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CANNES 2021 Competition

Joachim Trier • Director of The Worst Person in the World

“At the end of the day, all three of them feel like the worst person in the world; that’s my conclusion”

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- CANNES 2021: The Norwegian director unpicks his seemingly cute, seemingly romantic comedy-drama

Joachim Trier  • Director of The Worst Person in the World
(© Kasper Tuxen)

The prime Norwegian Croisette connection is back a third time, as Joachim Trier brightens up the Cannes Film Festival competition with The Worst Person in the World [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile
]
, a seemingly cute, seemingly romantic comedy-drama – with some decidedly dark drama.

Cineuropa: You have three main characters. Who did you come up with first, and who out of them all is the actual worst person in the world?
Joachim Trier:
That’s the question! The first one was actually two: Julie and Aksel, and their relationship. Aksel was easy to write for me and for Eskil Vogt – like Aksel, we’re two forty-something guys, and through him, we could self-deprecatingly foul our own nests a little, but also address more serious issues like the loss of time and identity. We then gradually found that Julie was the biggie. Her experiences and emotions brought many problems that we could identify with: kids or no kids, feeling adult or not, existential stuff that became the central theme. Then Eivind turns up and messes things up. At the end of the day, all three of them feel like the worst person in the world; that’s my conclusion.

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Would the film be different if it hadn’t been created by two guys?
That’s for others to decide. There are situations in the film that undoubtedly deal with being a woman today. Anyway, I always write characters that I’m free from the obligation to identify with. Thankfully.

Is it a specifically Norwegian story, or could it take place elsewhere?
Oslo, the city, is very concrete – the actual beauty of a night in St Hanshaugen Park. I know for a fact that this is highly and prominently concrete. If that makes sense.

Both your films and Eskil Vogt’s often have a feeling of a distinctly Norwegian “design”, if you will. The lighting, the images, the sound… Does that make sense?
It makes for good reflection. I believe that somewhere, somehow, the surroundings get into our DNA, no matter how hard we try to control things. I recently co-directed a documentary on Edvard Munch, The Other Munch, featuring Karl Ove Knausgaard, the writer. A weird thing is that Karl Ove started to compare Munch’s pictures to my cinema and found similarities. What’s even weirder is that I saw what he meant.

Is The Worst Person in the World part three in a trilogy starting with Reprise [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joachim Trier
interview: Karin Julsrud
film profile
]
and followed by Oslo, August 31st [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile
]
?
Hmm… I feel like making a fourth one more and more, some ten years from now. Let’s see. Quite possibly.

At Cannes this year, Eskil Vogt is also present with his own film, The Innocents [+see also:
film review
interview: Eskil Vogt
film profile
]
. Apart from co-writing all of your films, he’s also your childhood friend, right?
We’ve known each other since we were teenagers. Our first film together, slightly ironically, is about two friends with literary aspirations. In the beginning, you usually harbour some very naïve fantasy about success, like having a film at Cannes. This was our exact fantasy, some 25 years ago. And now… Well, you know the rest.

Already in 1960, your grandfather, Erik Løchen, was here with his film The Chasers. Did he ever tell you about it?
I was nine when he died, so he didn’t tell me, but my mother remembers him going to France, and he came back very grateful because he wasn’t really “seen” at home. The movie was a Nouvelle Vague title made in Norway at a time when Norwegian film politics couldn’t cope with supporting a great film talent, so he suffered. I, on the other hand, am a child of a support system that he, my grandfather, fought for through the years – for the notion that artistic cinema is the strongest selling point of the Nordic countries. Yes, we can make action movies and historical epics, but it’s Sjöström, Dreyer and Bergman that we really hit the jackpot with, all the way to the USA and Japan.

In other words, your grandpa personally paved the way for your being here right now, correct?
Totally. And that’s why I dedicated the premiere screening to him this July.

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