After several successful documentaries (The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, Africa United), The Higher Force (opened March 28) is Olaf de Fleur’s first foray into the world of feature films. A comedy described as “almost a gangster movie,” The Higher Force tells the tale of Davíð, a petty criminal and debt-collector who accidentally stumbles into the world of international organised crime when he mistakenly draws the conclusion that his landlord is the criminal kingpin Mexico-Harald.
The film is destined to be a box office hit for two reasons: First, the director’s name sounds exotic (a good indicator, cf. Baltasar Kormákur), and secondly it stars Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos fame. When The Grapevine caught up with Olaf de Fleur, whose real name is Ólafur Jóhannesson, we first asked him about his name. He started to ramble on about his great-grandmother who produced wine in France, but he finally got to the point: “Lars Von Trier’s name isn’t Von Trier at all. If he can do it, so can I!”
But how does he explain the presence of a semi-big American actor in a medium-size Icelandic flick? “The role was ideal for an American mafia-type such as Michael,” he explains. “We sent out offers to several actors and, to our surprise, Michael actually accepted the role. When he came to Iceland it was an even bigger surprise. All through the process we never really grasped it.”
The Icelandic movie industry has improved greatly in the last ten-plus years. When asked about the recent international success of Icelandic filmmakers Baltasar Kormákur (Mýrin, 101 Reykjavík) and Ragnar Bragason (Children, Parents), De Fleur states that their success was not an overnight thing. “Both Ragnar Bragason and Baltasar worked really hard for their status and at some point in both of their careers they were almost bankrupt,” de Fleur says. “In order to become a real director you simply have to face the fact that you will have to live at your mother’s place for a few more years and not jump into a new shitty career if things don’t work out for you immediately. And the first lesson you’ll learn is that you haven’t got anything when you start out; no reputation and no money. Basically you have to make a movie out of nothing.”