A universal story

The first time Petter Næss heard the story about Schopis and the other pilots he thought the story too obvious to film. Then he reconsidered. “Into the White” premieres on March 9th (Marat Folketeatret in Oslo.

- I can’t pinpoint the exact time I first heard about the story of two British and three German pilots who survived a crash landing in the middle of nowhere and had to seek refuge together. But I thought that it was almost too obvious to film. It’s a classic story; enemies meet and come together against their will, Petter Næss says, the actor and director behind the “Elling”-films among others.

- At the same time, I’m a man of the mountains. And I discovered that the incident on Grotli could form the basis for a film about what happens inside the heads of people who meet under such circumstances. That someone is faced with their enemy – not as weapons or machines, but as people – happens every day all over the world. Prejudice and ideologies are put to the test. That’s why the story is universal, Næss says, while stressing that “Into the White” is not an exact depiction of what actually happened.

- The beginning, when they shoot each other down, and the end, where one of the German pilots is shot by the Norwegian ski patrol, are based on actual events. The rest is made up. We’ve isolated the five pilots in a cabin for four days. In reality, the pilots didn’t even spend an entire night together, Næss explains, while adding that the fact that several of those involved in the incident were amateurs was part of what attracted him to the project.

- The pilots were skilled, but they hadn’t learned how to survive without food and firewood and how to cope in the winter cold. The Norwegian ski patrol were young inexperienced guys. The guy that shot the German pilot had psychological problems afterward, Næss says.

Met Schopis

The director even met the German pilot Horst Schopis twice, both in Norway and in Berlin. – It was very inspiring. Schopis offered his story and came across as a very nice guy. As we say: He was a good guy caught on the wrong side during the war, Næss says, and tells us that Schopis was actually a part of the infantry before being picked to be a pilot.

- He hoped that the war would end after the invasion of Poland. It was presented to the Germans as though Norway was occupied by the English and that Germany had to liberate us. Schopis had nothing against Norway, Næss says, who has read both books during research for the film, written by Schopis and the British pilot Partridge respectively.

- Schopis died in August following a heart operation, five days before his 99th birthday. Of course we were looking forward to having him present at the premiere. He seemed both proud and happy about the film project, Næss says.

- You played Captain Linge in Max Manus. What’s it like to premiere your own war film?

- I’ve never really been a fan of war films. On the other hand, the events of the war offer an inexhaustible source for great stories about conflict, animosity, friendship and powerful destinies, Næss says, while adding that he’s impressed by how the German costume designers have worked to create a proper image of the time.

- It’s easy to lose the illusion if something isn’t right. We’ve filmed in reasonably controllable surroundings, with mountains and a cabin, and there has just been minor digital post-production.

Filming on Grotli and in Sweden
The exterior scenes in “Into the White” were filmed on Grotli. This means that the mountains and scenery that appears on screen is the same as the one that the pilots looked across over 60 years ago.

- The wreckage of the plane is still located on Grotli, but because the area is part of a national park, we filmed the scenes on top of a ski lift. The scenes inside the cabin were filmed in Sweden. The pilot suits are incredibly hot and therefore we had to go there to find the right cold and frost smoke.

- You have brought in actors from abroad?

- Yes, two from England and two from Germany, while Stig Henrik Hoff plays the British pilot Partridge (Hoff plays a German named Strunk, ICM). It was extremely important for us to find the right actors; they had to be different, but still suit each other. They are very distinct characters. But I would say that we all get along great. The interaction between them has been absolutely fantastic, Næss says.

Into the White was filmed in 30 days and has a budget of 23,6 million Norwegian kroner.

- You always have too little money and too little time, but the film turned out the way I wanted it to. It’s actually not all my films that I like to look at afterwards, but it’s different with this one. I’m very happy with the result. I can look myself in the mirror and say that I stand behind this.

- Are you excited about the reception?

Of course I am. But I don’t care that much about what the critics think. First and foremost, I’m looking forward to the premiere which will happen in Folketeatret in connection with the Oslo Film Festival. It’s a very good space for films and with room for 1100 people. All the stars, family and friends will be there.

- But one person is missing…?

- Yes. Having Schopis there would have been icing on the cake. But his relatives will be there. I hope they’ll feel like we’ve taken good care of him.


Original article found here: rbnett.no | February 22, 2012

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