Variety has been given exclusive access to the trailer for Itonje Søimer Guttormsen’s feature debut “Gritt,” which has its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival on Feb. 2, and then goes straight to Göteborg, where it plays in the Dragon competition. International sales are being handled by Mer Film, its production company. It is the first Norwegian film ever to play in competition at Rotterdam, and the first Norwegian film to play there in any section for 17 years.

The film follows Gry-Jeanette – played by Birgitte Larsen – who left Norway with the dream of becoming an actress, 17 years ago. Now, having failed to find either fame in Hollywood or notoriety in Berlin, she’s back, and calling herself Gritt. While her old friends from college have established successful careers on the Oslo theater circuit, Gritt is passionate about staging a “manifestation”: a radical collective ritual. But nobody seems to care.

Larsen – who Guttormsen describes as “an intelligent observer with an amazing sense of humor” – first portrayed Gritt in Guttormsen’s 2016 short film “Retrett.” Gritt has a “dream of a radical and poetic life in the service of art,” the writer-director says. “She is willing to sacrifice everything for what she believes in. Because what does she have to lose? If she does not ‘manifest’, she is nothing. Gritt’s fervor and actions attract more resistance than support, and she balances on an existential knife edge. Thankfully she is equipped with an unusually strong inner conviction, a kind of naïve creative obsession that keeps her alive. Where there is courage there is also hope.”

Guttormsen explains: “I want to challenge our notion of what it means to be a well-adjusted citizen, and what we consider a worthwhile life. Through a troubled woman who is constantly misunderstood, treated with suspicion or dismissed as irrelevant, I want to highlight the suffocating conditions of normality.”

Gritt provides an alternative female role model to those usually seen on screen, Guttormsen says. “There is a lack of stories about lonesome female wolves with a burning desire to express themselves, and I see it as my task to make a contribution.”

Guttormsen describes the “manifesto” guiding her approach to filmmaking as “More trust, less safety!” She says: “I see classical film production as a safe but limited Eden, and aim to break some borders and allow myself into the unknown where intuition and invention must lead, and new material may rise.” This leads her to give her actors a high level of trust in their interpretation of their roles. “The core of Gritt’s nature, her problems and inner potential, both positive and destructive, is something I keep within, that’s where I create from. I feel I know her true inner being, but I haven’t always got control of how she will act and react, and so I always give Birgitte Larsen a great amount of freedom to explore that when we develop the scenes,” she says.

The film’s producer is Maria Ekerhovd of Mer Film, which will release “Gritt” in Norway this year.

Lazy loaded image
“Gritt” actor Birgitte Larsen with writer-director Itonje Søimer Guttormsen. Courtesy of Ingrid Eggen