Dane expresses vision in English-language pic

Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, director of this year’s British movie darling “An Education,” has no interest in the “auteur” label. “It’s much more an act of generosity to make films than a personal artistic project,” she says. Rejecting the formalism of Andrei Tarkovsky that she was forced to study at the Danish Film School in the early 1980s, she prefers films that seem “effortless.” That affable style certainly informs the performances in “An Education,” Scherfig’s sixth feature outing, but foreign-film aficionados might also remember her Dogma 95 entry, “Italian for Beginners,” an arthouse hit in 2002.

GENESIS: “I read the project and I really liked the tone. I like films that are light but deal with heavy subjects. My agent, Jenny Casarotto, had fought hard for the producers and (screenwriter) Nick Hornby to watch some of my films.” (Hornby shares the same agent.) “Even though most of my films are in a foreign language, they saw a tone that was in common with Nick’s work.”

VISION: “There was so much to show and play to people, so that they could step into that period without any problems. And because I was working in a language different from mine, I also thought I should be much more specific with pictures and music examples” — i.e. Brenda Lee’s 1960 hit ‘Sweet Nothin’s.’ “To many, this is history, and I really wanted to break that barrier between period and present.”

CHALLENGES: “There are scenes in the film, like the infamous banana scene, where Peter Sarsgaard’s character is at his most unpredictable. I have noticed that people get nervous and imagine something scarier or cheesier than how it ends up onscreen. The trick is shooting it with a certain warmth for the characters, even if they behave in a way that the audience would rather not watch.”

MAGIC: “After that banana scene, there’s a moment when Carey Mulligan sits on a sofa and picks up a banana and says, ‘Room service.’ I shot that in a plain two-shot to see what would happen. If that scene had been scripted, I would have shot it differently, and it would have been a headier joke. I thought it was a beautiful line, because it makes that whole banana scene lighter and sweeter.”

NEXT: She’s currently working on two different scripts. “Dare I paint with a bigger brush?” she adds. “I hope that someone will send me an elegantly plotted gangster melodrama.”

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