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Arild Andresen • Director

"Just because somebody doesn't express their emotions doesn't necessarily mean they don't have any"


- We interviewed Norwegian director Arild Andresen, whose new film, Handle with Care, is about to be released on his home turf

Arild Andresen • Director

Handle with Care [+see also:
film review
interview: Arild Andresen
film profile
, the latest film from Arild Andresen, is set to hit screens in Norway in just a few days’ time. The director’s first feature, The Liverpool Goalie [+see also:
film profile
, scooped a number of awards, including a Crystal Bear at the 2011 Berlinale. Cineuropa sat down with the Norwegian-born director in an inviting little cafe in the Tøyen neighbourhood of Oslo, unabashed by its illustrious neighbour, the Munch Museum.

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Cineuropa: As well as directing the film, you also co-wrote it.
Arild Andresen: We owe the original idea to Jorge Camacho, who in 2012 took the synopsis to a pitch competition at Kosmorama, Trondheim’s film festival, and won. Later, the screenplay was developed and enriched by Hilde Susan Jægtnes. I only got involved in the writing towards the end of the process, which took three years in total. 

Would you describe it as a film about adoption?
I’d describe it more as a portrait of a father, a widower.  Kjetil’s wife Camilla had a very close bond to their son Daniel, who happens to be adopted, and he now has to bring up the child alone. He finds it difficult to really embrace his role as a father, mainly because he doesn’t feel much of a connection to his own son and that’s not an easy thing to admit, to others or to yourself. It’s a taboo subject, if ever there was one. Father and son go off to Colombia in the hope of tracking down Daniel’s biological mother. I drew on my own experience as a father, not necessarily to defend Kjetil, but to add nuance to the character and show different sides of him. Kristoffer Joner, who I’ve worked with before, particularly on my second film The Orheim Company [+see also:
film profile
, brings a toughness and credibility to the character of Kjetil that is really important, because Handle with Care is a film about the capacity to give and receive love. Kjetil has lost the woman he loved, and so he’s in an emotionally vulnerable position. We see that he behaves unusually for a father — for example, he’s afraid to give any physical demonstration of affection. But just because somebody doesn’t express their emotions doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have any, or that they are incapable of feeling. 

Who plays Daniel in the film?
Kristoffer Bech, who was six when the film was made. He’s just a born actor. It’s always been his dream, and he turned up to the very first auditions. Even so, we kept looking for a further six months before we decided to give him the part. There are some quite intense scenes in the film, so we took our time and got to know him first. We wanted to be sure that he would enjoy acting, or at least was motivated enough to rehearse certain scenes and to go the distance without bailing out after three days of filming. The two Kristoffers got on very well, which was a great advantage for the film. David Katznelson was director of photography.

And Camilla is played by...
Ellen Dorrit Petersen. Camilla exists only in memory, and so she’s a bit of an idealised figure. She provides an anchor for the flashback scenes, which are distinguished by their softer colours. We don’t see a lot of her in the film, but she’s an important character because she has great evocative power. I chose Ellen because she has this presence that lights up the screen.

A radiant woman for a dark-themed film.
Handle with Care is undoubtedly a drama, but life is made up of many different feelings and impressions. The things we experience tend to merge and melt into one another. Comedy and tragedy are intertwined; that’s just life, in Bogota or anywhere else. I wanted to show the city in its entirety, because I had obtained permission to film practically everywhere, but I ran into objections in some of the swankier neighbourhoods. I used a Colombian crew mainly for financial reasons, but also for the cross-cultural element. I find that drawing on local talent is always enriching.

Childhood is a common theme in all of your films. Do you have any particular memories of going to the cinema as a child?
Yes, I remember the excitement of waiting for the film to start, the lights going down... Seeing Tarzan with my dad, musical comedies with my mum and classic Disney films with both. It was a magical thing for me. Later, I went through a phase where I was really into Scorsese and Coppola. Now I’m a big fan of Michael Winterbottom’s work, and the way he portrays the interactions between characters and really studies the social context. And I love discussing films with my friend and colleague Joachim Trier. It’s always fascinating... and provocative!

(Translated from French)

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