Gunnar Vikene • Director
"Harold is a modern-day Don Quixote"
- Cineuropa met up with Norwegian director Gunnar Vikene to talk about his latest film, Here is Harold
Once upon a time there was a furniture salesman… and a well-known industry giant has just opened for business next door. Ruined and armed with a pistol, our salesman sets off intent on revenge, heading for Älmhult in Sweden, where the first IKEA was built in 1943. The plan: kidnap the founder of the company, Ingvar Kamprad. This is the beginning to Here is Harold [+see also:
interview: Gunnar Vikene
film profile], the most recent film by Norwegian director Gunnar Vikene. Cineuropa met up with him in a café in Grünerløkka, formerly a humble working-class neighbourhood, today the gentrified, trendy and bohemian suburb of Oslo. Just around the corner is Parkteatret, where once a month the general public can see preview film excerpts, as well as interviews with actors and directors live on stage, as part of Blått Lerret (Blue Screen).
Cineuropa: How did Here is Harold begin?
Gunnar Vikene: I’ve long dreamt of making a film inspired by a work by Norwegian writer Frode Grytten. I chose the Saganatt trilogy, the second part of which is a very short novel entitled I morgon er det måndag (Tomorrow is Monday), which is the basis of my film. Frode let me take a look at his documents, use his sources, and gave me complete freedom. I was really taken with Harold Lunde, a character so similar to Don Quixote in his way of valiantly fighting windmills, and in his desire to find a reason for living, a justification for his existence.
Why did you choose Norwegian actor Bjørn Sundquist to play this role?
I chose him because he’s so multi-faceted and has an incredible range. Even before I started writing the script, I knew Harold had to be played by him or no one at all. Another thing I appreciated about Bjørn, who is known as much for his roles in the theatre as he is for his work in cinema, was his wisdom and generosity towards others.
Was it easy to find the other actors?
I was lucky there as well: every actor I wanted in my film accepted the project. My process was different for Vegas, my previous feature film, for which I wanted non-professionals. Making a choice between the 4,000 young people who showed up for the auditions was no easy task.
Weren’t you tempted to ask Ingvar Kamprad to play himself in the film?
Oh, of course, but you can’t ask an 86-year-old man to film certain gruelling scenes, such as the unintended dip in the frozen lake.
Were there no special effects?
Hardly any – they really were splashing around in the freezing water, Sundquist without a swimming cap and wearing dress shoes. The cold was practically the only difficulty during filming: it was in the north of Sweden, which turned out to be harsher than we’d expected, -30° almost all of the time. As for the scenes in Harold’s shop, they were filmed in Åsane, close to Bergen, my own town, just opposite the real IKEA store. We owe the imagery, here and elsewhere, to the DoP, Simon Pramsten.
How would you define your film? Is it a road movie, or…?
It doesn’t fall into any particular genre. I like to surprise the audience, to do away with conventions and barriers, but I also place a lot of emphasis on subtext and the underlying meaning. I like people – I must admit I have a weakness for those who make mistakes, who go completely in the wrong direction but with all the best intentions. They make me smile, laugh even, but I don’t make fun of them. Humour and tenderness make good bedfellows. Even Harold’s foul-mouthed wife, Marny, finds favour with me. If I talk about old age in my film, or rather about getting older, it’s to point out that it’s important not to distance oneself from one’s past, but even more important to meet new people and to keep forging ahead.
(Translated from French)
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