”Key House Mirror,” by young but established Danish director Michael Noer opened the Goteborg Film Festival, played Haugesund’s Nordic Focus. The film takes place at a senior citizens’ home in central Copenhagen. Starring two legendary Scandinavian actors, Danish Grand Old Dame Ghita Norby and Swede Sven Wollter, it is an intensely intimate drama, yet made with a similar tone of raw realism as the director’s previous films.
In 2010 Noer’s debut film, ”R,” co-helmed with ”Hijacking” director Tobias Lindholm, won Goteborg’s Nordic Dragon Award. In 2013, Noer returned with a brutal gangster drama, “Northwest,” landing the festival’s Fipresci award at the same fest. Like his previous films, “Key House Mirror,” which is produced by Nordisk Film and sold by TrustNordisk, also screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival.
The director talked about love and death in a film stemming from the relation to his own grandmother.
How does “Key House Mirror” compare to your earlier films?
In a way this is a more personal film than my previous work. I wrote a contract with my grandmother, saying, “I promise you’ll never go to an old people’s home.” I shouldn’t have done that, because it was a promise I had to break. That still haunts me and it gives me a perspective on the world we live in today. None of us expect to go such a residence, and nobody wants to go there. Being so stupid to make a contract with her led to this film. At least this time I didn’t felt I was sticking my nose into an environment that was new to me, but rather describing my own family relations, and my own subconscious fear.
A death fear?
I think it’s more related to my caretaking responsibility. I mean “R” is a film on how society treats and takes care of criminals in a prison. And “Northwest” is very much about how young men are drawn to something they know is wrong, because they’re missing some male role models. Even though this film takes place in a nursing home, it actually has a lot in common with my previous films. My approach has been the same. By mixing professional actors with real-life care takers and nursing home residents, I am aiming for the same realism, just in different surroundings. As a genre movie I would define this film as a coming-of-age love story, about people who learn to transcend something new, to obtain love, not only love to someone else but also oneself.
After “R” and “Northwest,” people were perhaps expecting something else of you. Are you interested in making films abroad?
There have been some offers, and I’m reading scripts all the time. But I’m also looking for realism; I have to stick to my method. I love watching “Harry Potter” but for me there has to be the spontaneity, the energy between absolute extreme realism and the actors. Ghita Norby is also playing the lead in Bille August’s film ”Silent Heart,” prized at San Sebastian last year and also screened at Goteborg; and Sven Wollter played in August’s 2001 “A Song for Martin,” films that share thematic similarities, old people facing death.
Comparing your previous experiences with less established actors, what was it like to work with two celebrated veterans?
It was a great joy being with Ghita talking about Ingmar Bergman, and with Sven talking about Tarkovsky. Only this time we did it completely different. Like having a super tool and then using it another way. Two persons totally focused, with lots of ideas on how to work, but also very eager to jump into my way of filmmaking. Previously I’ve started from scratch, whereas this time we could build from something that already existed. Ghita was an obvious choice. And with Sven, he has such a natural masculinity, like, “Nobody’s gonna put me down.” He’s like John McClane in “Die Hard” – my favorite movie of all time – and he’s even worked with John McTiernan.
And yet it’s still a film that affords hope…
If people conceive a positive message at the end, I’m very proud, because that’s what we’ve aimed for. With this film, I want people to move closer to each other, and to take better responsibility. Without adding flashback and dream sequences. The biggest compliment would be if people came out and said: “Oh my God, it’s a love story.” Because I really wanted to open it up at the end, whereas with my previous films I really close them down.