Swedish director Ella Lemhagen

The (very long)  Interview with director Ella Lemhagen took part on February 13th, 2012. It was about her Film KRONJUVELERNA - THE CROWN JEWELS at the Generation section at the Berlin film festival 2012. Parts of the interview were aired on Cinématographe on February 24th, 2012.

Stefanos Tsarouchas: KRONJUVELERNA is your second collaboration with Frederik Emilson.

Ella Lemhagen: Yes, that's right.

S. Tsarouchas: When did you two met?

E. Lemhagen: We met in 2007, when I was making PATRICK 1,5 and he was presented to me by my producer Thomas Mikkelsen, because they know each other from before. I was really impressed by his work, first time I met him. He's all rounder. He made his own films and animated things, fantastic!

S. Tsarouchas: I just took a look at this website and was unsure if he's just a composer or not.

E. Lemhagen: He is a composer, but he is very talented and can do everything almost (laughs).

S. Tsarouchas: Why don't you used the same crew?

E. Lemhagen: Well, I do a lot. I've been working with the same cinematographer, same costume designer for example, for most of my movies. Sometimes you want to think in a new directions. It depends on what kind of movie it is. With this film for example THE CROWN JEWELS, I wanted something very special. I think, that he is very talented and has been working for many years with orchestras, big orchestras, so he has that experience. I think many of the composers, I worked with before has been more, maybe coming from the pop, rock scene. He came from another way and that was very good for this kind of movie, I think.

S. Tsarouchas: And he was your first choice again for CROWN JEWELS?

E. Lemhagen: Yes, and now I am talking about CROWN JEWELS. For PATRICK 1,5 it was not that much music. Of course it was as important, but in that movie we had both score music and this written music for the film.

S. Tsarouchas: You'll film has a kind of American feeling too it.

E. Lemhagen: You think so?

S. Tsarouchas: Yes.

E. Lemhagen: Okay.

S. Tsarouchas: Of course also from the use of music. For me it sounded like wall to wall, from start to finish. Was it a conscious decision?

E. Lemhagen: Ah! I never thought about it actually (laughs) not really.

S. Tsarouchas: I like the music very much.

E. Lemhagen: Yes. But I never talked about it as American.

S. Tsarouchas: For me the whole movie has a kind of American feeling.

E. Lemhagen: Really?

S. Tsarouchas: Yes. It's not bad

E. Lemhagen: No!? To me, I feel it like it's less American than the other things that I made, but that may be more, because of that dramaturgy and the structure of the movie. Because it doesn't have anything of those, you know, the American model how to make a movie and ... because this is very free in a way (laughs)

S. Tsarouchas: I see it more in the use of music and the sound design. Because many other movies here, in the Forum or Panorama section, they are kind of dogma style.

E. Lemhagen: Yes, yes. This is, okay, American in that way. It's very much of, really too much of everything, but I do, that's what I like. I mean, I wanted it to be really massive (laughs).

S. Tsarouchas: How do you work with the composer? Did you had your own suggestions? When did he started?

E. Lemhagen: Okay, we started early, very early. Very long before we started shooting the film. We were reading the script together. We were discussing it and going through it together.He had a lot of ideas of causem and I had a lot of ideas of course, because when I am writing the story in many scenes I know more or less, how I want it to sound of course. So I tried to describe this to him and he has his own ideas. While we were shooting, I sent some material to him. Sometimes we started to make just small moods and then when we started to edit it, you're also more interactive. So he was sending us material and I also spent a lot of time with him, side by side. We were listening to his sketches. He has lot of good ideas of course, but sometimes of course you are not going in the same direction. So many times we had to rewrite songs and tunes so ...

S. Tsarouchas: How would you describe the music to him in kinds of feelings, moods, that you wanted?

E. Lemhagen: Yes. I think, we are talking about, like feelings, moods, but also connected to that character, that we may be talk about father's song or boy's theme, also connected to character, things like that.

S. Tsarouchas: I listened to the score and I think some melodies remind me of  “Que sera, sera”. Is it true?

E. Lemhagen: I never thought about it (laughs)

S. Tsarouchas: I bought the music from Amazon just after I have seen the film here in Berlin at the pre-screenings in January.

