Jon Haukeland • Director
"Their reality, thanks to the freedom fiction granted me, became a new reality"
by Maud Forsgren
- Cineuropa sat down with Norwegian director Jon Haukeland, whose third feature film, What Young Men Do, is about to hit screens in the Scandinavian nation
Just as he was about to leave for the Bergen International Film Festival, where the director would show off his third feature film, What Young Men Do [+see also:
interview: Jon Haukeland
film profile], a film that deftly combines documentary and fiction, Cineuropa met with Jon Haukeland. The festival, affectionately known as BIFF, recognised the filmmaker in 2011, awarding him the Special Jury Prize for Reunion – Ten Years after the War. In that same year, he also took home an Amanda Award, Norway’s answer to France’s Césars. Haukeland is also known for his film, The Man Who Loved Haugesund, among others.
Cineuropa: Are there common threads between your films?
Jon Haukeland: Without a doubt... the interest I have in victims, their psychology, the relationship between victims and their assailant, the sometimes completely different ways to perceive the same reality. What Young Men Do highlights the different ways such very young men operate. I’ve always wanted to make a coming-of-age film, one about learning and self-discovery. Throughout the film, we follow the evolution of the main character, 16-year-old Noah. I met him just as he was about to go to trial, a hearing for which he feared the worst: he was accused of gang crimes, the victims of which were teenagers younger than him. At the time, this affair was very well covered in Norway. There was no shortage of commentary, experts, journalists, the police...while the young kids involved weren’t given the chance to share their side. So I decided to make a film to give them a voice. I had a few qualms, though, especially when Noah was threatened by older kids who were afraid we would inform on them: did I have the right to reveal who these minors were, when they were protected by anonymity? I chose to delay it.
And the script...
I took my inspiration for the script from the all the documentation I had gathered and I asked the kids to play themselves. For the most part, I let them improvise, because they are the ones who know what really happened. I was quite dependant on their expertise, their knowledge of certain situations, but, at the same time, the director that I am had to guide these improvisations, and I would guide them as if they were amateur actors. Hachim and Tim, Noah’s friends, and Walid, the victim, as well, impressed me with their good will and their natural talent. I must add, the real Frida, Noah’s girlfriend, does not appear in the film – there’s another young girl in that role. My actors, in the full sense of the word, now have a lot of trouble distinguishing the movie scenes from what actually happened in their life.
So your film is, in essence, a hybrid.
I’m not a fan of categories and labels. Above all else, this is an open film that offers a story told in chronological order, with very few flashbacks. It’s a little like a psychological thriller. As far as I’m concerned, The crime in itself, the theft, doesn’t really have any dramatic value, so I chose to film the moments leading up to the act in detail when Noah is on the horns of a dilemma, because he is threatened. There is some suspense, because we wonder if he will be able to manage the expectations and demands of others, and about what he will do with his freedom if he manages to reconcile the outside world with his internal one. He will, no doubt, change his life, but in what way, and into whom? Noah’s internal progression is set to music composed by John Birger Wormdahl and Bjarne Larsen. It reflects the narrator’s state of mind, just like Gus Van Sant in Paranoid Park. Van Sant also inspired me with the way he used slow-motion in order to isolate a particular moment. And we owe the song in the film to the rapper, Temoor.
Was it cathartic for you?
It was more a way of getting to know myself better. I found it helpful to first write a text about my own life, and then throw everything out. I used my own experiences to guide the project, but it was never about me. Nor is this metacinema: the way I worked wasn’t part of the story. I disappeared, putting the audience in direct contact with Noah and his story. These young kids spoke to me candidly about their reality, for which I am extremely lucky, and their reality, thanks to the freedom fiction granted me, became a new reality.
(Translated from French)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.