ICM at Into the White presentation with Petter Næss and Peter Aalbæk Jensen
Work in Progress, Bio Mauritz, Stockholm
November 17 2011, 1:30PM
On November 17 2011, ICM went to Stockholm International Film Festival to be present at the Work in Progress-presentation of Into the White. At the presentation, the director of the film, Petter Næss, was present as well as the producer and co-owner of Zentropa, Peter Aalbæk Jensen. This is the transcript of the presentation – a lot of great information as well as word-for-word description of the clips that were shown. Enjoy!
Moderator: Now it’s time for the Work in Progress of Into the White which formerly was known as Comrade. It just changed the title, so in the program it’s still Comrade. And here with me, I have the director Petter Næss and of course the producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen. You had a master class here before, did it go well?
PAJ: Ask the audience
Moderator: Ask the audience?
PN: He was very pleased.
PAJ: I am always pleased with my own appearances.
Moderator: Good. I guess that these gentlemen are familiar to most of you in the audience. Aalbæk Jensen is the producer at Zentropa, one of the founders, and for example you executive produced the Oscar winner, In A Better World, and on the Lars von Trier films. And Petter Næss, several feature films, I guess the most known are Tatt av Kvinnen and Elling, which won the Fipresci prize here at the festival actually in 2001 and was later Oscar nominated. Okay, maybe, should we start with one of the clips and then you’ll tell us or do you want to tell us a little bit about the film before?
PN: I think I have to say something about the movie. This is a Norwegian war movie, World War II movie and you’ve probably seen a few of them with Norwegian heroes – small men beating the hell out of the Germans, which a very few of them did actually. This is not a heroic movie about the Norwegian Vikings, it’s based on a true story from the beginning of the invasion of Norway in April 27 1940. There was a battle, an air battle, between a German bomber and a British fighter plane. And they actually literally shot each other down and they crash landed within a few kilometers away from each other and for some strange reason, they ended up seeking shelter in the same cabin. So, they had just shot each other down and then the Germans were the first and then they hear some voices outside and they got out and they ask “who are you?”. “We’re British pilots. Our plane was shot down a few miles away from here. And who might you be?” “We’re German pilots, our plane was shot down too.” And then in real life, the Germans invited them in the cabin and later in life these, the German Lieutenant and the British Captain, they met actually later in life and became friends. But we have kind of boosted the story a little bit, so we bring them into the wilderness and into bad weather and into the cabin where they have to struggle to survive. And they start to argue right away about who should sleep where and it ends up that the Germans take the Brits as prisoners of war.
And the first scene you are going to see is when that has just taken place. When they come into the cabin, they start arguing about who should sleep where and finally the Germans pulled their guns and this is just after that happened. Now we can see the clip. If we can manage, we’re two old men – we don’t know much about technology.
Horst Schopis (Florian Lukas): I want to make a few things clear. You are prisoners of war and you will stay with us in this cabin until the weather improves. Tomorrow, we will go to the sea and from there you will be taken to a prison camp. Is that clear?
Captain Davenport (Lachlan Nieboer): I think he’s made himself perfectly clear. Don’t you, Smith?
Gunner Robert Smith (Rupert Grint): Short but to the point, sir.
[Schopis takes a wooden stick and lights the end on fire, he draws a line through the cabin from one side to another on the floor with the black ash from the tip.]
Horst Schopis: This is the British side and this is the German side. You will ask permission every time you want to leave the British side, if not we will shoot you. Is that understood?
[Davenport and Smith exchange looks]
Gunner Robert Smith: Yeah.
Captain Davenport: Well, in that case. In accordance with the Geneva convention, I believe we are entitled to a bed, three meals a day and sporting facilities.
Horst Schopis: Do not worry. You will be treated fairly.
Captain Davenport: I hardly call your policy of sharing fair.
Horst Schopis: Under the circumstances, many would say putting a bullet to your head is fair. You get the same food we get, bed and shelter you get the same shelter we get. And for sporting facilities, may I introduce you to the beautiful Norwegian countryside.
[At this moment, Schopis opens the door which flies open due to strong wind – the snow storm fills the cabin. ]
Horst Schopis: Any questions?
Gunner Robert Smith: Where’s the toilet?
Horst Schopis: The toilet is out there, on the left [throws a newspaper to Smith]. Here, toilet paper.
Gunner Robert Smith: That’s not toilet paper.
PN: That’s the kind of set up for the conflict and it’s actually a story where the antagonist is the growing friendship – it’s all about trying to maintain the enmity, trying not to become friends. So it’s actually like a love story, a romantic comedy. We know that when Harry meets Sally in the beginning, we know that they’ll come together in the end.
Moderator: Like a bromance?
PN: Yeah, but it’s the process that is interesting and then the ending is a little bit different from romantic movies.
Moderator: Well, I guess everyone recognized Rupert Grint, who plays Ron in the Harry Potter movies, and then David Kross from The Reader. Could you tell us a little bit about the casting of them?
