Two small-time crooks Heiko and Marcello end up in the hut of Mr. van den Brink. Having fled the police they hide in a garden house but then wake up with their hands and feet bound. From now on the owner of their hiding place, Mr. van den Brink, is calling the shots.
Hi Björn thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?
The lockdown is crazy. But mostly in a positive way. At first everything was really calm but then after a while friends and colleagues started reaching out to each other asking "Shouldn't we do that project we've been talking about? Now that we have so much time and all..?"
So the result of the lockdown is me working on three self commissioned / experimental projects simultaneously, sitting up all day and night... Quite a creative boost in other words.
As a filmmaker is this experience providing you with some creative inspiration?
Definitely. First and foremost time is a factor. Having time to think and reflect on things is what sparks my creativity. So I like the slow pace of things around me right now.
But of course there´s also the aspect of our civilization maybe being more fragile than we thought as well as the fact that globalization has to be reframed.
Your film In The Hut of Mr. Van Den Brink has been selected for the 15th ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?
This means a great deal and it's actually one of the most important if not the most important festival where my film has been shown so far. I´m also glad it´s being acknowledged at Hessenfilm back here in Frankfurt, the institution that funded the film. Which in return increases my credibility as a scriptwriter and filmmaker.
In The Hut of Mr. Van Den Brink has already had an amazing festival run did you imagine you would get this type of reaction for your film?
I was very convinced of this film from the start and had high expectations for it. I actually thought it would do well. Then during it´s festival run I´ve seen a lot of great short movies by other filmmakers from all over the world which gave quite some perspective. It made me realize that I´m not the only person out there telling a story and that competition is on a very high level. I also gained insight into how I can improve my craftsmanship. So you could say I started out on a high horse and came home without it. Instead I´m humbled (and wiser) now.
What do you think it is about In The Hut of Mr. Van Den Brink that has connected with festival audiences so much?
Well the story is very tight and keeps you on a hook. The are lots of unexpected turns and you never know what´s going to happen next. That in combination with the authentic acting I think possibly strikes a certain tone. Speaking of tone, composer Simon Spurriers music obviously adds to the overall experience and intensity of the story.
Can you tell me a little bit about In The Hut of Mr. Van Den Brink, how did this film come about?
It started out with a newspaper article I read about a landlord of an allotment house who killed his three tenants over a trivial offence. He beat them to death with a wooden stick and never showed he slightest remorse. I was deeply struck by this degree of coldness and irrationality. So in order to understand the person better or at least to deal with the matter I wanted to portray this guy. During that time I rented a small studio in the Frankfurt red light district. Every day I met the strangest characters outside and was equally fascinated by the different directions life can take you. After a while the newspaper article and my experiences in the red light district intertwined and led to the idea of two small time crooks ending up in the hut of a psychotic landlord.
What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
You can read this story in two ways: On one level it's a crime story or a thriller if you will. But on another level it´s also a philosophical reflection on the subject of fate. Is there such a thing as fate? Or do we have a free will? That´s a question I´m very intrigued by.
What was the experience like working with your actors Rainer Kühn, Sebastian Muskalla & Dirk Schnabel?
It was a blast. Rainer Kühn is a highly respected actor within the theatre scene and he has an engagement at the Wiesbaden State Theatre. I had so much respect for him that I was almost intimidated in the beginning. Sebastian Muskalla is a colleague of his and they have been working together previously within the theatre context. Dirk Schnabel on the other hand had no previous acting experience what so ever and was casted directly from the street. I think this mix works beautifully and gives the movie a lot of its authenticity.
What was the most challenges scene for you to film?
In the opening scene there are two black chicken walking around on a street. That scene was very important to me and it´s important for the whole movie, setting an eerie tone from the start. We had contacted a chicken farmer several months prior to shooting who told us that the chicken are hard to train but he will give it a try. He put a lot of effort in getting them to relax and stay at one place. After several weeks of practicing he told us they are ready now. But the day before filming that scene the farmer calls us and says he has bad news: He's very sorry but during the night the fox was there and killed all chicken in the farm, including "ours".
"Film reaches beyond the spoken word."
Looking back what would you say has been the biggest lesson you've taken from making In the hut of Mr. van den Brink?
Be elaborate during preparations and give the actors more time. Unlike in commercial projects the scenes and the acting in a dramatic movie need time to enfold. I will go much slower next time, shooting longer scenes.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I studied graphic design in Stockholm and started experimenting with film during that time. It was mostly visuals and short story-fragments bound together with animations. What I always liked about this media is that is has so many layers and that you can express things that can´t be expressed by using words. Film reaches beyond the spoken word.
How much has your style and approach to your films changed since your debut short?
I'm much more interested in storytelling now than I was in the beginning. I try less and less to "hide" behind the visuals or the visual experiments of a movie. Instead I focus on the flow and facets of the story as well as the acting.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given when you started out?
That in film there should be a constant forward movement in order for the viewer not to loose interest and that it's not so much about what you say but more about how you say it. I got this advice from Swedish director Kjell Grede.
Do you have any tips or advice to offer filmmakers about to make their first film?
Don't be afraid of being personal. Of telling a personal story. You can be very personal without becoming private. Each personal experience or feeling has a universal core that makes your story relevant to every one.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently developing a dance experience taking place in VR, working together with a team of talented programmers and animators from both Germany and Sweden. Aside from that I work on an experimental video installation together with a Swedish colleague of mine. And last but not least I'm about to shoot a (very short) essay film in collaboration with DOP Knut Adass, who also shot In the hut of Mr. van den Brink, which I'm really looking forward to.
Oh yes, and I'm writing on a script for a feature film, in case I forgot to mention..!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from In The Hut of Mr. Van Den Brink?
That it's worth questioning fate.