A trained projectionist but self-taught director, Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken’s third feature, “Cave,” closes the Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund. It will be the 27-year-old Norwegian’s third film in two years — and he has another three to come.
“Of course it is a question of coincidences, but also of a will — and a need — to tell these stories. As long as you thrive with what you do, you can have a rather high level of production,” said Dahlsbakken, who started making films when he was 8 years old.
“My best friend’s father had a video camera, which we used to make slapstick comedies and horror thrillers. We took it very seriously and spent a lot of time working on it,” he said. At 19, he tried to get into the Norwegian Film School in Lillehammer but was rejected as he was “too young.”
“In retrospect, I couldn’t agree more,” said Dahlsbakken, who took courses in media science and film history at university, then “learned by doing,” directing several shorts — including “The Time in Between” (2009), and “The Devil’s Ballroom” (2012), which toured the festival circuit.
“I see production as my film school, with everything I learned and all the mistakes I made,” explained Dahlsbakken, who in 2015 premiered his first feature, the family drama “Returning Home,” which won the top prize at the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck.
Originally, “Returning Home” was going to be a short, but the helmer realized that it would work better as a feature. “When I [got support] by a regional film fund, it became a full-length production, produced on a $145,000 budget. So was my next film, ‘Late Summer,’ which I made with the same crew and budget,” he said. Dahlsbakken has also made “The Outlaws,” which he describes as “a timeless Bonnie and Clyde story with several musical elements,” also based on real-life events in 1926, when two tramps kill two policemen after a failed train robbery and went on the run.
“Cave,” starring Heidi Toini, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Benjamin Helstad and Ingar Helge Gimle, is an adventure thriller about a group of former military elites who set out to explore an uncharted abyss. It was based on a real-life event. “I got the idea when I read about two Finns who were killed when they were [exploring around Norwegian town] Mo i Rana — it is obviously the most dangerous expedition you can make, to investigate underground. I developed the project in six months, and again made the film with the same crew,” he said
This autumn, Dahlsbakken will start principal photography for “Cave 2,” the second in a planned trilogy. Production will continue during the winter — “it is a winter film” — but unlike “Cave,” it will be action comedy with Western elements.
At Haugesund’s New Nordic Films co-production and financing market for works-in-progress, Nordic Genre Boost, he will introduce his sixth feature, “Substitute,” a sci-fi thriller scripted by Jan Trygve Røyneland (Erik Poppe’s “The King’s Choice”).
Produced by Finn Gjerdum for Oslo-based Paradox, it is set in 60-70 years in the future, when it is possible to create human substitutes, when a person ddies, complete with most of the memories of the deceased. Dahlsbakken said he is “very inspired from the 1970s’ U.S. thrillers.”
Pictured above: “Cave”