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CANNES 2021 Un Certain Regard

Eskil Vogt • Director of The Innocents

“Because children are still ‘unfinished’, they make for very interesting storytelling”

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- CANNES 2021: The Norwegian filmmaker tells us more about his chilling childhood tale, which he wrote and directed himself

Eskil Vogt  • Director of The Innocents
(© Mer Films)

Of the Norwegians present at this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival, Eskil Vogt may be one of the busiest and most highly esteemed. Apart from his screenwriting credit on Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile
]
in the competition, he also shows up with the Un Certain Regard entry The Innocents [+see also:
film review
interview: Eskil Vogt
film profile
]
, a chilling childhood tale, all written and directed by his own splendid self.

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Cineuropa: This film could easily have been called Beware of Children [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dag Johan Haugerud
film profile
]
, couldn’t it?
Eskil Vogt:
Believe me, it’s been a running joke while working on this film. Another Norwegian nicked our title, didn’t he? Yes, it could really have worked. But Dag Johan Haugerud made a fantastic film, so it’s all good.

What would you say to the description Let the Right One In [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: John Nordling
interview: Tomas Alfredson
film profile
]
meets Peanuts”?
Pretty wild! Several people have already mentioned Let the Right One In, but the Peanuts thing was new. I really like Peanuts and have read some of the books to my son, so they may well have sneaked in. I can certainly live with that.

The Innocents is your second feature, after Blind [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Eskil Vogt
interview: Eskil Vogt
film profile
]
. How long have you been working on it?
It took some time after Blind, but the idea has been with me for a couple of years. Around the time when Joachim and I wrote Thelma [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Eili Harboe
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile
]
, we also started to look for some themes we hadn’t yet explored. For some general inspiration, I watched some films and also read some Japanese Manga, and the idea seeped in and has slowly grown inside me.

Has your own parenthood affected the process?
This film wouldn’t have been made if I hadn’t been a parent. I observed my children and reminisced over my own childhood, which gave me lots of stimuli for the script idea. Joachim, who has only just recently become a parent, is now getting interested in childhood-related themes, but wasn’t before. You certainly get a new sensibility, not least through the fear of something terrible happening to your child. Or that your kid does something terrible. I’m in constant negotiation with myself over the fact that something can go wrong. But you have to let them loose; otherwise, they won’t learn to become human beings.

Many childhood stories out there have a rosy hue and a warm, sunny feel to them, but there are also a few about evil children, sometimes with and sometimes without a reason for being so. The Innocents definitely fall into the latter category.
The saying that our childhoods were all rosy and happy, and that you remember only the nice things, is the one thing I strive to avoid here. We talk about the wonderfully unlimited imagination we had as children – which could just as easily turn into horrors and nightmares. I’ve never been as scared as I was when I was a kid. The moral aspect I also find immensely interesting. You can say that a kid does an evil thing, but can you say that a kid is evil? It’s still developing, picking up empathy, compassion and morals – hopefully. But you can do something impulsive, even if you’re “nice”, by playing, testing limits, experimenting – and suddenly, you do something terrible. Because children are still “unfinished”, they make for very interesting storytelling.

You will get the same question as Joachim Trier got the other day: the two of you have known each other since you were teenagers with big dreams. These last few days, you’ve shown one film each here at Cannes. What are your thoughts on this moment?
Joachim is my best friend. Regardless of which of us is here with a film, we would support one another fully. But we work together and write together, and he’s the one I call any time I need advice on my work or just a shoulder to cry on. That’s a complete luxury. I also love sitting in a packed cinema down here and listening to the Norwegian dialogue up on the screen, loaded with silly things that he and I say to each other. I love the fact that these things can communicate with all these people from all over the world. Pretty strange, isn’t it? Just two old pals.

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