×

Director, Artist Anna Odell on Exploring Identity in ‘X&Y’

In Anna Odell’s much-anticipated ”X&Y,” which world premieres as the opening film at the Stockholm Film Festival, the director also plays the leading role alongside Mikael Persbrandt, one of Sweden’s most renowned actors. Odell spoke to Variety about the film.

Odell is one of Sweden’s best-known contemporary artists and, since her directorial feature debut – “The Reunion” in 2013 – also a sought after name in Swedish cinema. The film won the top prize in Critics’ Week at the Venice Film Festival, and two Guldbagge Awards, Sweden’s top movie honor, for film and screenplay. In “The Reunion,” Odell drew inspiration from her own life as someone with mental health issues, in order to raise questions about bullying, school hierarchies and power structures in society.

In “X&Y” Odell and Persbrandt play different versions of themselves, together with six alter egos – all played by well-known Swedish and Danish actors, among them Sophie Gråbøl, Trine Dyrholm, Vera Vitali and Jens Albinus. They are gathered in a studio with the purpose of casting light on public images of themselves, and exploring situations both playful and unpleasant, including seduction to childbearing.

Odell plays an artist with no boundaries, Anna, opposite Persbrandt, the scandalous but sensitive actor and alpha-male Mikael; she is mostly in the dominant position.

Why did she choose herself as a focus for the film?
“I use myself in order to explore and to understand people, events and attitudes. In that sense there is no difference to my previous film. I have already got my feet wet, so to speak, but still it was equally challenging this time since I worked with many well-known actors,” Odell says.

Is “X&Y” a more playful film than “The Reunion”?
“Yes, since Mikael [Persbrandt] and I are playing with our public personas. ‘The Reunion’ was more of a serious study of these structures, where I used actors to protect the actual persons. In this film Mikael and I play with the media’s representation of ourselves, at the same time as we’re mixing different sides of ourselves – the one we are, the one we’ve been and the one we would like to be.”

The film touches on issues relating to #metoo. For example, the director (played by you) is threatened to be put on trial after a sexual assault. What has the #metoo movement meant for the film?
“The film was already in progress and I had already worked with the topics that #metoo raised, so it didn’t have any crucial influence. I felt assured with the material I had; at the time I had worked on the project for two years, and #metoo became sort of a mirror of that. But, of course, I was, as were most people in the industry, affected.”

To what degree is “X&Y” an attempt to depict a female director in a position traditionally much more attributed to a male director?
“Of course the idea of exploring the image of the privileged artist’s boundless behavior has been a central part of the film. Male or female? Historically this behavior has been male, just take a look at Bergman, or other men in strong power positions, and it is obvious how this becomes a part of their work.”

“I work in an exploratory way, and what I’m trying to explore is how we relate to each other and the world. What, outside ourselves, do we know with certainty? If I’d known from the start which result I wanted to achieve, it wouldn’t have been an exploration. And what I’m actually trying to explore is the norms of society. I work with our fear of weakness.”

What do you hope to achieve with “X&Y”?
“I hope that people who see the film will get a more critical view of the ’reality’ presented in media.”

“X&Y,” produced by the leading Swedish production company B-Reel Films, will be released in Sweden on Nov. 23.

More Film

  • Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Nominations 2019

    'Biggest Little Farm' Nabs Seven Critics' Choice Documentary Awards Nominations

    “The Biggest Little Farm” leads nominees for the fourth annual Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, with seven bids, followed by “Apollo 11” and “They Shall Not Grow Old.” “One Child Nation” received five nominations. The winners will be presented their awards at a gala, hosted by Property Brothers’ Jonathan Scott, on Nov. 10 at BRIC in [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Abominable Animated Movie

    Vietnam Pulls DreamWorks' 'Abominable' Over Contested Territorial Claims

    Vietnam has banned DreamWorks Animation’s new co-produced feature “Abominable” from its cinemas due to a scene involving a map that depicts China’s contested territorial claims in the South China Sea. The move comes as U.S. entertainment firms such as the NBA, Disney and gaming firm Activision Blizzard are under intense fire from U.S. fans, activists [...]

  • The Captain

    China Box Office: 'The Captain' Flies to $340 Million After Two Weeks on Release

    Patriotic thriller “The Captain” held on to the top spot at the Chinese box office for the second weekend, again leading from propaganda omnibus “My People, My Country.” “The Captain,” also known as “The Chinese Pilot” earned $34.9 million according to consultancy Artisan Gateway, for a two-week cumulative of $343 million. The cumulative for “People,” [...]

  • CGV movie theatre Seoul South KoreaCGV

    Korean Law to Limit Film Releasing Monopolies

    The Korean government is to make it illegal to show a single film on more than 50% of screens nationwide. The move is intended to prevent “screen monopolies by blockbuster films” and to “address unfair competition practices in the film industry.” The Ministry of Culture announced on Monday that it will revise the existing Promotion [...]

  • Jason Flemyng, Casting Director Lucinda Syson

    Jason Flemyng, Lucinda Syson Launch Film and TV Indie The Kernel Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jason Flemyng, fellow actor Ben Starr, casting director Lucinda Syson, and finance expert Cristiano D’Urso are opening The Kernel Factory, a new U.K.-based film and TV indie. Flemyng has a long list of movie credits including “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” and Guy Ritchie’s “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking [...]

  • Hache

    ‘Hache’ Creator, Director Discuss Netflix’s Next Spanish Original, Dropping Nov. 1

    MADRID — On Nov 1 Netflix will drop its fifth Spanish original series, 1960’s-set drug smuggling drama “Hache,” produced by Madrid’s Weekend Studio for the platform. Created by Verónica Fernández and directed by Jorge Torregrossa (“La vida inesperada,” “Cocaine Coast,” “Velvet Collection”), “Hache” tells the story of Helena (Adriana Ugarte), a prostitute who ends up [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content