From Iceland — An Ode to Marijuana

An Ode to Marijuana

An Ode to Marijuana

Published August 15, 2008

The battle between Icelandic dir-ectors is getting more and more fierce everyday but this August the half-Icelandic Parisian Sólveig Anspach defies the patriarchy prevailing in the Icelandic film scene and premiers the feature film “Back Soon”. The protagonist is a florid marijuana dealer and a lot of controversy has surrounded the piece. Grapevine caught up with her on the director’s weekend stop in Iceland to promote the flick on the very appropriate inter-cultural premises of Café Cultura

After a few minutes wait I see the dark haired director step out of the storm with an unsettled look on her face. The first question she asks me, after having a sip of her macchiato, is whether this wasn’t supposed to be the hottest summer in Icelandic history? After an interesting chit-chat about the flaky climate in Iceland we move over to the main issue: her controversial offspring.

Judging by the results, the filming procedure must have been adventurous, but how did you get the idea? How did it all begun?
Well, to tell you the truth it came into existence subsequently to sort of a melancholia but me and Jean-Luc Gaget had been writing a film which didn’t turn out to be a success and so it was never made. We were sitting at a small café in Paris extremely blue and I said: “let’s write another film, just for pleasure”. He asked me: “What kind of movie?” And I replied: “A film with Didda, Ólafía Hrönn, Julien Cotteraeu and you know, all these people”. And so we decided to think up a story. Maybe it’s stupid to say but as it was written for pleasure it turned out be nothing but that. It’s the truth.
The story itself is based more or less on real background, how did that occur to you?
Well the background isn’t completely genuine, but you know, a little. I wanted to make kind of a “road movie” and I also wanted to turn my back to the fact that most movies concerning drugs always portray it as some evil phenomenon. And so I made this flick where normal people are smoking and it’s really not a big deal. The whole concept of wine being OK in movies but as soon as one lights up a joint it’s horrific, is all-in-all stupid.
There have been substantial rumours in Iceland that the actors have contributed more to the creation of their characters than is given up, for example in the cases of Didda, Krummi and Erpur. Is that only a castle made of sand?
Yes, solely. Or at least I haven’t heard anything about it. I actually asked Didda if she weren’t scared people would think it was her own story, but of course her sons portray the characters of her character’s son and all, but she didn’t care. Didda doesn’t care what people think.
[I noticed the pranksterish smile on Sólveig’s face while she elaborated about these rumours and soon realised there was no point in asking any further. But whether they are factual or fabricated, the scenario seems so smashingly real that I suppose it really doesn’t matter.] While I watched the film I really sensed a great deal of realism. And I think I wasn’t the only one who bought the concept. Is this a goal you try to attain always or was it rather random?
When I pull that off I really feel like I’ve succeeded so it’s a general goal I would say. Like any other I need a wonderful script, but I always let the actors bring their own “gifts” to it, in order to make it more real and dynamic. To begin with I was a little scared when all these people had all these ideas, but nowadays I’m more at peace with that. And more, I love it. Of course I have the last call but it’s always inspiring to see what people are thinking. Especially with this film. It was easy for it was shot in HD so we didn’t have to worry about spending vast amounts of money on actors trying to be funny.
Now that you’ve done only four feature films but a whole lot of documentaries, how are your aims evolving? Do you plan on moving entirely over to the feature section of the spectrum?
Well, not necessarily. I like doing a bit of this and bit of that. What I like about documentaries is your urgent need to listen what people have to say. Not just boss actors around and try to get what you want from them. In the documentaries you have to wait and see what your locutors have to offer but not the opposite. The crew is also much smaller than in the big productions and everybody gets really close, which lets you experiment a lot more. It’s more peaceful and you have more freedom.
You’ve never lived long-term in Iceland so I’m wondering what is it that draws you “home” and makes you wanna make Icelandic movies with Icelandic actors and an Icelandic crew?
I’m born in the Westmann Islands, and my mother is Icelandic so I came here every summer in my youth. My sister who formerly lived in Paris has moved over here and opened the boutique “Kisan” so you could say all my family lives over here which has to be quite an attraction. When I’m planning a movie I often think about how thoroughly Paris has been filmed which makes me want to film somewhere else. And Iceland seems to be the most up-and-coming candidate.
Now you have shot on both French and Icelandic ground, is it different? And if so, could you grasp the basic difference between Icelandic and French co-workers?
Well, as you might have imagined the French are more about talking, always deliberating this and that, getting feedback and opinions on how to perform which can be OK, but the Icelanders are less about talking and more about doing. It’s hardwired in Icelanders I think, if you don’t just do it, it won’t happen. 


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