Rasmus Kloster Bro • Director
"For me, a film is a physical thing; it’s more closely related to dance than to literature"
- We met up with Rasmus Kloster Bro, the director of the strong and surprising feature debut Cutterhead
Danish director Rasmus Kloster Bro graduated from the Super16 alternative Danish film school. His work includes fiction for radio, music videos, video installations and short films (2010’s Kiss My Brother and 2012’s Barvale), which have won a number of awards. Cutterhead [+see also:
interview: Rasmus Kloster Bro
film profile], his feature debut, is a claustrophobic and powerful thriller that leads the audience deep down into the building site for the Copenhagen Metro. The experience is extreme but is definitely worth a watch. The movie had its world premiere at this year’s Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival.
Cineuropa: Where did the idea for the movie come from?
Rasmus Kloster Bro: For the past eight years, there’s been a huge Metro construction project in Copenhagen. It’s a really gigantic project with a massive building site, which has affected everybody. People living in Copenhagen have had this relationship with the construction works for many years without really knowing what was going on underground. I knew it would be a good setting for a movie, even though I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do. And then, with my producer, we tried to figure out a way to do some research in this small community. We found out that there weren’t a lot of Danish nationals there. In fact, there was a high proportion of European citizens crammed into the construction site, making it a sort of super-Europe, and I found it fascinating. That was the starting point for the movie.
How did you work in such a confined setting? How did you deal with the space limitations?
Half of the movie was shot on location, underground, and then some was recorded in a studio. We made a lot of trips down there. We had a long stage of improvisation with the main actress (Christine Sønderris), and then Krešimir Mikic (who plays Bharan) and some local workers. We went there many times, maybe 14 or 15, with the workers and also with the safety people who helped us to avoid getting injured. It was really, really uncomfortable making the movie. You couldn’t sit down anywhere, because everything was curved. It was really intense! We spent 10-12 hours underground at a time, and it was really weird because it was like being on another planet. Everything is different underground – it’s like a parallel universe.
Why did you decide to work on such an unusual topic for your first feature? Weren’t you afraid of being labelled as a “genre” director?
Well, I would say that “genre” found me. In retrospect, I realise that the films that I was influenced by as a child were mostly fantastic films. It’s something that I sort of carry within me. It’s not part of my identity to be a filmmaker who makes horror or action films, but when we found the tunnel boring machine, I felt like I was on a spaceship or a submarine, and it was patently obvious that we had to do a genre film. I don’t know if I was afraid of doing a genre movie, but I definitely know that I’m not now. For me, a film is a really physical thing; it’s more closely related to dance than it is to literature, for example, and “genre” gave me another way of expressing it.
Was it difficult to find financial support to produce the movie?
We were really spoiled! At the Danish Film Institute, they have a financial programme called New Danish Screen, which is fully financed. I pitched my idea to do a film set on the Metro construction site, without any story, just a setting. We got DKK 500,000 (circa €67,000) from the programme, which allowed us to start doing some visual sketching for the physical space of the film. I had some help from a screenwriter, but we did the physical experiment first, and then we got the funding and wrote the story to fit the physical space. I’m not against the script as a tool, as it’s one of the most important, but I really think that it is also important to develop the film language. The script usually comes from situations that we experience together as a crew.
Is there a political layer behind the movie?
Sure! The Metro construction site is like a condensed version of Europe, and in that condensed version, you have very few people who have a lot of privileges: a six- to ten-year contract, a flat, a nice place in the city and family close by – and then you have the specialist workers, like Ivo. They have medium- or short-term contracts, and even though they are well paid, they have to be away from their families. And then you have what is called the workforce, which is basically just the cheapest labour you can get in Europe. They are mostly immigrants hired from Ireland or Portugal. I don’t judge; I just show how things work. The tiny construction community is representative of each layer of the pyramid. In Denmark, we see ourselves as an egalitarian society, which is not true – not any more. The gap between the rich and the poor is getting bigger and bigger, and that was a central part of the film.
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