The Daily Pluk goes behind the scenes and asks the directors for their inspirations, the creative process and how their films where made. In the case of Kasper Rune Larsen’s Denmark that brings us a bit closer to the Danish youth, who may be on a path to adulthood but still fuck up plenty. While Denmark is fiction, it also partly tells director Kasper Rune Larsen’s own story: “It’s not like anything has really changed. That’s pretty scary.”
An “anti-tearjerker”, that’s how director Kasper Rune Larsen describes his low-key feature debut about unwanted teen pregnancy and the inevitability of growing up. Denmark starts with a positive pregnancy test and a quickie between Josephine and Norge. So Josephine’s unborn baby must be Norge’s, right? But Larsen leaves parental doubts to the wayside for the most part. He’s more interested in how this new couple slowly trades in their youthful innocence for something more constructive. Although the question remains whether they’ll keep straight on this path to adulthood.
Josephine’s pregnancy is a dramatic turn in the lives of Josephine and Norge, but Denmark doesn’t dramatize it. Why?
“Our world is so heavily organized that there is an apathy in a lot of youth culture in the western world. When teens are faced with issues they have a tendency to just take the piss out of them and be like: ‘Whatever, everything is going to be fine’, because we’re living in this world of social insurance and health insurance. Everything is taken care of for us. For me, as well; the story and the characters are an exploration of my own teen years, my young life.”
Your previous short Epoch also deals with running away from responsibilities in your teens. What keeps drawing you back to that period?
“In both films the theme is: ‘When should you make the choice of growing up?’ In Denmark you can see them living carelessly, but they’re also on a slow path to adulthood. When you’re entering your twenties you’re supposed to grow up and slow down on the drinking and the promiscuity. But when you’ve been introduced to that at a young age it’s difficult to give it up.”
You paint a very recognizable portrait of that, especially through the loose, almost documentary-like camera style.
“My previous shorts were more stylized, like music videos, especially Epoch. I wanted it to go fast. With Denmark I wanted to do something else. I get kind of fed up with these sort of pretentious ways of telling the story, so I wanted to tell the story about people who are just basically fucking up every day and having a good time doing it. I wanted you to become part of this gang for an hour and a half. To do that, the camera stays on their eye-level. The cameraman didn’t exactly know what was going to happen in every scene, so he had to keep track of whatever was happening like he was part of the gang. So you become their friend; you’re there.”
It’s impressive how good Denmark looks considering all this improvisation, especially if you take into consideration that DoP Claus Haagedorn never shot a feature film before.
“Yeah, he never shot fiction; he did some skateboard video’s. That’s why I figured he would be perfect to do this. He knows the environment, he knows what’s going on. I needed a cinematographer to fit in and become part of this group of friends.”
Speaking of friendship: you drew from your own life to create this story. How do you relate to Norge and Josephine?
“Norge is pretty much a reflection of myself, mixed with first-time actor Jonas Lindegaard Jacobsen. I met him at a bar and we started talking. We kind of have the same upbringing, we became friends, and he just took an acting course so I encouraged him to audition. As for Josephine… No, I have to tell you aboyut Jacob Skyggebjerg first, who plays Norge’s stoner friends Myre. I actually met him at a birthday party when I was 16. He was this weird-ass kid running around barefoot and nobody at the party knew who he was. He didn’t seem to fit in but I really liked him. Now he’s a rapper and a novelist and he writes for some major newspapers in Denmark. But he’s still a real misfit in the cultural elite in Denmark. I wanted to use that energy and his way of rambling.”
What about Josephine? Actress Frederikke Dahl Hansen is one of the few experienced actors in the film.
“My original idea was finding a girl who hadn’t done film before, but after casting over a hundred teenage girls I thought it couldn’t be done. I’m a big fan of Frederikke so I gave her a call and she read the script. It was like eleven pages. Her boyfriend at the time said she shouldn’t do it; she just won a Bodil, the biggest award you can win in Denmark for being an actor, so she could pick whatever she wanted to do. But she felt the story and the energy of this one. So we were really lucky, she’s this burst of energy that comes into Norge’s life. While the boys mostly play versions of themselves, she’s really acting, because there isn’t a big resemblance between herself and Josephine. ”
The film partly reflects on your own youth. Does it also reflect the making of the film itself? Could you call this your own path towards adulthood?
“The difficult thing I think is that it’s hard for me to express these feelings in other ways than to try and make films about it. So I’ve expressed some of them in Denmark, but I don’t think I’ve learned anything from making this film. I’m still at this crossroads: should I put down drinking and smoking to save money and start a family and buy a house or something? It’s not like anything has changed even though we went through this process. That’s pretty scary.”