XL is a feature film by Marteinn Thorsson that premieres in theathers on Januar 18th in Iceland. The film portrays an alcoholic slob, Leifur, who is also a high profile politician and parliamentarian that is forced to rehab by his co-workers. Leifur decides to throw a final party before going away to rehab, which turns out to be a night to remember. We wanted to hear more about the film, so we paid the director a short visit, a few minutes before the premiere.
Where did you get the idea of telling a story about an alcoholic parliamentarian? Is it maybe a metaphor for the financial crash here in Iceland?
Ólafur Darri and Elma Lísa (Icelandic actors) came to me when we were shooting Rokland and said they wanted to make a film about alcoholism but I didn’t get around to writing anything until November 2011.Then my wonderful co-writer, Gudmundur Óskarsson, took my first draft and made a decent script out of it and we began shooting in February of last year, so it was a pretty quick process once we got around to it. Making the main character an MP was a very calculated thing to do because it does give us the opportunity to use him and his world as a metaphor for corruption and breakdown of ethics on a grand scale, there is something rotten in the State of Iceland. It is still a very personal story though.
You have worked with Ólafur Darri (Leifur), the main character before. Why did you choose him for this role?
We just have this great chemistry, I think. It’s very easy to work with him, he is such a professional and obsessed with details in the same way I am. He is also the type of actor who can transform himself very easily into almost anything and he brings a charisma and likeability that is absolutely necessary for a character like Leifur (who is a total asshole).
There are very strong visuals in the film that portray this state of losing control, where the line of reality of everyday life and the drunken state is blurred. Was it your intention to make the audience feel like they were Leifur, to make them feel what he is feeling?
Yes! I think it even came before I wrote the script. I wanted to take the audience inside Leifur’s head and make a film pretty much from his point of view. I wanted to say: “this is what an alcoholic feels like when he’s drinking”. It’s risky because the audience can refuse to get on this ride and then the film won’t work for them but if they do, it’s one hell of a ride and you taste the truth of what alcoholism is like. This is true for both the camera style and the editing since the film progresses in a very disjointed manner, exactly like time passes for someone under the influence.
Is the music in the film mainly Icelandic? I noticed the song “Góða tungl” by Samaris, how was that chosen for the film?
The music is in the film is all Icelandic. I work very much from a musical standpoint when I do a film. Also, the music came even before the script as I am always trying to discover new music. I had heard a track by Anna Thorvaldsdottir somewhere and I found her album, Rhizoma, on the web and bought it and I listened to it when we were working on the second draft of the script and her music was speaking to me in the way I wanted the film to speak so I contacted her and she agreed to do the score. I am so lucky, she’s such a great artist. Last year she was awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize for her work “Dreaming” , which is a great honour (Björk got it a few years back).
“to have Samaris portray the softer/warmer/tender sides of Leifur’s character and Anna to do amore sinister/dangerous side”
Then there was Samaris. I heard a song on Viðsjá (RUV Radio 1 program) and I bought their album and I felt they were such a great contrast to Anna. I thought how great it would be to have elements of both, to have Samaris portray the softer/warmer/tender sides of Leifur’s character and Anna to do amore sinister/dangerous side and luckily Samaris was also willing to participate. I feel very fortunate they were willing to be on board. At such a young age, they have quite a brilliant and unique sound, they’re going places. Then there are other songs by the MA quartet, representing Leifur’s conservative past and connections with “old money” as well as other songs representing other themes and ideas.
The trailer has English subtitles; will the film be screened with subtitles?
Sambioin are distributing the film in Iceland on January 18th and I hope they will allow us to screen it in Bio Paradis with English subtitles no later than a week after the premiere but it will definitely end up there.
Interview: Ása Baldursdóttir
Photos: Nanna Dís