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"I try to understand, as an explorer, what it means to be human"

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Ole Giæver • Director

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- BERLIN 2017: Cineuropa caught up with Norwegian director Ole Giæver, who is presenting his latest feature film, From the Balcony, in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival

Ole Giæver • Director

Ole Giæver is presenting his third feature film, From the Balcony [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Ole Giæver
film profile
]
, in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival, in what will be the world premiere of this film produced by Mer Film, and the third time this Norwegian director has participated in the Berlinale. Cineuropa caught up with him in Oslo just before his departure for Germany.

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Cineuropa: Is From the Balcony an extension of your previous film Out of Nature [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Ole Giæver
film profile
]
, which was awarded at Berlin in 2015?
Ole Giæver: To a certain extent yes. Once again I appear before the camera. But whilst my previous film was a fictional one, in From the Balcony I portray reality, my reality. Out of nature had a joyful, unconventional side to it. It was a classic narration presented in chronological order for the most part. From the Balcony brings us a richer, more complex world. I play with different genres, registers and modes of expression. I use bits of documentaries, family films, animated films, authentic slices of life, I brought in actors. I wanted to broaden my horizons, expand on my existing knowledge, experiment with substance as well as form, create a multi-faceted film that wouldn’t be cluttered with lots of disparate elements. I dreamt of something homogeneous and harmonious, which wouldn’t look like I was trying too hard or look fake.

Why this vast range?
The way I work isn’t gratuitous. I try to understand, as an explorer, what it means to be human. That’s the aim of my research, the basic theme of my films. This adventure is essential to me, this odyssey I invite the viewer to come and witness, a bit of an artistic and philosophical quest.

What does the balcony represent for you?
The balcony sits at the crossroads between two conflicting worlds. There’s a tension, a sort of friction even, between these two worlds. Outside I see the neighbourhood, the town, the forest in the distance; at night I see the stars, a vastness of space and time. If I turn to the inside, I come face to face with everyday life in all its predictable triviality. I thought it would be interesting to use this fulcrum as a point of departure, this geographic centre that is a balcony.

Is it really your balcony in Oslo that we see in the film?
Yes, but we also filmed in Northern Norway , in Tromsø, the town where I was born and spent my youth. Then during filming the home I grew up in was sold, an emotional event that simply had to be in the film.

Is the film a dramatic comedy?
If you want to call it that yes, but I don’t really like labels.

It’s a very personal film at any rate. You’re the main character.
Indeed, the guiding thread. During development the film became more personal, private even. But I don’t think you should be afraid of revealing your intimate side, of showing your vulnerability. From the Balcony represents two and a half years of my life. In one year my family life was documented down to the last detail, with our complete trust, as my wife, actress Marte Solem, our children, and I myself are very comfortable with the photographer of the film, Øystein Mamen, a close friend. I also filmed a few scenes. The camera is a dear old friend of ours, but I nonetheless combined vigilance with naturalness so that the wellbeing of my nearest and dearest wouldn’t be compromised.

In what state of mind did you start filming?
With a feeling of freedom and flexibility. Just imagine how lucky I felt to have such different means of expression at my fingertips! But sometimes it was hard to make decisions, so predictably, by the end of filming I found myself with an abundance of raw material.

A nice gift.
A formidable challenge as well, and I admit that I did have some painful moments of doubt. Thankfully I am surrounded my competent people who understand my vision. A solid team. Frida Michaelsen did an incredible editing job, which I polished with her during the last four months. The music was down to Ola Fløttum, who composed it on a computer with the use of acoustic elements too. I would also like to mention Julie Engaas, responsible for the animated part of the film, Maria Ekerhovd the producer, and, of course, Marte, my wife. We share everything with one another, and advise one another on our respective projects. Marte was one of the two actresses who starred in The Mountain, my debut feature film, which was presented at the Berlinale in 2011.

(Translated from French)

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