Did you have the idea for Reconstruction in mind when they approached you? Was it a script in progress or even just a working concept for a possible project?
No. During graduation I was always worried. I wanted a script before leaving school. I wanted to know what I should do. But then when you make movies, it takes so much of my effort that the very thought of figuring out a new idea while working [on a film] just didn't come through. So actually I had no idea. When they called up, I had no idea what to do, so when I talked to them - this was maybe a week or two after graduation - I went back and I looked at some photographs, just saying, "Okay, I should find an idea."
I flipped through [a book by] my favorite photographer and I saw a picture and immediately I had the idea of a man coming home and his apartment isn't there. And from there on, I said, "This is a great concept. I want to shoot this scene of a guy coming home, everything is quite ordinary but his apartment just isn't there. It's just apparently gone." And I knew that there had to be a love story. For some reason he had done stuff that had eventually led to the position where his apartment disappears. So flipping through that book and looking at the photograph just sort of made the movie. It took quite a while writing the script, though. It wasn't that fast.
Who was your scriptwriting partner?
He's called Mogens Rukov. He didn't really write the script. He was a consultant. He's actually my teacher from film school and he was like a mentor to me. I like him very much. He's this old guy who smokes, drinks, and has a lot of women in his life. He leads a much younger life than I do and he's at least twice as old as I am. And he's a great visionary. He's had a great influence on Danish cinema with his ideas on scripts and writing scripts.
So I had him on as a consultant. I would show him my scripts and talk to him. He's also a funny guy. You're not really sure if he's going to read what you send him. Often he tends not to read it, I think. He wouldn't tell you. He would say, "I've read it," but you can't really assure yourself. Often I would just go back to his place early in the morning, talking and drinking coffee - which is very strong and he makes himself - and smoking, and then I would tell him the story and he would comment on it and make suggestions. We had that back and forth situation for a couple of months and then I took it and rewrote it and rewrote it a couple more times before I eventually shot it.
I want to ask about the video surveillance aspect in Reconstruction. Using that map, with the characters dotted to show where they are geographically at different points in the film, reminded me of a war movie where troop movements are illustrated on maps. It takes you out of the immediacy of the dramatic movements of the characters, but at the same time it suggests that there's more going on in the design of movement than the random moments of chance meetings.
I think that Reconstruction especially is very in-your-face, but I guess also in Allegro there are a lot of distancing techniques, a lot of things that, in a Brechtian ways, pull you out of the thing. But often these techniques have a different layer and to me, in the end, that enhances the experience. I guess that's really a question of taste. The technique of pulling back and watching a satellite picture in a love story - in a mainstream kind of way, it doesn't really make sense. It really pulls you out, but to me it makes perfect sense. Dramatically and aesthetically, it's very much something I like to watch. But it also enhances the anxiety of these people meeting. There's more to it. There's something about the chance meeting of these people and how they react with their girlfriends and husbands, which to me really enhances the quality of the love story. I just watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I loved the way that they talk to the camera and stuff like that.
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