Norwegian-born and Scotland-based director Joern Utkilen has teamed with producers Ruben Thorkildsen and Isak Edmundsson for Utkilen’s first feature film, “Lake Over Fire,” which weighed into the 2017 Works in Progress section of the Goteborg Festival’s Nordic Film Market, Scandinavia’s biggest film mart, as one of its buzzed-up titles.
First-look excerpts of “Lake Over Fire” will screen Friday at the Nordic Film Market with the film’s team looking to secure a sales agent or distribution.
Thorkildsen and Etmundsson, of Ape&Bjorn, already worked together on the 2013-14 children’s TV series “The Games.” Eymundsson also acted as producer on Utkilin’s previous short “Earth Over Wind.” Utkilen has been refining his knack for dark comedy since his controversial 2008 short “Little Red Hoodie,” which earned him a BAFTA Scotland nomination. “Lake Over Fire” is the spiritual, if not directly related, third film of a series following his shorts “Wind Over Lake” and “Earth Over Wind.”
The film itself delivers a comical slant on the typical Western genre with fairy tale elements influencing both the visual style and world-building. In excerpts viewed, bright colors flow through the costumes as well as the trailer park sets, giving them a story-book feel. The film’s plot is said to describe a more typical Western arc, featuring staples such as a drunk mayor, a corrupt aristocrat and a group of “cowboys” riding around on mopeds: Traditional western fair. Utkilen sat down to speak with Variety about his new film and his style of filmmaking.
This piece is being classified as a comedic Western but that seems restrictive for a film like this. How would you describe your movie?
I would call it a fairy tale western. It’s a bit like a fairy tale in that things in the film represent something else. That (classification) is a bit more accurate.
Typical Westerns usually have a fairly monotone color palette but your film is full of bright colors. How important was it to you to get all these colors in the film?
It’s actually something I do in a lot of my films. In some ways, I see some of the films I make as a nursery. You have these adults who behave a little bit like kids. That’s where all the colors come from. It’s a bit like adults living out who they are inside in the way kids do but adults tend to hide. I like to portray that side of people.
When you mix genres you can find influences in all kinds of places. Where did you look for inspiration when writing this film?
This film started off a bit differently. All the characters are based on their actors. The film was meant to be inspired by the actors and conversations we had about their own lives. It is also the actors thoughts and concerns about today’s world that inspires the themes in the film
Two of your shorts have similar titles to this piece, “Earth over Wind” and “Wind Over Lake.” How are those films related to this one?
Those two films are made in the same way. It started when I was in college studying for my masters and I wanted to make a film whose story was made from intuition or train-of-thought. I was sitting and analyzing and over time it became a film of loosely connected scenes. This film is a bit more structured but was meant to be made in the same way. In the end, we wrote the script out completely but the characters still represent the actors in an abstract sort of way.
Norwegian filmmaking is not necessarily commercial but there have been a number of very successful commercial directors who have come from Norway.
I might not be the best to comment on that as I have been in Scotland so I am a bit removed but I would say that to the contrary there has been a scheme called ‘New Paths’ which has lead to a lot of interesting experimental work coming out. It extends from shorts and docs to feature films. I think I see some interesting new creative ways of making films that might be commercial in the end, but I would say they are slightly different to what was there in the past, something new.