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Jan Vardøen • Director

“You do not necessarily need to suffer to create a piece of art”


- Heart of Lightness, the first feature length film by director Jan Vardøen came out in Norwegian movie theatres on May 30

Jan Vardøen  • Director

Norwegian Jan Vardøen was not meant to become a director. A renowned restorer, writer, singer, producer and language lover, whose father was British and mother Norwegian… But this versatility and his training as a boat builder enabled him to develop a strong sense of organisation, patience, endurance, taste for human relationships – all qualities vey useful when it comes to making a film. Heart of Lightness [+see also:
interview: Jan Vardøen
film profile
, the first feature length film by director Jan Vardøen came out in Norwegian movie theatres on May 30  

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Cineuropa: You came up with the idea for this first feature length film last year…
Jan Vardøen: Yes, in March 2013 I decided I wanted to make a film on the Lofoten archipelago to the north of the polar circle – with its Norwegian summer light. The inspiration came from Terrence Malick and the light that inundates his films. As for the screenplay, I thought straight away of the theatrical work of Henrik Ibsen, The Lady of the Sea, which fed my screenplay. I liked its positive content.  

Your film has a different title. Why is that?
Heart of Lightness refers to Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The Norwegian title Søvnløs i Lofoten is a nod to Ephron’s romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle. And my film is not a filmed play: the screenplay mixes the play’s drama with the stories of some of the actors on set. The film happens on a number of levels. The characters’ destinies run parallel to each other, a bit like in Karel Reisz’s film The French Lieutenant’s Woman, a half film therefore. We eliminated much in the editing phase: no scruples, unhesitant editing – for the good of the film.

How did you find your actors?
In London: hundreds of actors were prepared to spend a month in Norway, especially as ''Ibsen'' has great seduction powers. I let them take care of the dialogue and soften Ibsen’s original words. Filming lasted five weeks, four in Norway and one in London. Everything outside and with a cinemascope to pay tribute to the magnificent landscapes without having to be in 3D. Petter Holmern Halvorsen and Patrik Säfström were in charge of photography. I am no actor, but I have a part in my film, a bit like Fellini in 8 1/2. The director I play is ignorant, lazy, unrealistic.

A large budget, I should imagine.
Not at all. First and foremost because I took on several roles: producer, screenwriter, director, distributor… and I do not pay myself anything. Then, because I am used to working with a limited budget and I want to prove that this is possible: to have fun and if you believe in a project, reconcile large ambitions and a small budget to make an independent film. You don’t necessarily need to suffer in order to make art. 

You are self-taught when it comes to cinema.
I am: avid for knowledge, curious about everything. I must say that some of my fellow industry workers were extremely generous with me and gave me some precious advice. At the same time, whenever I can, I do my best to help in whatever way I can when people ask. I believe in knowledge sharing, in trust. Having a good entourage is important. 

Any other projects?
Yes, two films in preparation. This stage of creation, which is made up of writing and invention is particularly exciting. I find that the image of Oslo presented in films is not very flattering. I would like to show its beauty during the autumn in my next film, like Bertolucci did with Paris in Last Tango in Paris. My ambition is to make very different films with enthusiastic teams. One film a year, like Woody Allen.

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(Translated from French)

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