André Øvredal • Director of Mortal
"In addition to the legendary aspect of Mortal, there are also some spectacular elements"
- Norwegian director André Øvredal talked to us about his latest feature, Mortal, which is released today in cinemas in Norway
Mortal [+see also:
interview: André Øvredal
film profile]: such is the title of the very latest feature film by André Øvredal, a Norwegian director mostly known for Troll Hunter [+see also:
interview: Andre Øvredal
film profile] (2010) and The Autopsy of Jane Doe [+see also:
film profile] (2016). Øvredal has, in the image of other Norwegian filmmakers such as Morten Tyldum and Roar Uthaug, tried his luck in Hollywood, in this instance to great success. His collaboration with Guillermo del Toro on the film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, is just one case in point. Mortal has been produced by John Einar Hagen for Nordisk Film, also the company in charge of its Norwegian release on 28 February.
Cineuropa: Mortal... why this title?
André Øvredal: That word is rich in meaning and ambiguity: an accident can be mortal, an illness can be mortal, a person who, as opposed to a god, is destined to die, like all other humans beings, is also mortal.
Is it a horror film?
No, it’s a hybrid film mixing various genres and foregrounding powerful, extreme feelings. It’s a drama that’s both fantastical and intimate. Like many Norwegians, I’ve always been fascinated by tales and legends, and Nordic mythology is part of our cultural heritage; it’s a veritable treasure chest which I like to dip into. My project didn’t look to explore a complex, mythological universe, so I only retained the elements needed to give the story a good structure, without going into any great detail. I’ll also add that, in addition to the legendary aspect of the film, there are also some spectacular elements which required extensive special effects; because it’s also an action film, along the lines of a thriller, packed full of explosive scenes; a road movie which works towards a goal, a dark film quite similar to M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable. And, last but not least, there’s also room for a love story in Mortal.
You wrote the original script…
Yes, enriched by Norman Lesperance whose creativity and positive energy I really appreciate. I first started thinking about the story back in 2012. Mortal has a linear structure and plays out in chronological order. It portrays unusual events unfolding in a village in the region where you find Norway’s fjords; the region where I was born. Eric (Nat Wolff), an out-of-the-ordinary suspect, is arrested. He’s an American of Norwegian descent who has travelled here in search of his roots, in the same way that my own American family come here from time to time to recharge their batteries in their native, or almost native land. There’s an investigation underway in Mortal, but there’s also a search for identity.
Eric meets Christine. Are they similar?
Yes, in the sense that they understand and interpret what they have experienced in the same way. Their lives are at a standstill. But Eric is passive, whereas Christine (Iben Akerlie) is a strong character. She’s the one who leads the story. This contrast creates a balance which works well, in my mind.
Is it a homecoming replete with flashbacks for Eric?
Definitely not. In my opinion, flashbacks break a film’s rhythm and only work in exceptional cases, for example Citizen Kane. Too often, they’re used as lifelines by filmmakers who aren’t too sure where they’re going. But they do work when they’re seamlessly integrated into the overall structure of the film, such as in Pulp Fiction where Tarantino uses non-chronology with brio.
Your director of photography…?
It was Roman Osin, whom I’d worked with previously. He has an incredible talent for capturing light and keeping calm in stressful environments. I discussed each and every scene with him in the greatest detail: the positioning of the cameras, the movements of the actors... If a film has undergone rigorous pre-production, I’ll at times listen to the actors, because they often make interesting suggestions. Otherwise, I tend to stay very focused during filming; I don’t allow myself to be distracted. For Mortal, I chose to make controlled use of the camera, as opposed to the choice I made in Troll Hunter where we opted for the "shaky cam" approach so as to give the impression of an amateur documentary. It’s a more stable picture this time round, more stylistic, even if we did sometimes unscrew a few optical lenses to achieve a high-focus effect.
Is music important in the film?
Yes! When I’m writing, creating, I like to be inspired by film music, usually of an orchestra-based, instrumental kind. It conjures up images in my mind and helps me identify the right tone, the right atmosphere. For Mortal, I listened to the music Hans Zimmer composed for Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line a lot, but Marcus Paus was the one who composed the music for Mortal, whose editing, by the way, was taken care of by Patrick Larsgaard, who I’ve been working with for a long time.
Horror films, mystery films… It might be time to sort you out with a few therapy sessions…
No, I don’t think so. I just like writing and making stories, but this type of film is particularly demanding. It’s hard to create a suspense film, to do something new, to stay the course. The master for me, in this respect, is Hitchcock. Reinventing ourselves… it’s an exciting challenge which I try to take up joyfully every time. Mortal is open to different interpretations. It’s my most personal film, but I don’t want to impose my viewpoint.
(Translated from French)
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