The Swedes and the Danes have usually taken turns winning the Nordic Council film awards, that is, until Iceland’s Benedikt Erlingsson won last year for Of Horses And Men. One of the other nominees was the Norwegian Eskil Vogt for his film Blind. “I am not particularly bitter, Of Horses And Men was a very worthy winner,” says Eskil who visited Iceland for the Stockfish Film Festival.
Blind is the first film that Eskil directed, but he has previously written many screenplays, particularly for director Joachim Trier. Was it always the plan to take up directing himself?
“When I went to film school in Paris it was to study directing. At the time, they had just opened the Norwegian Film School in Lillehammer, in the facilities built for the 94 Winter Olympics. But I wasn’t very tempted to go there,” says the Oslo born Eskil. “It was mainly a political decision to put it there,” he adds. It might also be one of the only times abandoned Olympic structures have been put to good use.
Champions of mourning
The film references the mass-murders committed by Breivik in 2011. One of the characters seems to enjoy the huge outpouring of solidarity that followed those tragic events.
“I was writing the script when the events took place and writing became my way to deal with it. I wasn’t sure if any of it was going to end up in the movie. The Americans are better at using public tragedies in the movies, but in Norway everyone is afraid of being in bad taste. I think this is the first time the murders have been mentioned in fiction, but I felt it belonged in the film. Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger. The world has become increasingly atomized and the tragedy created a lot of solidarity in Norway, but it wasn’t real and soon went away. Norwegians think they have to become world champions at everything and now we were going to be world leaders in mourning. Some people proudly quoted the foreign media as evidence of this.”
Loneliness in the Land Of Plenty
Like many Norwegian films these days, Blind is about loneliness. This is a change from the social-realism that for long seemed to characterize Norwegian cinema.
“In Norway there are many opportunities, but not everyone succeeds and this leads to a lot of psychological problems and the suicide rate is high. It’s hard to blame someone else for your problems, so instead of social criticism one makes existential stories. Perhaps people are less prone to worrying about existential problems in places where there are more tangible issues, such as lack of food.”
The main character is blind, as the title suggests. How did you research this?
„Blindness is something that in itself is difficult to portray on film, and this aroused my interest. I did some research and found out that around 70% of all movies about blindness are about a blind woman who witnesses a murder, illustrating the female character as a victim. The main character in my film is a person who isn‘t born blind, but loses her sight, and so she has to create a new reality for herself based on the memories she has of seeing. I visited doctors for research, but my main source was a blind woman that I got to know and who opened herself up to me. Thanks to her, I began to understand issues such as not being able to see your loved ones with your own eyes or your children smiling. “
Pornography and the city
Another thread in the movie is pornography. “Porn is an antithesis to blindness in that you can see everything and touch nothing. It‘s available everywhere these days, thanks to the internet, and is something that all men have some relationship with but rarely discuss. It can especially become a mania for the lonely. More and more people are falling outside the mating system, attractive men tend to have many children with different women while others have none. Loneliness has been portrayed before in Norwegian cinema, but usually in a farm setting. I wanted to make a film about loneliness in the cities.“
The film has gotten notice abroad, but it‘s not that often that Norwegian movies travel outside your borders…
“Social-realism travels badly. The films that succeed in different territories are either big budget Hollywood films or those that have a unique artistic vision.”
Pictured: Eskil Vogt discussing Blind with Bíó Paradís’s Hrönn Sveinsdóttir at Stockfish