This suspenseful film, which is set in a seemingly idyllic tourist village along a remarkably beautiful Norwegian fjord, follows a woman who is set on avenging the sexual abuse of her sister. Her target is the owner of the village’s inn, an ambitious family man with a dark past. See nfi.no.
What inspired you to tell this particular tale?
Kristine Knudsen, the producer of the film, read the novel by the Norwegian author Ingvar Ambjørnsen and asked me if I wanted to do it. I was a bit reluctant at the beginning, because I had this idea in my head that my first film would be a bit more on the brighter side than this. But there was something with the main character that I couldn’t let go. I loved that I was so ambivalent towards her; one moment I could sympathize with her and then the next I wouldn’t. I really loved that the character challenged me. In many ways it’s a story about an avenger who herself becomes an abuser. Her moral compass is sometimes a bit off.
Sexual abuse and its repercussions are central to the plot. Is that a big problem in Norway?
Sexual abuse is a problem all over the world. Norway is one of the richest and safest countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean that we have our issues to work on. We’ve have had our share of stories of men who misuse their position and take advantage on younger women: politicians, teachers, people involved in sports or other activities with young people. Often it is word against word resulting in many women not being heard or not even pressing charges. The punishment for rape is fairly low in Norway, and we have an ongoing discussion on these issues.
I also wanted to show how one night, one incident, can form the life and personalities of four characters in different ways.
This film manages to weave images of the past into the modern scenes in a very compelling and psychologically accurate way, almost like waking dreams. How did you do that?
When Rebekka returns to the hotel where things happened in the past, it is like the younger version of her sister Emma is waiting for her there. The hotel represents Emma and the change that happened there: the sister she came with to the hotel is not the same that she left with. A part of Emma stayed behind in those rooms, so I wanted to the memories or dreams to have a “ghostly” feeling to them. I wanted them to be in the grey area between dreams and a haunting.
The casting was perfect. The protagonist is properly mysterious and cold, the antagonist is perfectly two-faced, the wife is cheerily in denial. Tell me how you found the actors.
Siren Jørgensen, the main character is one of my closest friends, but I didn’t think of her while I wrote the script. But one night when we were meeting up, she stood in the shadows of my hallway: cold wet and tired after a long day of rehearsal at the theatre and I knew that she would be perfect. I love the different contrasts in her: She can look strong and vulnerable, feminine and masculine, warm and cold. As I mentioned, I wanted to create a character that would bring out mixed emotions in the audience, and Siren manages that perfectly, I think.
I’ve seen Siren and Frode Winther (the antagonist) on stage together many times, and really liked the dynamics between them. Like Siren, Frode also has this ability to switch on a dime between different moods, and I liked the way the two of them mirrored each other. I love that he has this almost cliché Nordic look: strong, handsome, blond, and healthy. His character looks like a man who is used to getting what he wants.
I wanted Nina, the wife, to be a contrast to Rebekka. Where Rebekka is cold and distant, Nina is welcoming, trusting, and warm. Maria Bock, who plays her, has a very precise presence in every scene and creates a character that you root for. I wanted Nina to be so normal and healthy that you almost start to wonder about Morten. If he has such a good wife, he can’t be so bad?
I’ve tried not to raise to many fingers in the film; I want the audience to make up their own minds when it comes to the moral and quality of the characters. I am really proud of the actors, and how they portrayed their different characters.
Is there anything about the severity of the landscape that contributes to the character of the people in Norway? For the most part, they seem very warm and hospitable, at least in this film.
Norwegians have a very close connection to the nature. Compared to the number of inhabitants there is a lot of nature. Historically we lived secluded and with great distances between us, and maybe that is why we have a reputation of being a bit shy or hard to get to know. I don’t know if that still is true, maybe we have managed to let the world in a bit now that we rather live closer to each other than on a secluded hilltop. I also think that Norwegians are a quite trustworthy and gullible people. We can be curious of other people, and if we get to trust you, we will let you in. Especially if we drink, then we will open up and become your best friend!
Despite the severe story, this works very well as an advertisement for Norway’s fjord life. Was that intentional at all?
The first week of shooting the weather was ridiculously nice, and we felt that we were shooting a dairy commercial. But I’m a sucker for contrasts, and I love to put grim themes in beautiful surroundings. Things are not as they look, and all that. The fjords are very beautiful, but also quite claustrophobic, it is like the walls of the fjords can fall on top of you any time.
The fjord and the surrounding almost became a character in itself. I put some of the most important scenes between Rebekka and Nina out in the nature, because I think that people have a tendency to open up a bit more in the great outdoors. Maybe it is because it gives us perspective and makes us understand how incredible small we are.
What is your next project?
Right now I’m looking for new projects. The film was a co-production between Norway and Canada. It was a really good experience, and I would love to do something like that again. I like the feeling that the world is not so big. I’m also in the beginning of writing a new script that will take place in both Norway and North America. The backdrop is the Norwegian immigration to North America around 1850 but with a “western” twist.