Filmmaker Hans Petter Moland conversed with the audience following the screening of his latest film, Out Stealing Horses, at the Haifa International Film Festival, with Acting Cinematheque and Festival Director Yaron Shamir moderating. Stellan Skarsgård, who has worked with Moland on many films, stars as Trond Sander, a 67-year-old widower who returns to Norway after many years, seeking solitude in the countryside where he spent a summer in his youth. The familiar landscape, and a chance encounter with a neighbor, awaken memories of the past.
Out Stealing Horses is Norway’s official selection for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film competition, and was awarded the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival 2019. The film is based on Per Petterson’s novel of the same name. When asked what the novelist thought of the film, Moland replied:
He likes the film a lot. Actually, he saw the film a week before it premiered in Berlin. I showed it to him, I wasn’t there – I was too nervous, he was nervous. I think he was nervous that he would have to tell me that he didn’t like it. And I was nervousAnd he called me afterwards and he started retelling things he had experienced like you do when you go to the movies, and at some point I had to tell him, actually that you wrote. He came with us to Berlin, he’s a great supporter of the film. The novel is a great rich well of human insight, it’s just an exceptional novel.
Shamir asked Moland about the role of nature in Norwegian films and life, commenting that it’s a very strong ingredient of the film.
Moland: Yes, I think nature is important to Norwegians. We say we are not very cultured people, people who like to go hiking instead of going to the opera. It’s a very scarcely populated country, I think most of us, in my generation anyway, I grew up on a farm, in an area very much like this [referring to the movie]. Our farm is 13 kilometers from the closest village so nature to me is very much part of my upbringing and my sense of self. In this particular story I wanted to tell a story from the inside out, from the perspective of the people living there, very much like in the novel, but of course film being different it’s very subjective. I wanted to think of it as – in this forest there’s a lot of animals and some of them are human.
So, by that I mean that a lot of the actions of these people – it’s very primal. The two fathers when they are in rivalry on the logs, it’s like two bucks that are competing. As we all know when two bucks are competing one of them has to leave the pack.
Moland was asked by a member of the audience to comment on the film’s soundtrack.
Moland: Yes, for me the part of this project was to really make it tactile, a sensory immersive experience of what it’s like to be in this environment and especially for young Trond who is just blossoming as a human being and he starts off as someone in balance and then loses his balance, if you will. So, I worked together with the composer and the sound designer to make almost all of the sounds spring out of nature even the music. So you know The clapping, or using percussive – like sticks or stones, things that are not a very… there’s no sophisticated instruments in this. There’s a guitar maybe and occasionally a cello, but mostly it springs out of the environment. And I worked with them to make the transition between sound design and music to be indistinguishable, so that it felt like… because sound design can also be music: it’s rhythm and tempo, and it’s repetitions that are broken, etc. So it’s very musical but it’s using a very limited musical scope.
Shamir asked Moland about his long-time cooperation with Stellan Skarsgård.
Moland: The first film I did with Stellan was Zero Kelvin (1995), we did it in Spitsbergen [Svalbard], up in the Arctic, about an hour south of the North Pole. It was very extreme, it was more an expedition than a film, but we got to know each other really well. We shared a tent. I carried a 44 magnum to protect him from polar bears. And we found out that we enjoyed each other’s company. Also in terms of work, we had fun exploring the material together, we spent a lot of time just talking about other aspects of imagining what these character would be doing… I think we egg each other on to be as courageous as we can and not terrified of making mistakes. You never know if a film is going to be good or bad when you make it so you have to try to be as courageous as you can and hope that you have unusual moments in the film. And we’re good friends.
There will be two more screenings of Out Stealing Horses at the festival: Thursday, October 17th; Monday, October 21st. Tickets may be ordered online on the Haifa International Film Festival website.