PAJ: You know you should do that, Petter, because you casted them, I paid for them.
PN: Okay, you tell us later how much they got paid. This is an ensemble piece, it’s five men in a cabin trying not to be friends and they had to be different. At the same time, belonging there. So I was looking for a kind of fiery, British street wise guy, and I have an agent in America, and he said to me “What about Rupert Grint?” I think they came from the same agency and we asked him, and he said yeah. And he was perfect for the part. He learned himself to speak a Liverpool dialect and not even the other British guy understands what he is saying, and he had to translate for the Germans at one point he doesn’t even understand what Rupert said or Robert Smith, so he’s “You think you could say that again?”. Well, that was Rupert. And then we were looking for German actors and we used a casting agent and of course I had seen The Reader and David Kross is… I was starstruck, actually, having seen that and we were lucky to get him. Florian Lukas who plays the main character Horst Schopis.
Moderator: The German guy?
PN: The German guy, yeah. Horst Schopis was the real captain and unfortunately he died two months ago. Five days before he turned 99 years old, so we were hoping for him to be at the premiere of this movie in his 100th year. And he was so proud. And I met him a couple of times in … what is it called, the country?… Germany? [everybody laughs] Also, Florian met him and he came to Norway for the press conference, this old Horst Schopis, in a hangar where they had this old Henkel 111 that he was flying at the time and we had the press conference around that area. Sounds a bit romantic about this horrible war. It was a very emotional moment and very important for the actor too to meet the real guy. Then I wanted to use a Norwegian actor as well, Stig Henrik Hoff who plays a big silent guy, a big brutal – seems to be a brutal Nazi guy who has a warm heart in the end. I wanted some great international actors to meet the great Norwegian actor and he speaks German fairly well and all that. So yeah. And then Lachlan Nieboer who plays this Captain Davenport, and I auditioned him in London. So when I felt that this is a good cast, they’re different and they go very well together, because it’s five men in a cabin.
Moderator: A cabin play?
PN: It’s a cabin play, but there’s a lot of exterior in the scenes and all that. But mostly of what we will see now will be interior where the drama is. It’s in wild, and crazy, and dangerous and beautiful surroundings in this country called Norway.
Moderator: Should we look at another clip?
PN: This is – we saw the toilet paper here and they run out of paper and toilet paper and they start to argue more and more and this situation with the fiery guy that Rupert Grint plays, he’s constantly nagging the guy that David Kross plays because he’s the real Nazi. He reads Mein Kampf all the time to comfort himself and feel safe and he’ll have something to say about everything that goes on – and this is the sacred bible. At one point, they don’t have any more newspaper or toilet paper and when Rupert Grint goes to the toilet, he finds Mein Kampf.
Gunner Robert Smith [comes back into the cabin]: Hey, Josef? [Throws Mein Kampf to Josef]. I have to say, chapter two was a little rough on my arse.
Captain Davenport: You bloody idiot, you’ve done it now.
Josef Schwartz (David Kross): [Josef flips through the book and sees many pages missing]. I kill you!
Horst Schopis: Nein, Schwartz!
Josef Schwartz: Gehn sie aus dem Weg!
Wolfgang Strunk: Josef! Gib ihm deine Waffe!
Josef Schwarz: Aus dem Weg. AUS DEM WEG!
Schopis: Ich sagte Waffe runter.
Schwartz: [to Smith] Du bist tot.
Captain Davenport: It’s not for me to suggest, Smith. Apologize!
Schopis: Sie sind nicht ganz beieinander. Geben Sie mir die Waffe.
Schwartz: Er hat den Führer beleidigt!
Captain Davenport: You’re a proud German man, Germans live of pride of themselves on order and discipline. Do not shy away from that now.
Josef Schwartz: Geh’n Sie aus dem Weg! [to Smith] Du bist tot!
Captain Davenport: Lieutenant, your commanding officer has given you an order. You need to obey it. Listen to your commanding officer and put down your gun. Do you really want to disobey your leader?
[Josef drops the gun on the floor. Davenport and Schopis face each other for a while and it is obvious that Schopis needs to regain his sense of power.]
Horst Schopis: I did not give you permission to cross that line.
[Smith runs into Josef and pushes him away from the gun on the floor after which he grabs it himself. He then holds Josef with the gun to his head.]
Gunner Robert Smith: [yelling] Weapons on the floor! Now! And spike them over there.
PN: Of course, it’s way too dark and there’s no color grading and the sound is not there yet… so a work in progress actually.
Moderator: This was a very dramatic turn of events. You said it’s not color graded and everything, where in the process are you now?
