in life, seeing nothing but success and lives flourishing all around them. They’re trying to avoid breaking down, and so they hold on so tightly to what little they have or believe they have. Afterparty… is believing the party’s still raging, even though it’s already over. The women are moved by their fear of change, solitude, fits of rage, lack of excitement and so on. We often try to rationalise any surprising irrational behaviour. When we’re not feeling well, we have a tendency to bring others down with us, to the gloomy depths where we feel safe, insisting on humiliating them with subtle tricks, and that’s exactly what one of the characters is doing, but it’s difficult to catch someone manipulating you red-handed.
Manipulation… Isn’t that a bit cynical?
No, it isn’t cynicism, but the instinctive reaction of someone who is hurting. It’s not deliberate. My characters don’t wish to cause harm to anyone else. We’re more used to seeing films with romantic relationships or those of outright hostility between sworn enemies, than we are of seeing subdued relationships in which discomfort is beginning to show in some indescribable way. Marte G Christensen was the one behind this idea of a destructive friendship. I spent a lot of time talking with her and Silje Storstein before and during the process of writing the script and the dialogue: for me, it was more a process of elaboration, broken up across our meetings, than one of intensive creation. I’d just like to remind you that the film is a fiction, even though the characters and the actors share names.
Horror, heart-warming comedy, a vampire film, just to name a few… You have worked on films of many different genres over your career.
You’re right... But there are still some similarities. In all of my films, you’ll find an emotional link, an implicit agreement between these characters who are testing themselves. Defined by their circumstances and social pressures, they will try to redefine themselves.
There are also male characters in Afterparty, featuring actors Tobias Santelmann, who can be seen in Kon-Tiki [+see also:
film profile], and Benjamin Helstad...
The character of Tobias has stayed friends with Silje, his ex; there’s no bitterness between them. As for Benjamin, he is a bewildered witness to a variety of upsets. I feel his reactions reflect those of the audience.
Did you let your actors improvise?
Oh no! We spent a lot of time rehearsing over the eight days of filming, just like you would for a theatrical production. It’s great that the feeling of spontaneity is still there! It was all shot in 2014, often in real time, at the exact time that the action took place, so we could better capture the light of the Scandinavian night. The cinematographer, Andreas Johannessen, brought his practical way of doing things to the film, as well as his poetic eye, his sensitivity and his fine perception of human beings. The film, for the most part, is made up of long takes – eight minutes for the longest scene. In general, we filmed three versions of each scene, differing in tone and ambiance. Then, during editing I would make a decision based on the perspective we’d chosen. Given that we didn’t have any strict deadlines, I could give myself two months off after filming, which gave my vision some time to really brew and become more refined. Editing was more about refining what I had than it was about cutting and pasting, because I don’t like breaking things up too much, a little like the way Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr goes about it: taking his time to show things, and then allowing us to look at things with fresh eyes.
Were you aiming to observe humans the same way an entomologist might observe insects?
Not really. I’m an insect as well. But, as you well know, we can very easily be the observer and the observed at the same time; they’re not incompatible. I’m not judging; I am more than happy to describe and ask myself questions. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m without empathy, that sincere desire to understand others around us. It’s sort of exciting, you know, to discover different aspects of the human spirit that were so strange to you at the beginning.
(Translated from French)