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BERLINALE 2022 Encounters

Jöns Jönsson • Director of Axiom

“I guess we shouldn't underestimate how much we adapt to our environment”

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- BERLINALE 2022: The German-based Swedish director presents a very ambiguous, but also very human, protagonist in his new feature

Jöns Jönsson • Director of Axiom
(© Anna Intemann)

Axiom [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jöns Jönsson
film profile
]
by German-based Swedish director Jöns Jönsson premiered in the Encounters section of this year's Berlinale. We talked to the director about the concept of the film, his connection with the protagonist and the visual approach he used to tell the story of this Don Quixote-like character.

Cineuropa: Where did the inspiration for this protagonist come from?
Jöns Jönss
on: Everything began with an anecdote I heard from a friend, 15 years ago already. A friend of his told him about a new colleague from work. The description of this guy has huge similarities with the character in the film. His story even involved a sailing trip. The way he described this guy was fascinating and made me immediately start wanting to make a film about him.

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How did you develop the story?
First, I developed everything around the protagonist; it took a long time to find the right form. I then decided it should be very concentrated and condensed, set in only one city and during a short period of time – three days. The film would be less plot-driven, but instead have the style of a portrait. It was fun to create the character, but also very hard, since he basically could do and say almost anything. It was also possible to talk about several topics at once. I added more and more elements during the several years of writing that went into the feature.

Are there also any autobiographical aspects that made it into the script?
Not exactly, but I feel a strong connection with the protagonist. You can see him in different ways: I see him as a human person, rather than a sick one. I am interested in human behaviour, in my own behaviour in society. Sometimes, I feel that when I come into a group of new people, I am completely free in terms of my identity: nobody knows me, and I can influence what I want to be for them. Also, I am originally from Sweden, but I moved to Germany. I think that sometimes I am two different people depending on which country I am staying in at a given time. I guess we shouldn't underestimate how much we adapt to our environment.

What fascinates you about the protagonist?
He is a problematic character, but he is very human – much more than a smart-arse. I like him, as he makes the world turn. He is definitely the most interesting character in the film.

How did you find the actor to play the main role?
The classic way. I watched demos of German male actors in this age range. I was looking for a fresh face. Moritz von Treuenfels mostly does theatre. I had seen him in two short films, and it was obvious from these few scenes that he was great. We invited him in, and he was perfect for the character. He is very believable.

How did you develop the visual concept of the movie?
We had to adapt to the character, since we wanted to paint a portrait of him. He is someone we wanted to get up close to and try to understand. It was clear that to do so, we had to watch him interact with other people and observe his behaviour in a group. But at the same time, we needed to get into his head, to experience his existential struggle. It was not so easy to match these two different aspects: an observation from a distance and aligning with his perspective. The film shows what we managed to do.

What were the biggest challenges in terms of the production?
Aside from the limitations owing to COVID-19, which everybody knows about already, principal photography was actually great for me. It was a fantastic shoot; it was the only time when everything was fun. I had a great team, including everyone. All of the actors were ambitious and showed immense commitment.

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