E. Lemhagen: Aha

S. Tsarouchas: And for me the melody reminded me of “Que sera, sera”, I think, as a romantic melody in the film.

E. Lemhagen: Yes. Well, I never thought about it, but it sounds good. (laughs)

S. Tsarouchas: How much time did Frederik Emilson got to compose the score?

E. Lemhagen: A few months. When we really started, I guess in general and then the film was released in June 2011, so he had maybe four months of something like that.

S. Tsarouchas: I read an article, that said, that the storyline and the idea is very old, from 2002.

E. Lemhagen: Yes. Even older! Yes

S. Tsarouchas: Why did it took so long to to develop it and become a movie?

E. Lemhagen: Carina Dahl, that's the name of the writer, she ... I know that she started working with this idea in the 90s. So I think, it must be something like 20 years (laughs), but I didn't know her by then and she presented it to me first time in 2002. It was a long time ago and by then it wast was actually another script, that she was doing. A TV series and she wanted me to direct it. So the producer contacted me. I met her and because of many reasons, I said no to that, but then she started to talk about this and asked, if I want it to read and I was like: “Yes, sure!”, and then I didn't know how massive it was then, because she sent me like 600, 700 pages or something like that. And I was like: “Wow!” It was a really weird, strange, crazy material. It didn't look like anything I read before and I really liked it a lot, but I saw, that we couldn't never really film this kind. If you gonna do this, you have to take a totally different angle, like rewrite the whole thing. Because this is not a movie really, because she is fantastic author, but she is not really a screen writer. She writes books and such things. She doesn't know so much about TV and film. So the first years she was writing, and I was working on other projects. I was meeting her sometimes and read it again. We were discussing it, but after a few years I realized, that it will never work. So we decided, that I was taking over the script. So she actually left it to me, which was very generous, but that was, maybe four years ago, so then I've been working with it more concentrated since than. 

S. Tsarouchas: And the basic storyline is it the same?

E. Lemhagen: Yes. It's the same, but when I'm talking about the 600, 700 pages, this was one story of many. There were many stories. So it was much, much more of this, but I choose this story, because it was one of ten maybe. So it could have been like a TV series, that could have went on for ever and ever, but I liked this story the most. The story with the girl Fragancia. In a way I choose one story of this huge material and made a film out of that.

S. Tsarouchas: I've heard also, that there is a longer version for Swedish Television.

E. Lemhagen: Yes.

S. Tsarouchas: How long is the TV version?

E. Lemhagen: It is 3 hours and the film is 2 hours.

S. Tsarouchas: And what are the differences, what is more developed?

E. Lemhagen: Well, it's the same story, but there are more scenes. You get to know the characters better of course and its more of everything. Its not just one particular thing, its more ... yes, its more of everything (laughs) ... You get closer to the characters. You understand maybe more. I think in a way the film works, but the film is kind of ... squeezed a little bit, because the script is the 3 hour version. When we made the film version, we had to really squeeze it then. Sometimes I think, that you maybe loose some of the understanding. ...You don't really get the story sometimes, maybe, I hope you do, but I'm not sure, you know. So, its difficult too

S. Tsarouchas: I know, but I was thinking about "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo".

E. Lemhagen: Yes.

S. Tsarouchas: The German TV showed also the longer version (E. Lemhagen: Yes.). For me it was totally different from the cinema version.

