A new film that was on our watchlist this year was from Danish director and screenwriter Marianne Blicher, who is based in Copenhagen.
She has previously directed short films that have featured at festivals, and has now completed her first feature film, Miss Viborg. The film has already won several awards, including the Valhalla Award for best Nordic film.
Nordic Watchlist had a quick chat with the director ahead of the film showcasing at Glasgow Film Festival.
“Its a nice day here in Denmark today, the sun is shining”
Marianne is happy to report that the weather is good in Copenhagen, so it’s not always grey there in winter. Marianne didn’t grow up in the country’s capital though, and it would come as no surprise that she in fact grown up in the little town of Viborg, where her film is set.
“So I grew up in this social housing area in Viborg and when I started shooting the film I returned there which was really interesting to do. It can be a bit of a rough neighbourhood too so that was an experience.”
She goes on to explain how one evening the crew were confronted by some of the locals asking what the hell they thought they were doing filming around their area and startled the crew with their aggression. Then Marianne recognised one of them as being the son of her old football coach from when she lived there as a kid.
“The aggression soon changed and we are all hugging shortly afterwards – it was my five minutes of fame in this small provincial town of 35,000″
Perhaps that five minute’s of fame might become more than that for the director, who is also the creator of this wonderful film – so how did the idea for the story at the centre of this film come about for her?
“There was this lady who we were a little bit afraid of when we were kids, she was very well known in the town for screaming at you or lashing out at you. Then one day we heard the news that she has passed away“
This woman’s passing got Marianne thinking years later; what happened in the build up to her death? What was her story like, did she have friends or someone who could be there for her?
“I had this neighbour who was this old retired man who was a mechanic or something, he spent all his time by himself and could be seen on his electric scooter selling his wife’s prescription drugs and they would fly off to Mallorca or somewhere“
Now we can start to see where her inspiration for the main character, Solvej, had come from and Miss Viborg started to come to life – the story of an overweight, pharmaceutical drug-pushing loner who goes on a journey outside of her mundane life when her path crosses with her rebellious teenage neighbour. The film looks at the themes of community and friendship, which the director wanted to address.
In the film Solvej is played by newcomer Ragnhild Kaasgaard who puts in an absolutely fantastic performance mixing dry humour, emotional sincerity, and baring it all (literally) in the role.
“I found her when she was doing theatre, so she had a theatre background, but with children’s theatre. I wanted someone who felt real, I was afraid of having someone who was too experienced.”
Marianne had to fight for that request and whilst she was looking for Solvej, the director also discovered Isabella Møller Hansen who plays Solvej’ s feisty neighbour Kate, who also puts in an outstanding performance.
“It had taken us around three years to find someone for the role of Solvej and then one day we were doing a casting when I got a call from a friend asking if I had been to the children’s theatre. She said there was this actress their called Ragnhlid who was amazing and I had to go and see her.”
Upon their first meeting, Marianne knew it had to be her, but the director still made sure she went through a number of castings;
“You might feel it is her but you had to see how it all worked on the big screen – I needed to see how she looked on there. Plus she was like the polar opposite to her character. She was this larger than life person and I had to see how small I could get her.”
With months of work, the result is incredible performances, character chemistry, and a wonderfully feel-good comedy with a whole lot of heart.
We loved Miss Viborg, and with the film already picking up several awards we think it will be well received at Glasgow Film Festival and hope it becomes more widely accessible soon!