PAJ: Right now we’ve finished editing, we’re in the middle of sound post-production, no image made and no music added. So, the film should be opening in Norway in the beginning of March. So yeah, we’re there. And we’re happy to screen a little bit here also, it’s a quite funny film, it’s a quite touching film and very little of what we normally see in Second World War type of movies. And we have actually, right now, managed to pre-sale it to quite a lot of countries. It helps with this great cast of course but it also helps that we have the best director in Norway then coming to present something quite different to an international audience. And back to the actors, it’s really impressive to see how good talent we can attach to Scandinavian movies right now, and this is due to the fact that Swedish, Norwegian and Danish directors are doing so extremely well, so it’s actually adding something on the CV for the actors to participate in a Scandinavian film which makes it affordable for us to have these good names on our cast list. So we should be, all of us, very proud of any type of acknowledgement that any Scandinavian director’s getting because that’s helping all of us.
Moderator: And this is a very recent thing?
PAJ: It is very recent. And I think that’s probably only the beginning we’re seeing right now of Scandinavian, primarily Scandinavian directors being so successful that we can get big stars playing for no money on small-scale Scandinavian budgets.
Moderator: I wanted to ask a production related question of you – this is produced by Zentropa International Norge (Norway) and as far as I saw in the material, it’s the first feature that is being produced by this production arm of Zentropa. Could you tell us a little bit, maybe, about… because you’ve also started a branch here in Sweden, and what is going on now? Will you take over everywhere?
PAJ: We want to conquer the world. No, we think it’s quite interesting to work with talent and actually I’m not interested in nationalism and I’m not interested in specific languages or specific countries. The talent is international and I think we should think international. And so my company Zentropa has for quite many years been present in Germany, France, but recently we opened up in Poland and in Spain also. And then we said “why not Sweden and Norway?” And these are small and autonomic units we have around can choose to participate or not to participate on one of our films. On this specific film here, Into the White, we have our Germans, is getting German money, we have quite a substantial amounts from German funding bodies here and on some of our bigger budget movies we maybe have 5-6 Zentropa companies collaborating together to get money from their local sources and then join forces to make a big film. And in between that, any of our outlets are making their own local films with their local language. But the talent is international, and the director should as easily work in his own language or in some other language. And here, definitely, Petter, who I think is the best Norwegian director has proved also that he is able to cross the border and work in both English and German also, and it’s practically easy to direct in German also… because, you know, come on… it is the faces, it’s the diction, you know? And even though…
PN: It’s much easier when you don’t understand what they’re saying.
PAJ: It’s much easier to have opinions on the actors when you don’t understand what they’re saying. No, so I think we shouldn’t be afraid of that. Actually, I think Lukas Moodysson directed to two kiddies that only spoke Russian in “Lilja 4-ever” and with an interpreter in between it worked quite fine, so don’t be afraid as a director of any language.
PN: I made a Kurdish movie here in Sweden some years ago, called Hoppet, with Kurdish people and I didn’t understand one word of what they said, but I had read the script so I knew what they were talking about.
Moderator: That brings up a very small and detailed question but how is this going to be subtitled – only the German parts or the English speaking?
PAJ: In the German release?
Moderator: No, just like in the English version of the film?
PN: I think that the English version they will only subtitle the Germans and the Norwegians will subtitle everything. And what they’ll do in Montenegro, I don’t know.
Moderator: I was just wondering if they’d subtitle the Liverpool accent.
PN: I wanted to portray the British and the Germans as on the same level, as human beings who meet each other and they are prejudiced towards each other, and are being put to a test. And they gradually learn that they are human beings. And for once the Norwegians become the outer threat. As the friendship starts to emerge, the Norwegians know where they are and as the weather clears up they go there to get them. And that’s a fairly rare thing in Norwegian World War II movie, that the Norwegians are the bad guys. Well, actually they’re not the bad guys, but they are the outer threat except for the weather of course.
Moderator: We do have time for one or two questions if there’s someone in the darkness over there.
Audience: I would like to know where it was shot exteriorly and interiorly?
PN: The exterior was shot almost at the actual place where the planes really crashed at Grotli, Strynefjellet.
Audience: And the interior?
PN: In a freezer in Trollhättan. So everything, when they opened the door, it’s fake snow coming in and everything is in a cool storage place out on a countryside outside Trollhättan and it was colder there than in the mountains actually. It was freezing. It was really a bad place. A horrible place. But it looks good in the movie, but they had to cool it down to get the breaths and everything to look real.
Audience: What was the budget for the film?
PN: We’re working on it.
PAJ: There were two budgets. One before and one after. But shooting in the mountains in snow, yes… that’s something we Danes have to learn. That’s something I’ll never do again. Jesus Christ! But the budget is, for that type of movie, pretty low. It’s 23,6 million Norwegian Kroner.
PN: I’ll tell you about shooting in the Norwegian wilderness. One day, the weather was so bad that some of the crew got lost – on the set. [laughter throughout the cinema] It was a complete whiteout. You couldn’t see anything but the wind and the snow was just going right back and you just had to tug yourself in and if you walked three meters too far in that direction and you were lost. No one could see you. But we Norwegians, we like that. We think it’s cool.
Moderator: Working under the extreme conditions.
PN: Yeah, and some skiing scenes are shot down at the parking lot in Trollhättan. But it looks okay.
Moderator: Good. Thank you very much, Petter and Peter.
PN: Petter and Peter.