E. Lemhagen: Yes, but the biggest difference is, I think the end, because the end is very different in the TV version.

S. Tsarouchas: Can you tell me?

E. Lemhagen: Yes, I can tell you, because in the TV version the father of Fragancia, he talked a lot about, what he wanted to do with the money, because he thinks, that he would make gold and then get rich (laughs) He's a little bit crazy and nobody believes in him. It's a little bit more of that in the TV version. He says that, when he succeeded with this, he's gonna buy a beautiful place. Its a land close to the sea, which is this beautiful place and he talked a lot about, what he want to do there. He is going to build this fantastic house, like a palace and they all just laugh at him. And in the end of this other version, Fragancia buys that land. She builds this house in the end. So in the end of the movie you see theses houses standing on this hills next to the sea and what happens is, that she, first you don't know, but then you realize, that are a lot of people are there. Those people, who are there, its the people from the hospital. That's a little bit more of that too in the TV version. Now, its not so much of it in the film. But its all those characters and she talks to the police and at the end of the movie, the police man comes there to see her. He starts to talk about the gold and jewels and she said that "This is, its not ... that is not the jewels or the crown jewels” Its those people, all those people are the really crown jewels, people that are unique or that are different in one way or another and that don't find a place to ... where they fit in. So she discovers, that she build this place for all people, that have been dropped through the floor, have metal plates in their head .... So its very poetic in a way. I can't say now exactly. It's very beautiful. It doesn't sound like that know, maybe but ...

S. Tsarouchas: Does Pettersson-Jonsson stay with her?

E. Lemhagen: That's also in the TV version. Pettersson-Jonsson says, that he has left his friend. He says, that he decided to come back. So its a little bit more of that too, yes.

S. Tsarouchas: You had some difficulties of financing?! Why did you go for that reason to Lithuania?

E. Lemhagen: No, I don't think so, at least nor for me. Maybe there is something that my producers know, that I don't know, but no.

S. Tsarouchas: Maybe it was because of the Google translation of the Swedish article.

E. Lemhagen: Yes, I don't know, we went to Lithuania, not because of that. We went to Lithuania, because we were trying to find a place to shoot this film, I wanted it to have this little bit saga feeling. I didn't wanted it to be to real. In Sweden, we were traveling around all over trying to find this place, where you can make this movie, like a small town. We wanted it to be close to the sea and a lot of things like that. It was so difficult, because everything in Sweden is so clean and feels so modern in a way. We really don't have this patina, that I really like. So that was more, we could do it in Sweden, but then it should have been much costly, much more ... to build this kind of world, but then one of the producers, he had this idea to go to Lithuania, because they had been working there before, the company. I haven't., but the company with a TV series. So he said, go to Lithuania and check it out, because I think, it would be good for this movie. So we went there and I really loved it.

S. Tsarouchas: And why choose an anachronistic world, where the cars are sometimes old, there is a Moskvitch ...

E. Lemhagen: Well, I think the script, and the story and the language in the story and even the characters in the story are … varie. To me when I was reading it, it was like I really couldn't understand when is this? Where is this? Is it North? Is it South? Is it? It doesn't feel like Sweden. It doesn't feel like Germany. I don't know, where it is. I like that in a way. But I thought it also, it was a bit the same with the width of time. Even before we created this world, because of the way they talk, because of the way they act, with this kind of old fashion this ... the director of the factory and it feels like its ... some past time. I really like it in a way, but I also thought, that it could be good not to tell. I like the idea of ... making your on world and in a way a little bit confuse people with that. Because I think, I like the idea that you don't know where it is. You don't know, when it is. Its just, its own world.

S. Tsarouchas: Can you talk a little bit about your cast? Who was found first?

E. Lemhagen: I must think. I was working with a casting agent in Sweden, Sara Törnkvist, and she presented Alicia Vikander to me very early. I never heard of her before, because she hasn't, I think, she had made one film before that, but it wasn't finished yet. It hadn't been released at that time. So I had never heard of her. But this casting agent, she was really: "She is so good. You must meet her!", but I had some more actors, that I was meeting and talking too, but Alicia was the one, that she was really, she was selling her to me (laughs). She was the first one, but it was more or less the same time, when we discussed the male actors and both of them I knew before: Bill Skarsgård and Björn Gustafsson. But Björn Gustafsson, he isn't really an actor. He is more a comedian. I don't know, if you know him, but he is a comedian. He doesn't do this kind of things normally. He is a funny guy on TV, who makes small sketches and things like that and he is really popular, extremely popular in Sweden, but even though he is really young. Björn was a choice, but I was absolutely ... I really didn't think, that he would say yes, because he never done anything like this before, but he did! That was more or less the same time, when I was casting all of them and the kids. The kids of course, but it took some time to find kids, because you have too look through 2000 of kids, before you find them

S. Tsarouchas: How about Jesper Lindberger, who plays Jésus?

E. Lemhagen: I think this casting agent, she put an ad in the newspaper something, that she wanted to kids with Down Syndrome or other kinds of difficulties. He came there with his parents. I don't really know, we didn't meet so many, we meet maybe ... 5, 10, or maybe she met more than I did, but I saw maybe 5, 10, but I really liked him. He's so talented, he's so smart and he's so cool. so for me it was a very easy choice.

