Jonas Arnby comes back for his second feature film with an existential drama, a fiction about life and love told through the story of Max, a man that begins to doubt his own understanding of reality as we know it.
WEEKEND: After your award-winning “When Animals Dream”, you return with another mystery film, this time about the meaning of life. Why did you decide to follow up your feature debut with an existential story like “Suicide Tourist”?
Well, I think that with When Animals Dream - for me, thematically, was a film about an outsider… A coming-of-age drama, about the strength of identity… I guess in many ways, a subject that has ones focus when you’re younger.
I think now as a grown up person, having lived possibly more than 50% of my life, my thoughts are more orientated on what do I actually get out of life, while being here - what is the meaning of it all? That, and also somehow to find out that sometimes you need that wake up a call, to see things in a different perspective! That is what interested me with this film.
Max, the main character, is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, probably most known for his role in “Game of Thrones”. Why did you choose to work with Nikolaj? Which qualities did he bring into the role as Max?
Well first of all - NCW, was approached for the role of Max because he is one of the best actors we have. Having said that, I always wanted to see him in a more fragile performance and as a more vulnerable character, that I had seen him in before. Max is a man who is focused on being in control of everything that surrounds him, including himself. This focus on his self control leads to this very subtle and understated acting, demanded great skills in timing and wanting to play along on keeping the physicality as well as the expressiveness to a minimal.
During the course of the film, Max begins to question the line between consciousness and unconsciousness and his understanding of reality. How did you work with this visually?
I wanted to make sure that we kept the same tone throughout the film, whether being in the conscious or the unconscious layer - it was important that the viewer wasn’t disturbed by having two kinds of expressions. The film should be perceived as one whole story so the audience goes on this journey with Max through the film - they should discover the world through his subjectiveness. By finding out what is real and what is not, the audience finds itself in exactly the same mental limbo as Max…
The universe in “Suicide Tourist” with its isolated landscapes adds on to the mysterious genre. Can you talk about the location scouting and which role the landscape plays in the film?
Suicide Tourist is not a sci-fi movie, BUT it does have some “near future” elements. We needed to create a “concept” around the film which would be clear of personal geographic preferences. Somewhere unique - somewhere where the focus would be on the actual story and its characters. This is why we shot the film’s everyday scenes in Berlin, and the “hotel word” in the wild, crazy and absolutely beautiful nature in the north of Norway. This picturish backdrop was crucial to underline the thematics of the film - the whole idea of a man questioning his own existentialism had to be connected to nature as a contrast to the hamster wheel he was running in - living in the city.
Nature is where you feel grounded - it is where we can put ourselves in a perspective of who we really are - this is where we face the essentials of being a simple human being. So finding this particular backdrop wasn't easy. It took us through Svalbard, Sweden and Iceland - until we actually found the spot on top of a mountain in Norway. The next challenge was that there wasn't any hotel, so we had to build everything from scratch - more or less.
"Nature is where you feel grounded - it is where we can put ourselves in a perspective of who we really are - this is where we face the essentials of being a simple human being."
“Suicide Tourist” relates to topics such as love and assisted suicide. How would you like the audience to reflect upon these complex subjects with your film?
I’d like to see the film as you mentioned earlier - an existential drama… a story about love and life. I think most people reflect on these things every day in some context. “Suicide Touriust” is a film, that gives the audience an opportunity to view a story with these thematics but in a slightly different perspective… I hope by telling it both on a conscious and unconscious level and as well as wrapping them up in a suspenseful and dramatic journey through our catalyst Max, by doing soI hope the audience will actually see these basic elements in a different light and the film will give them a slightly unexpected experience… I hope ;)
"I’d like to see the film as you mentioned earlier - an existential drama… a story about love and life. I think most people reflect on these things every day in some context."
What can we expect from you next? Do you have any future projects you would like to share with us?
I am making a periodic drama about a very exceptional and historical Danish person. The film is called “In The Eyes of God” and I am writing it with Tuva Novotny, and I can't wait to get started. We are on the 2nd draft and hopefully shooting it in exactly one year!