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Erik Gustavson • Director

A Norwegian on “Ibsen in love”

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- The Scandinavian director is preparing a new film about the Italian sojourn of the great Norwegian playwrite: "It's my most ambitious project to date"

Erik Gustavson • Director

The Nordic Visions Review presented two films by Erik Gustavson, a Norwegian filmmaker who simply adores southern Europe and Italy: Telegrafisten and Sofie Verden (Sofie’s World). Gustavson is about to begin a new project, entitled Playing Ibsen, that he considers his "most ambitious to date”. It is the story of Norwegian playwrite Henrik Ibsen’s Italian holiday and love affair with a young Italian woman, and will be produced by Cylinder Productions, a company Gustavson set up in 1980. The film will be co-produced by a number of international partners that include Italy’s Prometeo.

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Where did you get the idea for a film about Ibsen’s Italian period?
“Like so many Scandinavian artists of that time, Ibsen chose Rome for a sort of voluntary exile. He was charmed by the language, the traditions and the culture of Southern Europe. In Norway, Ibsen was perpetually in conflict with his contemporaries, and ended up spending some 28 years away from home. During this time he wrote many of his most famous works including “Peer Gynt”, which was written in Rome and on Ischia. It wouldn’t be far off the mark to call this film a sort of “Shakespeare in Love” where Ibsen falls in love with an Italian “signorina” despite having a wife and family. This relationship influenced his creativity and writing.”

Was it difficult to finance this film?
“Extremely. The film was relegated to the project stage for a number of years and it was really tough work coming up with the money for a film of such dimensions. This is not a commercial film but rather an artistic one and is character-driven and not plot-driven. The wonderful screenplay is by one of Norway’s pre-eminent contemporary writers, Lars Saabye Christensen, and it got an excellent reception both from American distributors and the English and American cast. The film was thought up with an international distribution in mind: it will be made in English on location in Rome and most likely on Ischia and Ventotene too. However there are still several problems that need ironing out even though we have some great Italian partners.”

When will Playing Ibsen go into production?
“That depends on the financing. I think will are likely to start next spring, perhaps June. The film will be ready in time for the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and then distributed all over the world by American studio.
Who knows? It may even be ready before that date, but let’s wait and see how things go. We still have two years’ to go. Playing Ibsen is completely different from my past films and I consider it to be the most important film of my career.”

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