Hlynur Pálmason leikstjóri ræðir við Nordic Film and TV News um Volaða land og vinnuaðferðir sínar.
Annika Pham tók viðtalið:
What was the genesis for the film and core ideas that you wanted to explore?
Hlynur Pálmason: First of all, I started writing it in 2013 – it was quite different from what it is now. It changed drastically every year. For me filmmaking is a process of discovery. One of the triggers for the film and that I wanted to explore was opposites. Denmark versus Iceland, the modern world versus nature, the earthy character of Ragnar versus the idealist Lucas, different kinds of landscapes. And clashes and misunderstanding through language, was a driving element that came up early.
The Danes will probably see the film differently than the Icelanders, and the international audience as well will see it differently. But what surprised me was how much life there was [in this journey of discovery]. For example, in the process of making the film, I was filming over a period of two years. I filmed a horse, who dies and rots. There is a vision of death, then the worms start eating the animal, and the birds eat the worms. I started doubting about the process, about what I was doing. But then suddenly, the horse and carcass turned into seeds from the birds. Through the carcass, flowers started to grow. Suddenly you could see so much life in death. That took me by surprise and became an important layer in the film.
At the beginning of the film you mention archive photos about Iceland in a box, taken by a Danish priest, that inspired the story. Can you expand?
HP: It’s only a real thing if you believe in it. When I was talking about the project to my cast & crew and financiers, I always started the story with these photographs. I wanted to create a detail, an object that people could understand to have an anchor. But the story about the box of photos is a lie-I’ve never found it but it helped me imagine it. It was a creative device, part of the fiction.
Can you take us through your personal vision and style?
HP: I wanted to be truthful to who I am, where I come from. My roots are in Iceland, but my experience in Denmark has also shaped me a great deal.
In Godland, there is a sense of place, I hope a truthfulness in the way I capture the world. It’s not a postcard, a well-known place. What I capture are the places in-between the known locations. These are the places I go to, visit and revisit.
For instance Lucas is in a landscape where we see the seasons go by and that was filmed over two years. This is where we pick mushrooms, and the horse that rots for two years is my father’s horse, and it was filmed next to my father’s farm. So everything is very familiar and close to me. I don’t travel long distances to film something. I film in my garden, my kids, family and friends. I don’t think people actually understand how small we are as a crew. Instead of having a big crew, we spend a long time filming over and over.
Did you have inspirations for the film?
HH: Often I’m more inspired by someone’s process, perhaps because I’m trying to refine mine. I was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s process in Fårö island, of writing over winter, filming over the summer. I also liked his way of working with friends and collaborators as cast and crew. I relate to that and understand it.
I can’t stop writing stuff for Ingvar [Sigurdsson], Ida [Mekkín Hlynsdóttir, Pálmason’s daughter] and Eliott [Crosset Hove] because I know them so well. They just pop up in my mind when I write. I’ve always loved the idea of creating something in your nearest surrounding. Like Monet painting his garden, or Sally Mann photographing her children. I relate to this. Other than that, I watched Chaplin’s films with my kids and Eliott, a documentary about Sally Mann about how she works, but it was more for inspiration for details.
How was it to film with your own daughter and is there space for improvisation in your films?
HP: It’s always great and interesting to see her [Ida] grow. I was here in Cannes three years ago with A White, White Day. She was 10 then, now 13. It’s crazy how she has changed. I always work with her in some way-we do small video installations as well. All my kids play in my films but Ida has a bigger part.
Regarding working with the actors, we don’t improvise. The film was shot chronologically so that gave space for a bit more flexibility, improvisation, not directly written in the story. But the dialogue is pretty much written.
You are a truly versatile artist, working with different artistic tools, photography, painting, visual arts. Can you take us through your typical creative process?
HP: I try to have a daily routine that I find fun, when things emerge instead of pressing things to come. I love going into my studio and paint and I try to do the same with my films. But I always need parallel projects, otherwise I couldn’t survive just with one project. It would have been impossible to have just Godland, between 2014 and now.
For me the process of filmmaking is everything. I love every part of it. I love prep and research, directing, editing, the sound. But you only enjoy it if you work with the people you like and have space to do it. If I’m not stimulated, I don’t believe others will be. If I don’t feel a drive, others won’t.
I think a film has a temperament. I read for instance a diary from [French painter] Eugène Delacroix. He was talking about the same thing, feeling the temperament of an art work [when going to a concert] from the very first second. It’s the same with film today. I can feel if I like and relate to it, if it’s too soft, or too full of messages, or if I don’t like the rhythm. Cinema is an incredibly powerful experience as you are locked in a room.
The small screen wouldn’t be appropriate for your works…
HP: Hopefully some of it would, but definitely some of it wouldn’t. I haven’t made anything for TV, but my whole method would have to change.
With Godland, we were thinking how will be the experience on the big screen. When we do the edit with Julius [Krebs Damsbo], we’ve seen the film perhaps only a handful of times. Some directors watch their film millions of times. But we try to work on the details a long time before seeing it, so the first cut comes months after filming. This is my process and way of keeping faith in the project. There are moments when you doubt-is it too long, will people feel anything? Doubting is part of the process, it’s healthy and human. But I don’t want to doubt the material by saying let’s make it shorter etc. I don’t want to fall into that trap. We look for the stomach feeling. What feels right, intuition.
HP: I have a few projects but none of them are financed. Some started a few years ago. It depends on the film we’ve just made and if we’ll get a chance to make another one. Right now I’m preparing a short film with my kids called Joan of Arc. I start filming in June. It’s part 2 of a trilogy-the first short film was Nest [selected for the Berlinale Special 2022).