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Sten Hellevig • Director

“My intention wasn't to shock, it was to get closer to reality”


- Cineuropa met the Norwegian director Sten Hellevig to talk about his first feature film Dryads – Girls Don't Cry

Sten Hellevig  • Director

In between shooting for his latest project, on a bench in Fyrstikktorget- a converted match factory that is now a small shopping centre– Norwegian director Sten Hellevig has agreed to meet us to discuss his first feature film, Dryads – Girls Don't Cry [+see also:
interview: Sten Hellevig
film profile
, produced by Teréz Hollo-Klausen. After two years of pre-production and filming, the film is now out in Norwegian cinemas. It's summer, and the studio where Hellevig works is a stone's throw from here. Red bricks and window boxes surround us.

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Cineuropa: Why this film?
Sten Hellevig: I really wanted to make, not a musical, nor a documentary, but a film with lots of music. I'm addicted. I was a bit inspired by the film Almost Famous, and especially by the Dryads, a real-life Norwegian pop-rock band, with– naturally– their own array of passions, doubts, ambitions, conflicts. They were boys. I made them girls, with Henriette as lead singer. She's a strong personality, really sure of herself underneath her untamed exterior. She's played by Iben Akerlie and supported by Swedish actress Alba August, among others. The scenes in the woods were screenwriter Randall Jahnson's idea – a direct allusion to the ancient dryads, those woodland goddesses, guardians of the trees. Into Henriette's path comes Hilde, a sensible young girl who is fascinated by the world she discovers. I started out by making Hilde, played by Anneli Aune, just a blogger, but everything moves so quickly with technology that I ended up making Instagram her tool of choice, and a catalyst for my plot. 

Your film speaks to young people.
Yes, it does, but I think that depending on your age, your character, you're going to be more interested in some aspects of the story than others: the initiation and emancipation of a teenager, infidelity, jealousy, non-conformism, etc. … You can also be sensitive to humorous touches, to ironic distance. The subtitle, for instance, “Girls Don't Cry” can be understood in different ways: observation? Order? Self-deprecation? We've kept the ambiguity. Or you can take my film at face value, and go on a nostalgic musical trip, and let yourself be moved by the old pop hits I've chosen. In any case, my intention wasn't to shock, it was to get closer to reality. That's why I felt the character's clothes were important, and, in the interests of believability, I often used the lines suggested by my actors. I'd like to point out that it's not just women in Dryads: Hilde's very strict father is played by Morten Abel, a famous Norwegian singer, and there's Danish actor Allan Hyde playing one of the musicians. 

Who or what do you like in the film-world?
In no particular order… as actors I like Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Shailene Woodley; as directors, Kubrick, Tarantino, Jonathan Demme's Silence of the Lambs… and the US, where I'll no doubt be making my next film. 

You're a pioneer: the first in Norway to make a music video in 3D, and first in the world to direct a music video filmed entirely on a mobile phone. You must be an accomplished musician?
Not really. I mess around on the piano a bit. I'm too impatient to force myself to be as rigorous and disciplined as you need to be to learn properly, but I'm passionate about artistic direction. I love drawing, making, innovating. I came up with moving posters to promote Dryads. I have a fertile imagination. Sometimes ideas just race around in my mind. When that happens I go running in the woods. It does me so much good.

(Translated from French)

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