Hans Petter Moland, director of In Order of Disappearance

Mixing genres with bloody results

Aug 26, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Hans Petter Moland has been a stalwart of Norwegian cinema for over two decades. Often playing with dark material, and skirting around the edges of multiple genres, he’s become a regular on the festival circuit, appearing frequently at Cannes and the Berlin Film Festival where his eighth film, In Order of Disappearance, premiered back at the start of 2014. Two and half years down the line and his mix of revenge thriller and black comedy has continued to launch strongly in a number of regions, leading to a US release. The film set in Norway stars acclaimed Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård, best known to US audiences for blockbusters ranging from the Marvel films to Pirates of the Caribbean.

In their fourth film together, Skarsgård plays Nils, a taciturn snowplow operator who embarks on an amateur and very bloody revenge mission when his son is killed by local gangsters. His actions inadvertently spark a gang war, sending the body count spiraling.

Hans spoke to us recently to discuss mixing genres, the rise of Norwegian cinema, and working with Stellan Skarsgård.

Stephen Mayne [Under the Radar]: In Order of Disappearance mixes a lot of genres, but dark comedy seems to unite it all. What is it about Scandinavia that seems to embrace this kind of humor?

Hans Petter Moland: Speaking for myself I feel the black comedy I enjoy springs as much from spending a good period of my time in New York in the 70s and 80s. It was full of dark and rather brutal humor. I’m also a great fan of Billy Wilder so I think it just as much stems from that as being Scandinavian.

Speaking of American influences, you include crime elements but you send-up gangster films to a degree.

One of the ambitions of the film was not to be restrained by genre limitations. It’s really a mix of a lot of genres. It has elements of satire, it has high comedy, some slapstick, and occasionally it has thriller and action elements. On top of that it is a send-up occasionally. But it’s not just a send-up of genre; it’s also a send-up of contemporary Norwegian and Swedish politics, of the silliness of brutal men. This film is populated by guys who aren’t really great at self-insight.

Did the comedy and genre balance change much when you were making the film?

It’s a script based on a story I wrote and it was developed in close connection with me so it’s been there all along. But when you make films balance is a big issue. You make the film once when you write the script and then when you shoot it and then when you edit it. You always have to tweak and define and redefine. That’s the fundamentals of filmmaking. And especially when it comes to comedy mixed with genre, balancing the elements is a big part and something we did all the way until the end.

You mentioned a lack of self-insight for many of the characters. Is that specific to them or a broader reflection on Scandinavian society?

That lack of self-insight is a reflection on gangsters, they’re full of themselves. But it’s Nils as well. He considers himself a civilized man, he’s just received an award for citizen of the year, but his beliefs and his ethics have never been put to the test and he fails miserably once he’s tested.

How happy is Nils with his life before his son’s death? He seems ready to end it all straight away when his son dies.

I think he’s affected by the loss. His plan is to kill himself and then of course he’s interrupted. In many ways the whole film is just a postposed suicide. I think he was quite content with his life. He has a sense of purpose, his snow plowing job makes a difference in the lives of his fellow human beings and that gives him satisfaction. But he’s not terribly sophisticated, doesn’t have rich emotional insight into himself. He’s somebody who’s a bit unlived. Almost newborn emotionally speaking.

He’s a Swede in Norway. What’s the relationship like between the two countries?

They’re very close – like Wales and England or Connecticut and New York. In reality our cultures are very closely connected. The difference being Sweden has been a rich neighbor for hundreds of years and has been a big power in Europe at certain times in the last few hundred years. Norway has been poor until 1970 when oil was found in the North Sea.

Is this reflected in cultural output? Denmark and Sweden have left a lasting impact over the history of cinema but Norwegian cinema has made a big step up in the past 10-15 years. Is this a sign of increased wealth flowing into other areas?

More than oil money it’s perhaps a cultural awareness and a cultural confidence. I think most of the directors that have made films that have been noticed were educated not in Norway but abroad. I went to film school in the US, Joachim Trier went in England, and so did Erik Skjoldbjærg. A lot of the people getting noticed have had to seek outside of Norway to get the knowledge. It’s also given people different perspectives and confidence that has been lacking. It’s changed in the last ten years but when I started out I felt there was a lack of confidence in the ability of Norwegian films to make it out in the world. Or they had unrealistic expectations because they didn’t understand how to view their own films.

Do you think it will change now the knowledge is in the country or will future generations continue to look outside?

I think it has changed in the last 15 years. We have a Norwegian film school and good people are coming out of that but it’s a small country with a lot of people hungry to gain acceptance abroad. Because we’re small it’s also quite vulnerable though. Funding has been cut back in recent years since we got a conservative Government and although it’s not that much money, it’s enough to really unsettle the business because it’s a small business.

Finally, you keep coming back to work with Stellan. What do you get from each other?

Like any collective artistic endeavor it’s great to build on our intimacy and knowledge of each other so the next time around we don’t start from scratch. Ultimately though, we have fun working together.

***

In Order of Disappearance opens in theaters and on demand on August 26th. For more information, head to the film's website.



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Video Wave Production
September 5th 2016
8:19am

Waiting for it !

Wifi
September 26th 2016
10:32am

I loved this movie, a touch of irreverent comedy wrapped all the scenes. Great interview too!

monociclo electrico
October 3rd 2016
6:51am

Oh my Gd!!! Waittinggg for it!! Maybe a little short interview for me but great too.

Tienda de monociclos electricos
January 3rd 2018
6:20pm

Una crítica muy acertada para una película totalmente recomendable.