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Dagur Kári • Director

“I’m filming a story of jealousy in a couple”


- Iceland's Dagur Kári, the director of Virgin Mountain, is a guest at the Bergamo Film Meeting 2017

Dagur Kári  • Director
(© Bergamo Film Meeting)

After the acclaimed Virgin Mountain [+see also:
film review
film profile
, which was presented at the Berlinale in 2015, won three awards at Tribeca, and was awarded the Nordic Council Film Prize, Icelandic director Dagur Kári will soon film a story of jealousy in a couple in Denmark. "Over the next few weeks I’m going to take a break from teaching at the National Film School in Copenhagen to focus on writing the screenplay for my new Danish project" he told Cineuropa at the Bergamo Film Meeting 2017, which is dedicating a focus to him in the Europe Now! section. His short-term projects also include a TV series in Denmark.

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Cineuropa: Almost 15 years on from your exceptional debut Noi the Albino, can you tell us what makes that film so special?
Dagur Kári: I think what makes that film so special along with all films are the ideas behind them, in this case the protagonist, which I started concocting while I was still at high school, even before I knew I would become a director. He was an alter ego of mine, my counter-ego, through this character I could act out my fantasies, the things I dreamt of doing but didn’t dare do. When I finished training at film school, I realised that I had hinged a lot of material on the same character, so I didn’t start with a series of short films or an animated film, but worked on developing those ideas that came from a very pure and innocent place, which could be traced back to a time when I wasn’t even thinking about film. The first films are always interesting pieces in the career of a director because you put the wealth of experience you have accumulated over the years into them. And I think that imperfection is a quality, because it moves you, whilst perfection risks coming off as cold. 

Language is an obstacle to the distribution of European films, but at the same time it adds a certain cultural richness. You filmed in Icelandic, then in Danish, then in English, and now you’re back to filming in Icelandic with Virgin Mountain, whilst maintaining your arthouse identity throughout.
It depends on the director, but for me this whole journey happened by chance. My second film, Dark Horse [+see also:
film profile
, which was filmed in Danish, was something that was pitched to me, whilst I knew right from the start that I would film The Good Heart [+see also:
film profile
 in English. I like making films in different languages, because I like the nuances in sound. Ironically, I find it easier to film in English or in Danish, because it allows me to adopt the point of view of an outsider. It’s liberating and gives me drive. If you do the same thing everyday, you stop noticing everything around you. A director always has their own signature style, what’s important is to never repeat yourself.

Did you ever discuss the possibility of taking Virgin Mountain to Hollywood with Baltasar Kormákur, who produced the film?
His career is extraordinary, because people don’t realise just how much effort it takes to work in an environment like Hollywood, you have to get your head down and just keep driving forward. I couldn’t cope with 80 meetings a week and waiting four years to make a film. I can only explore my world and only in a certain way. I’m not keen on action movies, my palette isn’t without its limits.

(Translated from Italian)

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