Variety caught up with Swedish actor-turned-writer/director, Henrik Hellstrom, who is presenting his sophomore feature, “The Quiet Roar,” in competition at Goteborg Intl. Film Festival.
Repped by Paris-based Bac Films and lead-produced by Erika Wasserman at Idyll, “Roar” world-premiered at Rotterdam and garnered positive word-of-mouth. The beautifuly-shot drama stars Evabritt Strandberg as a 68-year old woman diagnosed with a terminal disease whose treatment propels her to explore her subconscious, where she confronts her 25-year old self and her former husband.
A promising young director, Hellstrom made his debut with “Burrowing” which bowed at the Berlinale’s Forum section in 2009 and received warm reviews. Variety’s Alissa Simon described the film as “a mesmerizing, low-budget experimental mood-piece (…) taking inspiration from the writings of Henry David Thoreau.” Set in a small Swedish suburban town, “Burrowing” centered on an introverted 11-year-old boy contemplating life around him.
Both “The Quiet Roar” and “Burrowing” were co-written by Fredrik Wenzel.
Variety: You started out as an actor. What made you want to leap into writing/directing?
Henrik: I am interested in creating stories and worlds. I wanted to control the environment of the story and filmmaking is great.
The atmosphere of your feature debut “Burrowing” and “The Quiet Roar” has been described as dreamy, with an existentialism yearning and poetic tone which seems inspired by Ingmar Bergman and Terrence Malick. Where does your inspiration, in terms of narration and style, come from?
My inspiration comes from the things around me, the world, how I see it and how things effect me and I try to find ways to turn these impressions into a cimematique expression. I get inspiration from other filmmakers and other artists in all fields (notably Bo Wideberg, Maren Ade and Spike Jonze) when I’m allowed through their work to open up my perception of the world in new and more refined ways.
Do you feel that you’re part of a new generation of Swedish filmmakers? If so who’s part of it and what defines this new generation?
That is for someone else to judge. I see a lot of great talent in Sweden forming itself and looking for possibilities for film in a changing environment. This new talent pool includes Anna Odell, Axel Petersen, Lisa Langseth.
Where did the inspiration come from for the story of “The Quiet Roar”?
I looked for a setting where dream and reality, now and then, all melt together. I wanted to tell the story of an older woman with an unsolved past. I met with my grandmother who in a state of senile dementia started talking about the way she saw herself and she was afraid and bitter. I was curious on what could give her peace. Questions were: Is there a way to find reconciliation at a late stage in life, and what would that require?
The topic of terminal illness and old age was recently treated by Michael Haneke in “Amour,” along with other directors. What do you find interesting in this subject matter?
It’s an ultimate circumstance. It sets Marianne, our main character off for a journey where she is in an absolute need to take responsibility for the unsolved issues she is carrying inside. For her, the time is now. She would absolutely avoid the issues that is her concern if she could.
How important is it for you to achieve some level of commercial success at home and abroad with your films?
I care for films that matter. My ambition is to reach as many people as possible.
Lots of Scandinavian directors are attracted to work in the U.S. on English-language movies. Are you also interested in working with international talent and producers?
To find great talent is a blessing. It was a great experience to work with Hanna Schygulla. I’m interested in widening my experience with new and inspiring collaborations.
What is the state of the Swedish film industry today and what challenges are you facing as an emerging director?
Interesting talent is emerging. The challenge is to make relevant films that still can find an audience. And also to have commercial films that are relevant.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a new project that hopefully will go into production in autumn 2014. It’s a crime drama with great human depth.