Kjersti Steinsbø’s feature film HEVN (Revenge) is a fascinating take on a classic movie plot. What happens when you seek revenge? It also tackles the subject of sexual abuse and the men who get away with it.
HEVN is currently playing at the TIFF Lightbox in downtown Toronto.
HEVN is a terrific film and it was an honor to sit down with the director.
Interview with Kjersti Steinsbø:
Matthew Toffolo: Watching the film definitely makes you want to go to Norway, especially the beautiful opening. Of course it also serves as a metaphor where dark things happen in a beautiful exterior. How was your collaboration with your cinematographer Anna Myking?
Kjersti Steinsbø: This was the first project we did together. We’ve known each other for years. In 2011, Anna became the first female to DP a feature film in Norway, which is kind of strange because our country generally has a great record for gender equality. She’s a dear friend and we love working together.
Anna has done so many documentaries and because of that she is great at capturing the mood and thinking ahead. She has a quick head.
MT: This is your first feature film. What was the most important thing you learned making this film to help you on your next feature film?
KS: It’s all about having a good team around you. To try to work within a bubble while you’re shooting. You want to create a family community on set while we all work hard to make a film.
MT: What attracted you to making this film?
KS: I like the ambivalence of the main character. She is the victim and almost turns into an offender herself. Is she doing the right thing or not? It’s not a black and white story, and these are not black and white characters. She goes a bit too far.
MT: Do you want the audience to root for her revenge?
KS: Revenge is a difficult and complex emotion. Like jealousy, it’s destructive. Revenge is interesting to discuss in terms of whether it’s good or bad, but does this revenge make her a good person in the end? I don’t think this is a happy ending.
PHOTO: Still shot from the film HEVN:
MT: She’s done bad for the sake of good.
KS: She’s a moral criminal now.
MT: How do people in Norway feel about this story?
KS: In Norway, we are quite proud of our society and how well functioned it is. But we are also aware that there are still improvements that need to be made. Sexual abuse is one of them. In Norway, we do have a discussion going on how we treat rape victims and the punishments they receive.
MT: If someone gets convicted of rape in Norway, what is there prison sentence?
KS: It can be anywhere from a couple of months to a year. It’s not that much. There are so many cases where people get a fine or just a month or two in prison. Most cases don’t even get a trial because it’s so hard to prove and the conviction rates are so low.
MT: The supporting character “Bimbo”, for me, is the moral compass of the film. He’s the one who changes the most as the other characters you kind of know where they stand. He wasn’t a character in the novel though. Is that true?
KS: Yes, I took a few characters from the novel and turned him into Bimbo. I do agree, he is the moral compass. He wants good but he’s a bit jaded by events and life.
I like the concept of having an event that occurred years ago that involved many people, then in present day having those people in a room talking about what happened. And they’ll all have a different perspective and story to tell.
Bimbo’s arc is that he doesn’t want to be a coward anymore. I very much like this character and the actor (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) who portrayed him.
MT: Yes, that actor was terrific as he really showed the conflicts of this man without saying a word.
KS: He definitely has the most interesting journey in the film.
PHOTO: Actor Anders Baasmo Christiansen in HEVN:
MT: Has the novelist, Ingvar Ambjørnsen, seen the film yet?
KS: Oh yes. He gave us total creative freedom for us to do whatever we wanted. He’s one of Norway’s most famous novelists. He’s had 7 of his novels made into a film.
MT: How is the film and TV scene in Norway?
KS: We are currently the little sister to Sweden and Denmark but we are really growing in the last 10 or so years. There’s more interesting projects being developed. We didn’t start having film schools in our country until recently and Sweden and Denmark have had them for years. That’s why they are ahead of the curve. Now we’re catching up.
I’m very optimistic of our future.
MT: What do people in Norway watch on television?
KS: They same as North American audiences. We binge watch American TV just like the rest of the world.
MT: What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
The Big Lebowski. It’s the characters. They are remarkable and so funny.
MT: What do people in Norway think of the whole Donald Trump and current USA presidential race?
KS: They find it completely ridiculous. We are kind of amazed that this is really happening. Many people want him to be elected so we can sit on the sidelines and see the mockery of the whole situation. In Norway, like Canada, we vote for the party and not an individual. Money isn’t involved in Norweigan politics.
Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.