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BERLIN 2018 Competition

Axel Petersén and Måns Månsson • Directors

“We wanted to turn up the volume”

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- BERLIN 2018: Cineuropa met up with Swedish directors Axel Petersén and Måns Månsson to discuss their film The Real Estate

Axel Petersén and Måns Månsson  • Directors
Directors Axel Petersén (left) and Måns Månsson (© Gerhard Kassner/Berlinale)

In The Real Estate [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Axel Petersén and Måns Måns…
film profile
]
, screening in the Berlinale Competition, Axel Petersén reunites with Måns Månsson, his cinematographer on Avalon [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, to tell the story of a wealthy sixty-something, Nojet (Léonore Ekstrand), who inherits an apartment building after her father’s passing. But it soon turns out that the sudden gift is in fact more of a burden, and Nojet can’t wait to get it off her hands.

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Cineuropa: Although The Real Estate is the first film you have co-directed, you worked together before. Not only that, but you are actually childhood friends.
Måns Månsson: We went to kindergarten together, only to meet again many years later. Since then, we have been very close. Directing is an extremely lonely profession, so to have someone you can actually talk to about it, to have someone who understands it and has experienced it, is just fantastic. 

Axel Petersén: I remember us sitting down and saying we would like to work together again, but this time maybe as co-directors. We didn’t even know how to do it, but we both had this dream of making a film with Léonore. So we thought, why not just do it together? One wrote the script, the other one shot it, and the rest we just shared. That’s why this character could not have been played by anyone else. It all started with her. 

Did you ever discuss with Léonore how you were going to show her body in the film? It’s quite unforgiving.
AP: We wanted it to be a physical film. She knew that, but everything we did, we did with the utmost love and respect. I think the way we show her here is beautiful, but yes, also quite claustrophobic and in-your-face. It would have been difficult with any other actor, that’s for sure. But she made the whole thing come to life. We made sure she was 100% comfortable with what we were doing. Let’s take the sex scene. When it was ready, I showed it to her, saying: “This is what we want to do here.” And she was fine with it – if you play the game, why hold back? 

She is your aunt, correct? Did it help in any way?
AP: It all goes back to trust, I think. We worked together for the first time in 2011, on Avalon, but this time we wanted it to be just her film. She knew that we wanted to turn up the volume, and not just when it came to the soundtrack: we wanted to show her rage and frustrations. We were challenging each other, seeing how far we could go. And this time around, we also produced it, so there was nobody telling us what to do or warning us that it was a bit too loud. We don’t want to make films that are pleasing – if I want to see something pleasing, I can look at my screensaver. We went into this together, knowing that we didn’t want to play it safe. We wanted to explore new territories. Working with Léonore is like that, too, because she has quite a temper. We could never turn her into some kind of safe, nice person. She couldn’t have played that character. 

Did you make this film out of rage provoked by the current real-estate situation in Stockholm?
MM: We are not going to change anything just by making an angry film, so that was never our starting point. There aren’t that many private landlords left, because having one person who owns a house with hundreds of families and controls all the locks is a huge responsibility. And when this person doesn’t want it, well, we have a problem. Once you go to Stockholm, you stumble into the real-estate world rather quickly. This is what everybody is talking about: this disgusting, twisted, absurd world, this real-estate bubble. We wanted to really dig into that, and that’s how we met Christer Levin [who plays in the film]. Without guys like him, you can’t rent an apartment in Stockholm. You can buy whatever you want, but it will cost you a fortune, and you will have a mortgage for the rest of your life. But if you want to rent, you can’t – it’s either 30 years or you have to go to this guy. That’s the reality.

AP: Originally, we met him for research purposes. He is a black-market legend, always dealing with these illegal contracts. He and Léonore know each other from way back, so their chemistry was fantastic. By the end of the meeting, we went: “Would you consider being in the film?” He agreed. And then, of course, it was the usual: “And by the way, I always wanted to be an actor.” [laughter] 

MM: We had never co-directed before – not with ourselves and not with anybody else either. So everything you see is a result of us collaborating. It’s not like we tried to make it fancy. We knew where we wanted to go, which world we wanted to jump into. But we had no idea where it would take us. When you have already figured everything out, it’s really not that exciting. That’s not what we wanted to try.

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