Swedish director Carl Olsson has been living in Copenhagen since 2009 and has been a keen follower of the fantastic documentary festival CPH:DOX. Last night he attended the premiere of his new film Vintersaga, which was well received:
“It was nice to be with so much of the team aswell, as it is made up of Swedish and Danes it was great for us to all get together for the premiere when usually it is only a couple of us touring with the the festival.”
The film is based on an interpretation of a classic Swedish song from the 80s, Vintersaga, a song that is well known to the Swedes.
“I remember this one time I was listening to the song and looking out from my hotel room and I started to think about the fact that we could do something here. What I find interesting with the song is that it’s very fragmented but also in its descriptions of everyday actions in Sweden in specific places, usually in Sweden in the winter time“.
Olsson explains how the overall narrative of the song is not guided by the lyrics on how one should think or feel – that you are made to connect the dots yourself which makes it both powerful and unique to every person listening to the song.
You don’t have to have had heard the song to understand the film;
“It was important to me to have the film as an inspiration to help build the structure from it.”
The film is built of 24 chapters as we get introduced to various locations and characters during the height of winter – boy racers doing wheelspins to a couple of old school friends reuniting and discussing their past, then the simple image of an icebreaker ship cutting through the ice.
In the director’s previous films we found ourselves more stuck within the mini-universes he was sharing, most notably was the excellent Meanwhile on Earth (currently available on Netflix) which focused on the funeral industry. With Vintersaga he had more freedom, which allowed him to explore without limitations – here’s a story about melancholy, the winter, and Sweden, which offers broader opportunities in the storytelling and vision.
With this new found freedom came a lot of work, with 24 chapters to fulfil Olsson found that there were fresh challenges:
“It felt like I was casting for 24 features films!”
Working through three winters and meeting an assortment of people, filming in different locations, the director had a lot of fun working on the film and I ask whether he had a particular favourite part:
“I loved them all in a way, but I think the scene with the the truck driver who is talking to her mother is certainly one favourite“, the director answers.
The short segment shows a truck driver driving through the polar light having a conversation with her mother on the speaker phone – the way the shot is lit and how the audio matches so perfectly is beautifully created.
“We were working so hard on that scene, to try and get the right light and so on. Then it was foggy when we came out to shoot it, which never happens. To be at that specific place in that specific time to, to catch it the right light and weather fantastic.”
And what about access to documentaries? Olsson is one of the lucky ones whose films can be found on streaming platforms, which is a rarity outside of the Nordics and perhaps why CPH:DOX is such a popular festival as we get the opportunity to view documentaries we may never have heard of or discover.
“Here in Sweden and Denmark more people watch documentaries than feature films, and that is because they are screened on the television so they are so much more accessible and able to reach so many more people.”
And what about his views on CPH:DOX?
“I have lived in Copenhagen for 15 years or so, I’ve kind of grown with the festival and seen how it has developed. I really like that they’ve had this profile of not separating the difference between the genres. It is a documentary festival but it could also be fiction films. They show films that blur the lines between fiction and documentary or with documentary and contemporary art for example.”
It really couldn’t be a more fitting place to start the director’s journey with Vintersaga – already a firm favourite from the festival with us here at Nordic Watchlist.