Hlynur Pálmason ræðir við vef Norræna kvikmynda- og sjónvarpssjóðsins um mynd sína Hvítan, hvítan dag og væntanlega frumsýningu á Critics’ Week í Cannes þann 16. maí.
Last year Benedikt Erlingsson had a fantastic world premiere and reception at the Critics Week in Cannes with Woman at war. Now it’s your turn to represent Iceland in the Cannes sidebar. How does that feel?
Hlynur Pálmason: We’ve just finished the film, so everything feels very fast at the moment. But I’m a fan of the Critics’ Week. I found out recently that one of my favourite films The Spirit of the Beehive by Victor Erice was screened there. This was my last chance to be part of it, as they only select debuts and sophomore films. So I’m very honoured to be part of the selection this year.
As a versatile artist using fine arts to express yourself parallel to filmmaking, how does an idea for a new film take shape in you and what was the starting point A White, White Day?
HP: I think it just slowly emerged through the daily creative process, my routines and rituals. It’s probably this constant desire for exploring the unknown and the junky fix that you get when things come together in a surprising and truthful way. But the trigger was probably while I was working on a photography series called “a white day”, where I photographed during snow storms. So when I began working on the film, I just added an extra “white” on the working title that I slowly fell in love with. I love repetition when it works, but I find it very difficult to make it work.
The title of your new film A White, White Day reminds us of the white/greyish white from the winter dust and the chalk from the mining community that was predominant in Winter Brothers. What does white represent to you?
HP: This being my second feature, people will automatically think of my earlier work and compare it with the new work I’m presenting. There is probably no running away from that. But white for me represents many various things and it’s never used in my films as a colour symbol or anything like that. But the white day does have a profound importance in this film. There is a saying in Iceland that when everything is white and there is no longer any difference between the earth and the sky, then the dead can talk to us that still are living.
A White, White is Day is your first Icelandic feature length, entirely shot in Iceland, and I believe, quite close to where you grew up. How was this ‘going back to your roots’ experience?
HP: It was very much about going back to my roots, from where I come from. I enjoyed the whole process and began filming the prologue of the film two years prior to principle photography late last summer. I tried to capture the changing seasons, the temperament of the weather and the process of the protagonist building a house. I loved filming and writing and developing parallel and would love to do more of that.
Family relationships is again the starting point for your new film, although you add a Nordic noir spice to the plot. How would you describe the core of A White, White Day?
HP: The core is about two kinds of love. Love that you have for your children or grand-children, that is simple, pure and unconditional. And then there is another kind of love towards your partner, your lover, wife etc. That is something completely different, it’s more complex, intimate, animal and something quite unique that you don’t have with anyone else.
You are reunited with Ingvar Sigurdsson who played in your short film A Painter. Did you write the character of Ingimundur with him in mind? What qualities do you appreciate most in him and how did you work together?
HP: I wrote and developed the project with Ingvar in mind and in dialogue with him. What’s great about him is that he’s so good at what he does that it gives me a lot of freedom to write and play out very long and complex scenes and scenarios that are often difficult to execute. He’s an extremely physical actor and very present and involved emotionally, so we had a great collaboration.
Can you tell us about your visual style, why you used anamorphic format, tripod and dolly instead of held-hand camera?
HP: We used old anamorphic Kowa lenses to shoot the prologue on 35mm, 4 perf to really try to capture the landscape with a large format, the changing weather and seasons. But the rest of the film was shot on Super 35mm, 2 perf with Cook lenses. So by doing this, we had the same aspect ratio and the same 35mm feel to it. The super 35 was better for us, because we shot a lot in the protagonists’ car and often made these interior pans with a lot of people moving around in the frame and this can be very tricky with the anamorphic format. Our goal is always to try to find a simple and truthful way of expressing ourselves. A film tends to find its temperament, look and sound if you just slowly work your way into it.
Cinematographer Maria von Hausswolff who won numerous awards for her work on Winter Brothers is again your collaborator. How do you work together?
HP: Maria and I work very well together, we understand one another and I think we both enjoy working our way into the script by going often to locations and sort of diving deeper into the projects each time and see what the film wants. It’s a collaboration without many words; we sort of sense our way to things and tend to agree on pretty much everything. The film always decides what it wants, we just follow it where ever it wants to go.
The sound and the music play an important role in your work. Can you tell us of the type of sound used for this film, who composed the score and how the music was inserted in the film?
HP: The music in the film is by a British composer Edmund Finnis. I love his work and contacted him some years ago and asked if we should collaborate on a future project. I had some other ideas for the music for this film, but when I heard his new recordings with the London Contemporary Orchestra, I was completely blown away and really wanted it to be the music of the film. His music works very well with sound, it gives air for sound and the film gives air for music, so I think these two elements worked very well together, without suffocating each other. Sound began very early as it does in all my work. I did a lot of field recordings and recorded sound while filming the prologue which was a two-year process. We also do a lot of sound recording in the editing, so all of this colours and forms the project.
I understand you’re building a house these days, just like Ingimundur in the film who is building a house for his daughter. What type of house are you building?
HP: I’m turning an industrial building into a house for my family, a studio, an artist residency for friends and collaborators and hopefully a small post production facility in the future. It’s in a beautiful place, surrounded by the glacier and black sands on the east coast of Iceland, called Höfn.
What’s your next project?
HP: It’s a period film, about a young ambitious priest imbued with God.