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Absolution: Interview with Petri Kotwica

Cinema Scandinavia: How did you come up with the idea for Absolution?

Petri Kotwica: The starting point for writing this story was my own car accident a few years ago in 2011. In the middle of the summer I was driving on a road and for the first time in my life I fell asleep for just half a second. I ran off the road. Luckily enough I was the only one involved in that accident. During the recovery, which took 3-4 months, I had time to image what could’ve happened, and I think that was the exact moment that started this film.

CS: How important do you think it is to put some of yourself into your work?

PK: I don’t think it’s important to follow the storyline of your life, but I feel that something behind the story should be very personal and important to the filmmaker. Although I know this may sound a little mystifying I really feel like the film will only transfer to the audience if there lies some heavy importance for the filmmaker in between.

CS: How did you adapt your own personal story into the fictional story?

PK: When I had the idea and wrote the first synopsis I wanted to involve a female colleague to co-write with me. She is in a relationship with a priest so that’s probably why the profession here is a priest. The pregnancy was my idea because I wanted the main character to be in a situation where you could not really blame her or him for anything they do. They are just trying to do their best. While I like to watch mainstream movies I don’t want to spend years making something that contains a clear evil bad and good side. In my point of view the world just isn’t like that. We tried to make it that in every scene the audience can somehow relate to the decisions the characters make.

CS: And have audience’s responded well?

PK: I think so, yes. I was in Belgium last week and the film got a lot of attention. I’m happy to say that our idea seems to have paid off for the audience. In my film Black Ice I started this agenda. Instead of having a clear antagonist and a clear-minded protagonist wins, I tried to have a more symmetrical point of view. I started that with Black Ice and this film is very much the same genre. It contains two strong female characters, which is also a mission of mine. I wanted to give women something meaningful to act out rather than have men do everything.

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CS: So you like to make your audience think?

PK: I would really love to. Of course, I’m aware that there is collateral damage when you start breaking the rules – you have to count some of the audience out. I started by messing with the three act conventional paradigm of the structure and then I made sure there was no clear opponent. Then you raise the point of view of the other characters so they are just as equal as the main character.

CS: We see the priest and his wife dressed in white, and the other family are heavy metal loving punks. Was this contrast intentional?

PK: That aspect actually arose from something that is very important to me – music. I wanted to have the common denominator of the ladies to be music, and we chose those kinds of opposites. I love church organs and am always looking for an excuse to use one. I tried to have it as a metaphor of having a family who should by nature know right from wrong and have a high moral value. Yet good people can do wrong things.

CS: Do you have any projects in the works?

PK: The latest project I have started is one I’m doing with the two female women who star in this film. We meet regularly and it will be critical to all of us. We enjoyed working with each other so much we are looking for an excuse to work together again.

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.