S. Tsarouchas: So it wasn't difficult to direct him, to do that and that?

E. Lemhagen: No, no, it wasn't. I mean, always when you work with kids, like younger kids, they're getting tiered: "I want to go and play football instead." (laughs) Whatever! So, of course it's like, I mean, its like working with a young kid, but I mean, its always a bit difficult, but in a way I don't think its a problem. No.

S. Tsarouchas: And how did you prepare your cast?

E. Lemhagen: And maybe I should say, that he has a very good language. In the movie he doesn't speak, almost nothing. He just say one word or two words or something like "The keys" (laughs), but in the reality he is very communicative, and he's got a very good language, so its very easy to talk to him and he just describe, what he wants to do and you know, so.

S. Tsarouchas: How did you prepare your cast? Did you do workshops?

E. Lemhagen: Yes, little bit. I was working on maybe it was like two weeks or something, I don't remember right now, how much, but with the older version of the three and the younger version of them all together. So they met and we tried to find out who those character were and of course, its very special, when you're having two, or actually three actors doing the same character. For me it was very interesting to work with them and see them together and maybe for them, I don't know, if it was that important to them. I think it was more important to me, just too ... try to ... make them one, you know, because they didn't really look the same in reality, but they do very much in the film I think.

S. Tsarouchas: Yes, and I think, maybe it's better for the chemistry (E. Lemhagen: Yes.) because you see them, okay, they are siblings (E. Lemhagen: Yes.) and so on. How about the dialogue? Could they say, I don't like it? As a director are you strict in staying with the script or not?

E. Lemhagen: Its a little bit like the question with the music. It depends, what kind of movie it is. I mean, what kind of music, you want, and its a little bit the same with dialogue, because in this kind of film, I think, you can't improvise too much, because it has a very special tone. For me it was very important not to be too relaxed in it, in a way. I mean, because otherwise kids can be like: "Ah, I would never say it like that! I would never say it like this!", and in some kind of movies that's fine, because if you want to be very realistic and so on. But in this movie it was really important to really ... keep this kind of ... not to let go to much, because if you start it to let go in one direction, then maybe everything would tip in the other way, you see what I mean? I was kind of tough this time. I was like: "No, you have to say it like this!" or of course we could ... change a little bit, but I didn't want to do it to much, because of this very, very special tone in the film, you know.

S. Tsarouchas: How about the wardrobe? Could they say there something, to have more influence in a way?

E. Lemhagen: No, a little bit the same there. For me it was very important to keep this special atmosphere and this world and if the actors come in and start discuss to much about it ... I mean, they don't have the whole picture, I have it, the whole vision. They don't know. They know their character. But of course if somebody feel really uncomfortable with something, of course you can discuss it and try something else, butI really wanted to keep this vision. I really wanted to hold it like this in my hand. I didn't wanted to loose it, you know, to many people thinking and talking too much about it. So, I was kind of tough there.

S. Tsarouchas: I'm asking this, because of the costume Jésus wears. Its kind of a circus uniform. (E. Lemhagen: Yes) Was it also a conscious decision? To have this kind ...

E. Lemhagen: That was actually in the very, very early script, that I read 10 years ago. He was described with this jacket. It came from Carina Dahl, the writer and for her that was important ... she always talked about him in this jacket. So we made this jacket. We designed it and made it from her description and in a way maybe that changed, I mean, also the whole, that family are a little bit like circus family or something. So I think it works.

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Interview with director Ella Lemhagen by Stefanos Tsarouchas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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