Laurits Flensted-Jensen • Director
“My childhood was a lot about challenging norms”
by Kaleem Aftab
- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: We sat down with Danish filmmaker Laurits Flensted-Jensen, whose feature debut, Neon Heart, is screening in New Directors
Danish director Laurits Flensted-Jensen, whose debut film, Neon Heart [+see also:
interview: Laurits Flensted-Jensen
film profile], is playing in the New Directors programme of the San Sebastián Film Festival, tells Cineuropa about the various influences on his emotional drama that intertwines the worlds of a porn actress, a pair of brothers and people with Down syndrome.
Cineuropa: Where did the idea for Neon Heart come from?
Laurits Flensted-Jensen: I had been exploring taboos and sexual questions in my previous works, such as Melon Rainbow, my graduation film from the National Film School in Denmark, and I wanted to continue looking into these themes.
Is that why you start off with a strong scene of a woman auditioning for a porn film?
I always like to start with strong scenes; I like to jump right into the film and not create this slow journey into the story. I think it comes from the style of the film – I want it to be very real and authentic.
You play with the ideas of past and present by using videos posted on the internet.
That was one of the film’s concepts. I wanted to have these fragments that would break up the whole feeling of time in the movie. I wanted the fragments, but I didn’t want them to be perceived as regular flashbacks; I wanted them to be part of the reality that we are in, to create a sense of disorientation.
There are brothers who are central characters in the film, and you use them to explore masculinity.
Ever since I started making films, I’ve been fascinated by the bonds between men and groups of men, as well as the fellowship among men, so this was a natural continuation of that theme, and masculinity was a major topic when I grew up. Like the main character in the film, I grew up in a feminist community, and that is something I stole from my own life. I think masculinity and ideas of masculinity were strongly challenged, which caused me to develop a fascination with the subject.
What do you mean when you say you were brought up in a feminist community?
I grew up with my mother and my sister, who were part of the feminist community in Denmark at the time, and my mum was a strong element of that environment, so it was a big part of my life. My mum would take me to these gathering houses where adult men were not allowed.
How did this evolve into being interested in sexual taboos?
Why am I, as a person, interested in this? I think my childhood was a lot about challenging norms, particularly within sexuality, so I think there is a very natural interest in me to explore these subjects.
The elder brother, played by Niklas Herskind, is an intriguing character at the heart of your exploration of masculinity.
I have always aimed to have characters that are unpredictable and three-dimensional, and to have big contrasts. I think the fact that he is not able to maintain any relationships in his private life but he is very capable of taking care of these men with Down syndrome makes him very interesting, and I thought that was beautiful. But it also has a flip side, since he is able to take care of them because he’s able to manipulate them a little bit.
You cast real people who suffer from Down syndrome – why did you make that choice?
Authenticity is a very big part of my language and how I express myself, so I knew when I first had the idea for that scene in the brothel that I had to cast real people with Down syndrome. I also knew that it would be really difficult, but I needed to confront myself with that reality, and go out and explore this with real people in order to have the right to tell that story or to have the right to bring that scene to the audience. And, of course, with Down syndrome, there’s no way you can act it out, so it had to be real.
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