Cannes Film Festival
24th Cinéfondation 2021
A dark comedy about two close friends who get into trouble at their job, forcing them to rethink their lives. Daniel wants to be independent, while Emil seeks security. Suddenly, Daniel has to choose between his best friend and his freedom.
Hi Óskar, thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been keeping during these strange Covid times?
It's weird to say but it's been quite nice and productive staying at home the last year and a half, especially in the beginning of the pandemic. Our two year old son could still attend kindergarten here in Denmark. Me and my girlfriend could work from home and be pretty productive and inspired. But as the winter months came and we hadn't seen our family in Iceland for a long time, it became just dreadful to stay at home and not be able to visit anyone. But now things seem to go back to normal.
Have you been inspired to take on any new creative opportunities?
I love the writing process. It's where you can dream and get lost in a universe with characters. I always try to keep at least two projects in the air, I have two films that I've been writing and the third one knocking on the door.
Congratulations on Free Men having its World Premiere at the 2021 Cinéfondation, what does it mean to you to have your film part of this year's festival?
I'm extremely thankful and honoured that the film got selected. I could not imagine a better start for the crew and I - and our careers – than the Cannes film festival. Since the selection has been announced, the film has had a lot of exposure. And I just can't wait to go to Cannes and meet all the other filmmakers from all around the world and see their films.
Can you tell me how Free Men came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?
The whole premise came from an experience I had a few years ago, in Iceland over the holidays. I was picked up by my grandfather in Iceland to take a look at a clogged toilet inside illegal housing where a young couple from Lithuania was living. We used an air compressor to unclog the toilet but it didn't end up as well as we thought it would. It just moved the problem to another house. After that I thought about how ironic that was and, in hindsight, funny. That became the premise in our film.
The process of writing it came first of foremost from having fun with the two characters on paper. The first thing I had written was quite a long scene and it was just so much fun to write it. Then more scenes followed. There was no story yet, just random scenes with these characters, but I knew where I was headed with those characters and the universe thematically. So I sat down with my co-writer Sune Kofod and we started to talk and work on those ideas.
What was the hardest scene for you to film?
The fight scene inside the lager at the middle of the film where things really escalated in the story. It was the most complex scene practically and we had to shoot it in a single day. I was really nervous because it's such a pivotal scene for the whole film and if we couldn't get the scene then and there, we wouldn't have a film. But the cast and crew were in such a fighting spirit throughout the whole day that we were able to get it. Everything worked. It was a long and a hard day, though.
When working on a project like this how important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking?
It's the essence of filmmaking. I always look at it like being in a band. When I was younger I played in bands with friends and in different musical projects but I always wanted to create that same feeling working with a film crew as when you are playing live music with people. Together we push the project further.
As a writer/director do you allow yourself much flexibility with your screenplay or do you like to stick to what has been written?
Structurally I don't want to change anything in the editing or shooting. Not adding or taking anything away from the script. However, I’m always open to each scene to find its life on set. I typically leave space for the actors to play inside each scene and sometimes these open spaces create something very interesting. But I firmly believe the freedom to play comes from being prepared.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I always loved watching films from an early age. Where I grew up there was no cinema nearby so every weekend I got money from my parents to rent a VHS. But thinking I could one day do a film was just so unreal and far fetched. So I never thought about it seriously until I got to high school. That's where I started to write stories and think about them. I didn't shoot my first film until I was around 20 years old and I didn't become serious about it until I was 23-24 years old.
"I firmly believe that deep down in all of us there is a need to discuss or understand something about ourselves as humans."
Between your first short films and Free Men what would you say have been the most valuable lessons about filmmaking you’ve discovered?
It's becoming aware of themes in stories. It's totally fine not knowing what the hell you are or want to say at a certain point in the process and just be driven with the passion of doing a film, but underneath it all, at some point, you need to at least be aware of your theme. Because that becomes the heart in every film. Sometimes this theme is right in front of you without you even knowing it. I firmly believe that deep down in all of us there is a need to discuss or understand something about ourselves as humans. It's just a matter of becoming aware of the theme and putting into sound and picture.
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Be honest with yourself and the people around you. Make the film you want to watch. Don't think about what you think people want. Be resilient.
And finally, what do you want audiences will take away from Free Men?
If people have a nice experience watching the film and at the same time make people reflect and raise some awareness on their own life i think we have succeeded with the film.