After helming critically acclaimed Swedish miniseries including “How Soon Is Now” and “The Laser Man,” Mikael Marcimain made his debut feature with “Call Girl,” winning the debut prize in Toronto in 2012 and 11 Swedish Guldbagge nominations, and also stirring controversy in Sweden for its unflattering depiction of the political establishment. Now Marcimain is back with “Gentlemen,” a period piece that opens the Stockholm Film Festival. The pic, about a young writer telling the story of the mysterious Morgan brothers, premiered in Toronto’s Special Presentation.
How would you describe “Gentlemen?”
“Gentlemen” is a genre-mixing tale, a proclamation of love to cinema, and to the untruthful joy of narration. Film noir, the French New Wave, Robert Altman and Ettore Scola have been some of my sources of inspiration.
“Gentlemen” is a classic in Swedish literature. The writer Klas Ostergren also wrote the script. Can you describe your working relationship?
I came in at an early stage and we worked closely during pre-production, but also through the shoot and the editing. He would write and I would sometimes ask for some new dialogue for the actors during rehearsals or ask about scenes and characters from the novel, and should those be incorporated. It was a very loose and joyful collaboration. To me it was important to keep the writing process alive until the final mix of the film.
Were you ever hesitant to adapt this book?
Of course. I guess it’s always a risk to adapt a popular novel and turn it into a film. And “Gentlemen” is quite epic and complex. But I could not resist the challenge. The cinematic possibilities that the novel offered were endless. Director’s heaven.
Many foreign spectators saw “Call Girl” partly as a critique against the Swedish welfare state. Is there a similar critique in “Gentlemen?”
Actually there is in many of Klas Ostergren’s novels, not the least “Gentlemen.” It is not only a vibrant and compelling story about the Morgan brothers, it is also a story about a vanished welfare state, political corruption and Swedish trading in arms during the World War II.
You worked as assistant director on “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”; has Tomas Alfredson’s film in any way affected your work on “Gentlemen?”
I don’t think so specifically, but of course every work you do see somehow consciously or unconsciously has an affect on what you do next. But ironically Klas had worked closely with Tomas on earlier projects and I think he is also very familiar with the novels of John le Carre.
Do you consider yourself a period-piece director?
No, although most of my work so far has been period pieces set in the ’60s or ’70s. It’s rather the result of interesting scripts. I also like how things looked and sounded in those days — the cars, the fashion, the music. But I would certainly not mind doing contemporary or futuristic films as well.
More and more interesting Swedish directors have emerged in recent years. A coincidence or do you see a specific pattern?
I don’t know, but I certainly feel a new generation on the move, which is very fun. It’s time for Swedish film to step up both visually and when it comes to content.
You’ve had many offers for a long time now, in Sweden and abroad. What is the next project? When will you make your first film in Hollywood?
(He laughs) No idea. I’m reading different scripts right now. We’ll see if something irresistible turns up. But of course it would be fun to do something outside Sweden.