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Mårten Klingberg • Director of My Father Marianne

“Whatever I do in whatever genre, I will always take my characters seriously”


- Swedish director Mårten Klingberg talks about his comedy-drama My Father Marianne, an unusual adaptation of an unusual story

Mårten Klingberg  • Director of My Father Marianne
(© Katriina Mäkinen)

We spoke to Swedish director Mårten Klingberg about his Göteborg-screened comedy-drama My Father Marianne [+see also:
film review
interview: Mårten Klingberg
film profile
, an unusual adaptation of an unusual story originally penned by author-journalist Ester Roxberg.

Cineuropa: My Father Marianne has closed this year’s edition of Göteborg. How would you regard it in this context – that is, is it a “festival film”?
Mårten Klingberg:
The theme, I think, is festival-orientated, but then we have twisted it around a bit to fit the comedy-drama mould, which is not always as highly respected. First and foremost, it’s the film I wanted to make, and it’s also a movie that we would like to get out there domestically. As for anything else that may happen – it’s a bonus.

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As a director, I’ve done some very varied things – comedies like Cockpit [+see also:
film profile
and some Beck crime films, six of them so far – and I direct every film the same way: I work a lot with the story and the acting. Whatever I do in whatever genre, I will always take my characters seriously. Even if it’s supposed to be funny, I’m adamant that I will prohibit the actors from wearing a funny hat and that they should always stay true to their character. A realistic acting style is crucial, even in the drollest of situations, because things can get quite droll in real life as well, right? Take Ken Loach, who is a director I love more than most. He gets it, and I’m still trying to find out how he does it. Real and true, that’s the thing.

Can you talk about the process of adapting this story? For one, the original book is called My Father Ann-Christine, while the film is called My Father Marianne.
I read the first draft in 2017, so it’s a project that’s been developing over time. Ester Roxberg’s book is an unusual and moving study of a young woman’s relationship with her father and how they deal with his journey into womanhood. Then, through Ida Kjellin and Daniel Karlsson’s script, we created a whole new family where we borrowed the main theme while making our own story an entirely new fabrication. The tone in the book is not that humorous. That part comes from the main producer, Charlotta Denward, who really warmed to the idea of creating something with a lighter tone. If you ask me, there are probably very few books, if any, where the film version is this different from the original. But despite this possibly controversial choice, we have had the most heartfelt support from Ann-Christine and Ester during the whole process. They are very, very happy with the finished result. And we, as filmmakers, have made a movie that we really like. Quite amazing, I think.

You decided to omit some darker aspects, then?
I wouldn’t agree entirely, because we still retain the puncta dolorosa of the situation, but we have garnished it with humorous elements, like the vicious brother who serves as comic relief. But we get quite serious when it comes to the relationship between the father and the mother. For them to stay in the marriage is an insurmountable problem, but they still remain friends. “You are my best friend,” she says, and he replies, “And you’re my best friend.” This could be true of so many couples out there in entirely different contexts. It’s one of my favourite themes in the film.

How do you see the international potential for this feature, not least since Rolf Lassgård is a big name these days?
He’s big, yes, in Germany and other territories. I would be thrilled if it travelled. I still remember how fantastic it was when my graduation film, Viktor and his Brothers, got invited to festivals all over the world and won prizes in Locarno, Taiwan, China, France and other places.

There was even talk of basing a full-length feature on Viktor. Can we still look forward to this?
I tried back then, in 2002-03, but people said the themes were too serious. Of all the films I’ve made, it’s my most personal story. But it’s hard to make a movie for grownups with a child as the central character. It would even be hard for Lasse Hallström to make My Life as a Dog, sadly. But I’d love to be able to consider it again one day.

You direct, you write regularly and you also act on occasion. In My Father Marianne, you turn up as a pretty obnoxious staff member at the local TV station where Lasse/Marianne’s daughter works.
It’s fun to do slimy heels at times – I do one in Cockpit as well. It’s a way for me to put my dark side out there, I guess.

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