Review Fix chats with director Kristian Håskjold, who discusses his newest project, the Oscar-qualifying flick, “A Worthy Man.”
Review Fix: Why is the topic of this film important today?
Kristian Håskjold: I personally think that loneliness and depression within a family is a very important subject to put more focus on. Loneliness is often brought up in the major media in the Western world as a growing issue in our society. But within families, people sometimes forget to take a real conversation about how we are feeling since it’s rarely visible.
Review Fix: What inspired this film?
Håskjold: The inspiration for the film came from my uncle, who was a baker. I grew up close to him and his family and spent most of my childhood at their house since his son was my best friend. Because of my uncle’s profession he had a weird day routine, where he would sleep the most of the day and work during the night. Because of this, he didn’t have that much time with his family, which of course had a different day routine. The result of this was that growing up as a kid I had a hard time understanding and talking to my uncle – he felt absent. I thought that this dynamic was really interesting and wanted to explore it in the film.
On a thematically level, in the film I really wanted to explore loneliness within a family. I grew up in the countryside in Denmark and had a feeling that the most grownup men being around me in my childhood, like my dad and my uncle, were really challenged, when it came to expressing their emotions. Me and my friends were always pretty good at that and spent a lot of time reflecting on life and expressing how we felt about the things happening in our lives. In A WORTHY MAN I wanted to show that if you don’t learn how to express yourself especially when you’re feeling bad, then you can very easily have a breakdown as it’s portrayed in the film. So the goal for the film was that it should have the quality of could being therapeutically for middle-aged men to get better at talking with their family members.
Review Fix: How difficult was this film to put together?
Håskjold: The absolutely biggest challenge we had writing the film, was that it’s insanely hard to make a story about a depressed middle-aged man interesting to watch. We spend a LOT of time trying to figure out how we could give him some drive which didn’t break his depression. In the end, we figured out that to put some humor and love into the story, the baker should love to tell jokes and try to get through to the radio show – just to get some appreciation and acknowledgment from his surroundings. It took a while, but that was a great breakthrough for me, my writer Marianne Lentz and producer Caroline Steenberg Dam.
Another big challenge was figuring out how the music and sound in the film should be. We starting out with some music, which gave the film more of a magical realism feel, but it just didn’t work, because it didn’t convey our character’s emotional state. So I spent a lot of time with my sound designer, Christian Munk Scheuer and composer, Jesper Ankarfeldt, searching for a sound for the film. After a lot of exploration, we ended up with the music and sound, which is in the film today and did just that. We’re really happy with it.
Review Fix: Tell me about the cast.
Håskjold: The main actor Troels Lyby is a very famous actor in Denmark. He made his big break in Hella Joof‘s film En kort en lang, but had previously acted in Let’s Get Lost by Jonas Elmer and Lars von Trier‘sThe Idiots. I had a hard time figuring out in what direction to take the character, but when I met with Troels I was very sure, that he was the right actor for the part. His range covers both comedy and drama, which would be perfect for the part.
Review Fix: What was the feeling like on set?
Håskjold: We had some very busy days on set since we had a lot of scenes to shoot over 5 days. But everybody was very well-prepared, so there was a very nice atmosphere. We improvised a lot of the dialogue in the scenes, so we made a lot of different takes to make sure that the tableau shots wouldn’t end up too long.
Review Fix: How have audiences been reacting to A Worthy Man?
Håskjold: First of all, I think we’ve had a great response to the film. I’ve been contacted and approached by a lot of people, who could relate to either the dad or the family. A lot of younger people have told me that the film made them reflect on their dads because they’d had a hard time talked to their dad.
Review Fix: What films have inspired it the most?
Håskjold: Before we wrote the film, we watched the film Take Shelter (Dir: Jeff Nichols) for inspiration. Camera-wise, we were inspired by Swedish director Roy Andersson, who mostly uses tableau shots in his films. There’s as well a lot of humor and sadness in his films.
Review Fix: What have you learned about yourself through this entire process?
Håskjold: On my last short films, I’ve worked a lot with improvisational acting, but in the short film I did before this film, “Forever Now”, we only worked with a handheld camera, which made it possible for me to construct the scenes a lot in post. With “A Worthy Man” I wanted to try working improvisational acting in tableau shots, to become a better person director. When working with tableau shots, you have to figure out the scene on the spot. You’re making all the variations while shooting and if the scene doesn’t work as expected, you fix it right there in the moment. I learned doing the film, that person directing is one of the skills, I’m proud of.
Review Fix: Describe A Worthy Man in one word.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Håskjold: I got some different projects in the making. First of all, I’m still studying at the Danish film school SUPER16, we just finished our mid-term production, which is called CROCODILE TEARS. I wrote it with scriptwriter Christina Øster and it is produced by Andreas Bak at Zentropa Productions. It’s a psychological drama about the hard times of a reunion between a father and his son – and the difficulties of it being arranged by the father’s new girlfriend.
Besides that, I’m just finishing a short format TV show called CHEMO BRAIN, which will premiere on Danish TV in October this year. It’s a dramedy about a guy in his late-twenties, who get testicular cancer and goes through treatment. I’m very excited about it, since it’s my first bigger directing job.