Daniel Borgman is back with a dystopian drama about an unusual family living in a forest, where the father is capable of doing anything to protect his loved ones.
‘Resin’ is based on a book, written by Anne Riel. What attracted your attention to this story?
Peter Albæk attracted me to it! He had the rights to the book and the idea.
The film is about a family who isolates themselves in a forest on the outskirts of Denmark, addressing topics such as love, nature, mental illness and misfits. What does the story say about today’s society?
I’m not sure that any film can really comment on society in any sufficiently meaningful way in the present… at least not directly. A story can express something of the time though. I think Harpiks is more of a fable or fairytale, so hopefully the viewer can bring to it, and take from it, what they are ready to feel or understand. There is a lot in it to come to terms with. Things that I thought a lot about during the making of the work were; climate, isolation, curiosity, understanding, mental health, the ‘other’, tribalism, identity politics, family, nature, the spirit, the earth, seasons, the afterlife, Donald Trump, etc. So quite zeitgeisty things. My main concern, personally, is with relationships, contrasts, and breaking down binaries… creating space for curiosity…
“Things that I thought a lot about during the making of the work were; climate, isolation, curiosity, understanding, mental health, the ‘other’, tribalism, identity politics, family, nature, the spirit, the earth, seasons, the afterlife, Donald Trump, etc.”
It constantly moves in the borderland between reality and fantasy. How would you explain this contradictory microcosm? Was it something you were aware to achieve?
I think I’m obsessed with the very small and the very large (like algae vs. the entire universe) and the very dark and the very bright (death & emancipation) … maybe it has to do with that? … I just try to follow my bliss, and try to not be afraid… I think there can be a lot of beauty or meaning (I think these terms are interchangeable) in the ugliness, and that sometimes things that seem meaningful really aren’t. I think perspective and context is really important, if you zoom in on something it makes sense, if you zoom out it suddenly doesn’t. I also think it’s possible for multiple meanings, multiple understandings, multiple perspectives… and that it is important for these to be allowed to exist simultaneously. My mother watched the film the other day and she said that ‘it was so weird it was almost real’. I like that way of thinking about it.
The reality of “Resin” is both beautiful and macabre, limitless and claustrophobic, idyllic and cruel. How did you manage to combine these paradoxes into one story?
I guess this relates to the question before. I’m not really sure of the ‘how’ of anything… I do know that I feel drawn towards these supposed contrasts. I think there is some unique knowledge in being able to exist in the space where both ends of a supposed contrast exist simultaneously, something that at first appears as a binary becomes something much more meaningful. It’s the opposite of sterility, I think that’s where you begin to find something like god. We have a mind, we are both a part of our mind and apart from it, we are in control of our mind, but it also controls us… there is an eternal tension there, and it is precisely at the edge of that tension that consciousness (the evidence of god, the only thing that creates meaning) exists.
“I think there is some unique knowledge in being able to exist in the space where both ends of a supposed contrast exist simultaneously, something that at first appears as a binary becomes something much more meaningful.”
You’ve created a very specific and aesthetic visual universe - nightmarish and dreamlike at the same time. Can you tell us about your visual approach?
The best thing ever is to have the best things in front of you, and to have the courage to respond to them in the moment… that’s the approach that I want to have to everything… to do that and not be afraid… it’s quite often not possible, but when it is it’s amazing, it’s definitely the ambition. That’s the method out of which everything else emerges. And then of course we are all a product of our experiences. I think the ‘specific’ thing you are asking about is the result of the method, and of me constantly trying to move toward something… it kind of goes like this: move toward an idea, re-evaluate it, move toward some more, re-evaluate, move toward…. And so on and so on. And the team that I work with; Louise, Sofie, Anne Gry, Sigrid, Josefine, Jacky, they are artists as well, and very, very good at what they do, so most of it is them.
Vivelill Søgaard Holm is doing a fantastic job playing the daughter, Liv. How did you find her? And how was the casting process?
Amanda-Lie (our street caster) found her. She was like a gift from outer space. I think it was all already inside of her. Amanda and I just kept fighting to have it come out. We all worked very hard, but Viv worked the hardest. More practically, I think we put in more than 40 hours of work with her before we gave her the role, and then we just kept working. I can remember the exact moment when she blossomed into the actor that she is now, when this shift happened in her, it was such an exciting moment. But a lot of credit needs to go to Amanda-Lie and Viv.
Can you tell us about the shooting process in the forest? Which challenges did you meet along the way?
Lighting fires is really hard to do in a forest when it is the driest summer in years - otherwise shooting in nature is a dream. We got to be in a forest every day for 4 months, from summer to almost winter… we got to see the seasons change from the inside… and all the insects come and go… and all the berries… Funnily enough, I’m actually not such a big fan of shooting in forests. I really love shooting in nature, and using available light, and I really like the physical aspect of carrying the gear, and being in the weather… but forests themselves I found kind of tricky, maybe it’s because there is so much to them. I really enjoy the physical aspect of being outside shooting. A dream for me would be to be to climb a mountain, or sail a boat, and make film along the way. I really like when the process of making the work reflects something in the story or the characters, where filmmakers get to experience something of what the world of the film is. Of course there are the usual challenges, rain, mud, tics, wind, etc But actually the hardest part of shooting Harpiks was being in the studio (the mother’s bedroom), being in there was so much harder than being outside.
What can we expect from you next? Do you have any other upcoming project you would like to share with us?
I have two projects in development at the DFI, an entertaining crime thriller based on Jung, the refugee crisis and Fibonacci (have you heard of that band Tool?) called The Shadows, and a ghost-murder-mystery story about mental health, family, memory and free diving called The Light. Both projects are with Adomeit Film and we are pretty excited.