Nordic Film Days: Dagur Kári & Gunnar Jónsson

CS: Can you explain the Fusi character to us?

DK: Even though Fusi, the main character is maybe not like an average person – he’s far away from the common man but nevertheless I think it’s really easy to identify with him. Most people have experience with maybe kind of being stuck in their lives or maybe even having accepted that this is life – life does not have more to offer. There’s always this magical opportunity of coincidence or fate. Entering your life and chasing it. Even though at first he would seem far from away from human beings, actually he is closer than you think.

CS:Gunnar, how did it feel to have Dagur write the script just for you?

GJ: It was quite surprising because we did it in a very sentimental way – he calls me and says “Hey Gunnar, I wrote a script for you and I’m not going to make it unless you do it” so I said “err… okay”

CS: Gunnar, you are a comedian in Iceland and that’s something we don’t hear a lot of. Did your comedy help you with Fusi, or did you have to take a different path?

GJ: If you take comedy it has to be sweet and sour – this human element. Pain and everything. And it has to be funny. That’s the most funny – when you get into the core of someone. There’s this funny scene in Fusi where he has to talk to the police officer and explain himself because it never occurred to him that he was bad. All of a sudden he’s sitting in front of a police officer trying to explain he was playing mum and dad. There were little sparkles like that in the script and I liked it because it was like that. Very deep and very hurting at times, but also this comical side which it wasn’t intended to be – it ended up like that.

DK: Fusi is completely unaware of the comic potential in all the scenes and yet for the viewer its comical.

CS: There’s been a lot of talk about the new Icelandic wave. How does it feel to be a part of this?

DK: I mean it’s definitely a very positive thing to be a part of an environment that is able to produce so much quality and at the same time it’s kind of difficult to explain. There’s no simple explanation as to why it happened. You just have to surf on it.

CS: Being part of this new Icelandic wave, how does it feel when you’re working at the National Film School of Denmark?

DK: At the moment I’m the head of the director’s program at the National Film School of Denmark. I used to be a student at the same school and I really like the school so it’s a good feeling to come back. For me it’s like going back to school because in being a teacher for one year I’ve learned more than being a student for four years. It’s really inspiring at this stage in your career to go back to school.

CS: What can Icelandic cinema offer to an international audience? What is special about the Icelandic films?

DK: It’s always hard to speak in general terms. There are obviously some similarities but there are also some unique films. I think every filmmaker has his own agenda so to group all Icelandic film – I think it’s kind of difficult. Looking at the films of French noir, they all have completely different things to offer but they are all grouped together anyway.

CS: What is it like to be part of one of the two main films released in Iceland?

GJ: It’s great being a part of it but it’s so exhausting. All it’s all fun and pleasant. I’m very happy being at this stage where they are popular.

DK: Filming Fusi was not the last time you went to America but it was the beginning of many trips to the airport.

CS: How has your relationship been doing this film? At the screening you talked a bit about how you were in doubt if you should take this role. What was it like to do a film together? Are you pleased with the outcome?

GJ: Yeah very much so because I trusted Dagur every way. I was just a worker – he was the foreman.

DK: I think it was a mutual trust and that was the essence. We hardly spoke about anything – not before the shooting and not during the shooting because we could sense that we both understood the character and in a way it felt wrong to start to verbalise it – it was this silent agreement and it was also liberating because making a film is a difficult task and you have to explain yourself, analyse yourself and verbalise yourself to a degree but it almost feels unpleasant and unnatural for the process. For us it was the total opposite – I almost feel like we never spoke about. We just knew we were on the same frequency.

CS: How did you shape Sjofn as a character?

DK: I just tuned into what fascinates me about the presence of women. That’s where it boils down to. I think he is a unique presence on screen and I just tuned in on that. It’s like having an old transistor radio and turning the button and there’s a lot of noise until you hit the right frequency. It’s just finding the right frequency for the character and the story. It’s not calculated – it’s based on intuition and what the character is trying to say.

CS: Why did you create her as a character with a lot of loss?

DK: I really hate love stories – and I always get frustrated when I realise that stories need that element. You have to listen to what the story needs – and love was the ultimate challenge for Fusi – because it’s sex. Once I realised that this was happening I tried to do everything to put a twist on the romantic plot. I wanted to set up the expectations for the audience that it was going to be a romantic comedy but then it takes a u turn. Characters are always about contradictions. The way we read Sjofn in the beginning I found it really interesting that she would show a totally different side and most importantly it’s very important that it will not end up as a love story but instead is about Fusi taking a new step, a new direction in his life. It’s not about love but rather his personal growth.

CS: Did you think her character had Fusi’s character grow in herself?

DK: Yeah definitely. He’s faced with a situation hat he’s never been in before and a situation in many ways is unthinkable for him. He actually realises that he has the strength to deal with it and it gives him the confidence with his own life.

Sandra Fijn van Draat

Sandra Fijn van Draat is pursuing her passion for film making by studying Multiplatform- Storytelling and Production in Århus, Denmark.