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Eskil Vogt • Director

“I was thinking more and more about this blind woman”


- Norwegian director Eskil Vogt talks about his feature debut, Blind, screenwriting Award at Sundance and Europa Cinemas Label of the Berlin Film Festival's Panorama

Eskil Vogt • Director

When Norwegian writer-director Eskil Vogt had finally made his first feature, Blind [+see also:
film review
interview: Eskil Vogt
interview: Eskil Vogt
film profile
, he agreed to postpone its local release, as the Sundance Film Festival – a leading showcase for independent films – wanted it for the World Cinema Dramatic section.

Blind returned with the award for Best Screenwriting (Vogt), but before the Norwegian premiere (on February 28, through Norsk Filmdistribusjon), it will be shown in the Panorama section at the Berlin International Film Festival (February 6-16), where Paris-based Versatile handles international sales.

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Produced by Hans-Jørgen Osnes and Sigve Endresen for Motlys, Vogt’s feature debut stars Ellen Dorrit Petersen as Ingrid, who has recently lost her sight. She retreats to the safety of her home, alone with her husband and her thoughts, but her deepest fears and repressed fantasies soon take over.

Awarded for his scripts with Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st [+see also:
film review
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile
), with whom he has collaborated since 2001, he studied directing at La Fémis in Paris; he has won several prizes for his shorts, including Strangers (2004), but finally, Vogt has now been able to demonstrate his talent as a feature director. 

Cineuropa: Why did it take you so long?
Eskil Vogt:
It might look as if script-writing has taken up most of my time – in fact, I have also worked on my own projects to direct, but until Blind, financing had never fallen into place. While studying literature and history of ideas, I wrote numerous shorts and directed some as well; I went to film school as a director, and since then I have continued to combine the two.

When did you decide to become a filmmaker?
First and foremost I am a film lover. In junior high, it was dawning on me that you could also make films, but I was totally outside the industry, so it took me some time to find a way in.

How did you start working with Trier, and what makes you a good team?
We have known each other since we were 19 and met as camera assistants on a quiz show for Norwegian television, and we made our first short in 1995. I don’t really know why our collaboration works so well, except we have now done it for years. I write the scenes, I am closer to the words, but rather than complement each other I think we are both good at doing a lot of the same things, which saves us a lot of disagreements.

How did you get the idea for Blind?
I read a story by a friend describing a blind woman’s inner monologue. Not an obvious subject for a film, but it was still in the back of my head, while I was working on the script for another film. But I was thinking more and more about this blind woman, so when the other script was rejected again, I sat down and wrote Blind – quickly and easily, without my usual preparations.

Was it difficult to shoot?
Lofty ambitions, too little money, as usual – but even more challenging was the fact that I had to share the subjective perception with a blind person. So in each sequence there was a visual concept, which meant you couldn’t cover yourself with a master shot and some cross-cutting, when running out of time. It was both funny and challenging – with a blind lead character, you have to deviate quite a lot from classical film language. Usually, in a film, you always cut on people looking.

What else is it about – and did you have any idea about its international appeal when you made it?
I hope the film will tell you a lot of different things about human beings, especially about their inner selves – all the strange, shameful, imaginative thoughts we all have, but which we often have a hard time sharing with others. And international interest? I had not given it a thought, but when it happened I was happy we did not have to translate the title (Blind is also blind in Norwegian). But the reception at Sundance was amazing, and it looks as if the film will have a long festival life and will be sold to many countries. 

Did Trier see it? What did he think?
He saw it several times during the editing – at least he says he likes it.

So what’s next?
I am writing a new script with Trier, and I have a couple of projects for myself to direct which I hope to be able to clarify soon. You are not the first to ask.

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