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"My ambition was to find universal existentialism in conflict"

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Rasmus Heisterberg • Director

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- After penning the screenplays for 21 films, Danish writer-director Rasmus Heisterberg has turned his hand to directing with In the Blood, currently screening at the Warsaw Film Festival

Rasmus Heisterberg • Director

Writer-director Rasmus Heisterberg sat down with Cineuropa to discuss his first feature film, In the Blood [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rasmus Heisterberg
film profile
]
, which is currently screening in the Warsaw Film Festival's International Competition (7-16 October).

Cineuropa: You brought together a bunch of young actors and gave the main role to a non-professional, Kristoffer Bech. Their preparation largely consisted of getting to know each other. Did you want to make a generational film about coming of age, and how you see your youth, or how you see the youth of today?
Rasmus Heisterberg
: Yes, it was very much about the ensemble and the chemistry between the actors. I wanted a believable group of friends rather than four individual types that worked well on their own – I wanted them to be believable as a real group of friends, even if you’d only see a photo of them walking through the street. The affection between the friends is what had to carry the film.

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I never saw this as a portrait of a particular generation. My ambition was always to find a universal existentialism in the conflict and bring that to the fore. I never wanted to make something that leans on the tendencies of the youth in the year 2016, and, in that sense, it was very much written from my point of view as a 41-year-old looking back on that time; reflecting upon it. 

Simon is very destructive and self-destructive, but the film is actually quite gentle.
The character of Simon is a guy that means well and loves his friends and the free life that they have together. He wants to hold on to it, he cares for it and for his friends. But when that is threatened by the others gravitating towards new places in life, he doesn't know how to handle it, and that triggers his desperation. So the destruction comes from a very vulnerable and caring place – as it often does – and I wanted that vulnerability to be present in the film in order for Simon to be a three-dimensional character study. If the gentleness wasn't there, the destruction would be uninteresting for me as a storyteller.

There is a clear visual dichotomy in the film, with the combination of handheld shots with dreamy, atmospheric sequences.
I have always been a sucker for the juxtaposition between naturalism and expressionism. For me the naturalism is the handheld camera, and general tone of the film invites us close to the characters and makes the drama intimate. And, when that is established, the use of expressionistic film language to illustrate the inner life of Simon can hopefully add a deeper emotional layer to him. I wanted to capture the poetry of the summer in Copenhagen through that prism of his. How he always longs to live in the moment of its bright nights of endless sunsets and sunrises, almost as if time stood still. While, at the same time, we see summer pass by, month by month. It was an attempt to make time a silent antagonist to Simon's dreams of endless youth.

After writing scripts for 21 films and TV series, you finally decided to direct a film. Why not earlier?
I love to write. It's a huge and never-ending craft, one where I feel I can always learn more and explore new terrain. I will never stop feeling like a writer in my soul. But, with this particular story, I felt like I should follow through with the images and the feeling of the whole film myself. I wrote it from a very personal realm, and the script has a very small narrative in many ways, which wouldn't work if the flavour and sensibility of the scenes weren't right. So at the end of the day, I felt that the only right choice would be directing it myself.

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