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Vibeke Idsøe • Director

"It can often be enriching to broach topical issues with elements borrowed from the past"


- Cineuropa caught up with Norwegian director Vibeke Idsøe, director of The Lion Woman, the screening of which will open this year’s 44th Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund

Vibeke Idsøe • Director

The Lion Woman [+see also:
interview: Vibeke Idsøe
film profile
by Norwegian director Vibeke Idsøe will open this year’s 44th Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund (see article). The film, which was produced by Norwegian company Filmkameratene, among others, has already been sold to some 40 countries. Vibeke Idsøe rose to fame in 1996 with Body Troopers, an children’s adventure film that won a number of awards and was based on a novel she wrote. It was in Oslo on a rainy springlike day that Cineuropa met this filmmaker, just as she was putting the finishing touches to her film, her first feature film following a break of ten or so years.

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Cineuropa: Your film will soon be finished, is that a relief?
Vibeke Idsøe: I’m dreading the moment we bring it all to a close. I’ve spent four years of my life working on this project, which is very dear to me, including one year just trying to secure the necessary funding. After months of hard work and enthusiasm with the same team, it’s all about to peter out, although I’m delighted with the prospect of going to Haugesund. I feel very honoured.

The Lion Woman is based on the novel of the same name by Erik Fosnes Hansen, an international success, is it not?
Exactly. I read the book when it was published in 2006, and I fell in love with its moving story straight away: a human faced with isolation, searching for love and acknowledgement. It shares elements in common with The Elephant Man by David Lynch. This need for acceptance is a recurring theme in my films. It wasn’t easy to write a screenplay based on this 400-page-long book. I wrote it with the author, who’s an old friend of mine. We had to make some drastic choices, changing the original structure of the novel. The film gives us a chronological story with flashbacks and a few flashforwards. We even wrote a new ending: it forced itself on us. I think it’s good for a writer to be closely involved in the creative process, and Erik often came onto the set to give us his opinion.

Why did you make a film based on this novel?
It’s a story that is very much relevant today and conveys familiar emotions and feelings, with characters we can easily identify with. Take, for example, the father-daughter relationship, one of the core themes of the film: what does it mean to a father to have a child who seems to be different from the others, whose mother died bringing her into the world? It’s easy for us to understand this character, played by Swedish actor Rolf Lassgård, even though the beginning of the story takes place between 1912 and 1936, in a small town in Norway. I think it can often be enriching to broach topical issues with elements borrowed from the past. The story also opened up a world of visual possibilities.

Are you alluding to the physical appearance of the young girl?
I’m referring first and foremost to space and time. To time first of all, as a story that extends over a good quarter of a century enables us to portray an evolution. Then to space, as the main character moves, travels: we follow Eva in Norway, to Paris, to Denmark and to Germany. The plot lent itself perfectly to the needs of a co-production involving several countries. For a filmmaker, this spatiotemporal range is an opportunity, an asset. That said, Eva’s physical appearance also definitely played a role visually speaking, and we called on Conor O’Sullivan, a British make-up expert, to make the masks.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau.
I wanted a lighter mask, something a bit more subtle than the one worn by Jean Marais in that film. Eva’s face isn’t completely covered in hair, she has a proper expression. I wanted her to be attractive, captivating to the young man who falls in love with her. I didn’t want audiences to feel sorry for her: she’s not a victim, she’s a highly resourceful individual who doesn’t complain. I have to say that the three young actresses who play Eva at the ages of eight, 15 and 24 demonstrated that they have a lot of patience and gracefully put up with the two hours it took to have their make-up done everyday. Of course, we rigorously upheld all laws governing the working conditions of young artists. The Germans are particularly pernickety in this regard, and I appreciated their conscientiousness and reliability.

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(Translated from French)

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