“Norwegian films are very rarely comedies,” notes Synnove Horsdal, producer of the Tridens First Feature Film entry “Staying Alive.” It might also be argued that festival competition entries are rarely comedies either. Directed by Charlotte Bom, the film stars Agnes Kittelsen as Marianne, a woman in her thirties who has been with her husband Hakon (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) for 15 years. They have two children and live in domestic bliss – until Marianne discovers that Hakon has been having an affair with a work colleague. “It’s a very recognizable comedy,” Horsdal notes wryly. “It’s a story about divorce.”
An experienced producer, whose recent credits include Liv Ullmann’s take on August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie,” Horsdal initially approached Blom a few years ago with the idea of developing a feature.
“Initially I contacted her because she’s done some amazing short films,” Horsdal recalls. “The first one I saw was in a Norwegian short film festival; a lot of them were very similar, and then one of Charlotte’s films came up, and it was totally out of the blue – a mixture of different genres, very surprising, and really funny as well. It stood out so much. She’s an exceptional director and a very good writer too.”
Blom was busy with another project at the time, but when that stalled, she came back to Horsdal, who raised the finance for “Staying Alive.”
“It’s a comedy with a lot of drama and a drama with a lot of comedy,” Horsdal explains, “and, in my opinion, comedy is one of the hardest things to do. Quite often you start off with a lot of humor and end up with a drama, because humor is such a difficult thing to pull off. But sometimes it’s not viewed as valuable as the traditional serious arthouse drama. One of Charlotte’s goals is to go as deep as you can and as high as you can in comedy. The idea is to have a range of emotions: when things are at the worst, the film should be at its funniest, and the opposite too.”
She adds, “Charlotte is interested in investigating how you can make the worst moments for the character – when they’ve gone to the bottom – funny and emotional. She’s very good at portraying at very recognizable human behavior with a bit of humor, and not making it melodramatic. She tries to do very emotional things without going into that.”