Nordic Shorts: MUTE with Albert Bendix

Cinema Scandinavia: So, what’s a Danish actor doing in New York?

Albert Bendix: That’s a good question! I came here ten years ago after studying at the National Film School in Denmark. I worked in Denmark as an actor for eight years but I wanted to go to the United States to study in English. I studied theatre because I wanted to be able to perform in English. After studying for four years in Copenhagen, working for eight years, I needed to go back to the laboratory and study again. It helped me to become a much better actor because when you keep working with yourself you need to be able to do that. The American actors are really good at doing that; they go back to school once in a while and take classes.

CS: Do you feel it’s necessary for Scandinavian actors to be able to perform in English in order to be successful? 

AB: I think it’s how you define success. You can be a very successful in your own country and be known by all Scandinavians and never go abroad. If you want to go and be in an English-speaking television series, then of course it’s important. Some people have children and families and can’t have a career abroad, it’s a big choice for that person. You can be successful in Scandinavia speaking your language.

CS: Now we are here to talk about the short film Mute, which has been travelling around horror film festivals. What can you tell us about that?

AB: I haven’t done a character like that before! When I was going to audition for this, I found that the people making this documentary were quite young. They were so professional from the start at the audition and going to an audition where you have no lines it was about understanding the character. I know Kyle (the director) said that they liked that I was so grounded in the character so we went with that. I must say, we did it over a weekend and because of the weather we had to change everything so it was all done in one day. I didn’t think it would happen in one day, but they pulled it off! I was so impressed that they were this professional.

You don’t know that when you work with young film-makers in New York. There’s a lot of them that are not that great, but with these ones you could see they knew their product. The quality is good for a five-minute film and they are really ambitious and that is great.

Every character is a human being, so unless you want to something with defined characteristics like an angel or a devil, it’s really open to interpretation. For this naturalistic thing, you have to think about how this human being feels. Even psychopaths have sort of life.

CS: What has the reception to the short film been at these film festivals?

 AB: I’ve only been to a couple of the film festivals. What audiences like are shorts that are both scary and funny. What I heard was that people thought it was like a real horror! Some people who never watch horror films could enjoy it. In the British Colombia in Canada I got an award for Best Killer, which is pretty cool.

CS: Can you tell us about starting the Scandinavian American Theatre Company?

AB: I started it in 2009 because there was no one who knew all the contemporary playwrights from Scandinavia. Sure, they knew the classics like Ibsen and Strindberg, but they knew none of the living ones. That was a little niche that wasn’t in the city. It used to be a collective, but we moved from off-off-broadway to off-broadway and then I became one of the artistic directors of the company.

We use a lot of scripts that aren’t as well known in the US, even in Scandinavia. Scandianvians who don’t go to the theatre don’t go to these plays, either. This last season we have focused more on the gender issue. We will probably continue with that.

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.