Jon Holmberg • Director of Sune – Best Man
“My ambition was just to make a good film”
by Marta Bałaga
- BERLINALE 2020: Cineuropa talked to Jon Holmberg, the director behind the Sune franchise, just before he headed off to Berlin for the second time
Jon Holmberg’s Sune – Best Man [+see also:
interview: Jon Holmberg
film profile], shown in Generation Kplus at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, marks the second Berlinale outing for the Swedish director, after Sune vs Sune [+see also:
film profile]. This time, its titular hero must make a choice: go on a school trip with a girl he likes or attend his grandfather’s wedding. Preferably while ignoring sudden appearances of his future self, showing up at the worst possible moments.
Cineuropa: Before the first Sune, there was nothing in your career that would imply any interest in children’s film whatsoever. How did it all begin?
Jon Holmberg: I have kids who are the same age as Sune, so it was a perfect excuse to properly investigate this world. It came very naturally – also because I actually grew up with the books that these characters are based on. The first one came out in 1983, I think, and it was more about him trying to find a girlfriend, someone to have his first kiss with. There have been 20, or even 30, books about Sune, so it has developed a lot since then. That being said, I still took a different approach. I tried to stick with this family and show their dynamic. The first film, Sune vs Sune, was very much about this boy and envy, basically, and I tried to explore it in the same way I would if it were about a person of any other age.
There is so much talk nowadays about children’s entertainment also being directed at adults. In Best Man, you certainly show older characters and their struggles as well.
I wanted to make something that would be interesting for everyone, especially for myself. That’s what I think about when I write. I wasn’t looking for some “adult” topics specifically, but tried to tell a story that would have some relevance. It’s about making choices, about how hard it can be and what the consequences are. As a kid, you go to the cinema with your parents, and when I watch a movie, I want to be engaged. But I certainly didn’t want to talk to them behind their kids’ back, so to speak.
Such a big part of this film is Sune’s crazy escape, once he decides to join his class on the school trip after all. Did you always want to make a road movie?
The first time I saw Sune vs Sune with the kids, I realised that a lot of it takes place in his head. You don’t actually move around that much, except to his school, home, or his imagination, of course. Other than that, it was all very compact. I wanted to have more of this action-adventure aspect this time. When I started to write the script, I knew that at least some part of it should revolve around a chase.
It’s interesting to see that this is already the second Sune film shown at Berlin, especially as children’s entertainment, while undoubtedly popular, is also looked down on. Where do you think this prejudice comes from?
I was surprised when these films were taken seriously, both by the critics and by the audience. My ambition was just to make a good film [laughs], while trying to take these feelings and the content as seriously as I could. I mean, of course it’s a comedy. But I wanted it to feel real. I didn’t aim for any festivals, or to please any critics, but yes, I wanted it to feel truthful somehow. Hopefully, it paid off.
I think it’s a shame that with both film and literature, stories for children aren’t appreciated the same way. It’s a world that’s more heightened, obviously, and it’s harder for some to relate to. There are many films that put a lot of energy into entertaining the kids, assuming that the more colours, the better. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I expect my younger actors to come prepared, to know their lines – just like adults. They are all individuals, and you can’t really say: “Oh, you are a kid, so I will just treat you like this.” You need to make them feel secure, show them it’s ok to make a fool of yourself, to have fun and explore.
I liked what you said before, about Sune being inside his own head so much. In the new film, his most dramatic interactions are with another version of himself, not with other kids.
That’s what it all comes down to, ultimately. In life, you are confronted with different situations and other people, but then you need to deal with it yourself, using all your experiences. If there is another guy coming into your class, suddenly hogging all the attention, the real struggle takes place inside of you. That’s also the case if you have to choose between going on a field trip with your class or going to your grandfather’s wedding. Comedy usually comes from people having to deal with things and the choices they make. For kids, these topics are certainly still very fresh. But it’s interesting to actually see and hear this internal dialogue sometimes.
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