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Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken • Director

"I believe in the intuition an actor gets when something sounds right"


- Cineuropa met up with young Norwegian director Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken, whose second feature film, Late Summer, is being released in Norwegian theatres

Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken • Director

As spring draws to a close, Norwegian director Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken is working on a number of very different projects simultaneously: Cave [+see also:
film profile
, an action film which combines horror with extreme sports, is due to be released early this autumn; The Outlaws, which is based on a real life news item is slated for release next year; and Vandreren will bring us face to face with a miscreant tramp in 2018. But it was Late Summer [+see also:
interview: Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken
film profile
, his second feature film, that this 27-year-old director agreed to talk about with Cineuropa. The film is produced by Filmbros, the production company he set up with his younger brother Oskar.

Cineuropa: Returning Home [+see also:
film profile
, your first feature film, took us into the Norwegian mountains, whilst Late Summer imprisons us in a big house.

Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken: Yes, and incidentally, the first title that sprang to mind for the film was Huis clos, alluding to Jean-Paul Sartre of course. We found this house, in which the story unfolds over the course of two days, in Loire-Atlantique, in the south of Brittany in France: we filmed practically everything there, and lived there during the shoot. Later down the line I decided I preferred the title Late Summer, because the action takes place at the end of the summer, and because I really wanted to portray a human being who is heading towards death, to see and understand a woman of a certain age approaching the end of her life. To make sure the story was credible and impelling I talked a lot with Bente Børsum about the past experiences of the character, her nature and reactions. I wanted Bente for the role right from the initial stages of the project, before I even wrote the screenplay.

So is Late Summer a psychological film?
In terms of tone and form it’s more of a psychological thriller as there’s suspense, dramatic tension, and disturbing troubled areas in the life of this woman, and because her past ends up sort of trapping her. In many respects, Late Summer is more complex than Returning Home, and was therefore trickier to make; I spent a lot of time on the editing.

How did you work with the actors? Among them are Norwegians Rolf Kristian Larsen and Heidi Toini Øieren, and Frenchman Christian Bujeau.
Once the story was mapped out, carefully structured and the screenplay written, I left the actors a certain amount of freedom within the framework I’d set up, but it was a supervised freedom. And if at times I gave them the opportunity to improvise, it’s because I believe in intuition, in that profound, intimate feeling an actor gets when something sounds right.

I suppose that again, your director of photography was your brother Oskar.
No. This time my director of photography was Pål Ulvik Rokseth, with whom I previously made two short films, A Stranger and My Light in Darkness.Oskar, Pål and I share tastes, but our working methods are different. Ever since we were young children, Oskar and I have played, worked and made little films together. We also share the same strong convictions. For our films, we’re particularly fond of using old-fashioned film cameras, but for Late Summer I chose to use digital support in the form of a 2K DCP, and I chose to work with Pål because I thought he would be the best man for the job, with the energy he brings to a project.

Energy... is that not a bit paradoxical? For me, a cameraman, a cinematographer imprisoned in a closed space, evokes stasis more than he does dynamism.
You’re wrong. Pål lent me his calm energy, his experience gained over working on a number of shoots. And this latent energy can be seen in the images, especially when you’re a lighting specialist, as he is. He was of invaluable assistance in helping me to choose the lighting, the only thing that could create atmosphere. What importance do you place on light coming in from the outside? How can you use shadowy areas? How can you make an image look like a painting? These were just some of the important questions we asked ourselves.

Is music important in Late Summer?
Absolutely. Magnus Murel composed a soundtrack especially for the film that helps to accentuate the foreignness of certain situations, in a slight nod to the work of  composer Alexandre Desplat. The film also features French music, above all old French songs.

(Translated from French)

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