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Terje Rangnes • Director

"We wanted to put the outdated charm of Christmases of yesteryear front and centre"

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- Cineuropa caught up with Norwegian director Terje Rangnes to talk about his Christmas film Carpenter Andersen meets Santa Claus

Terje Rangnes • Director

Christmas is knocking on our doors, and yours as well most probably, and everyone’s getting ready to throw it open and welcome in the famous Father Christmas, who you will perhaps think comes straight from Finland, from Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle, to be more precise. Well you’re wrong. The real Father Christmas is Norwegian, just like director Terje Rangnes, whose latest film Carpenter Andersen meets Santa Claus [+see also:
trailer
interview: Terje Rangnes
film profile
]
is directly inspired by a Christmas story by writer Alf Prøysen, also Norwegian.

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Cineuropa: This is your second feature, the first being Just Another Day at the Office.
Terje Rangnes
: Yes, and as well as adverts, I’ve made a number of fictional films for children, above all for television. But this is the first time I’ve made a Christmas tale, and not by halves, as this story, a classic of its genre which is dear to young and old alike, is a real part of Norwegian cultural heritage. Truth be told, the idea is not mine. It’s the invention of production company Fantefilm Fiksjon, which got in touch to pitch the project to me. It was a real honour, as Alf Prøysen is a great writer and songwriter.

He’s originally from Hedmark, is he not?
Exactly, Hedmark, between Oslo and Lillehammer. It’s there, in the undergrowth, that Father Christmas has always lived with his wife and three children, and it’s there that he meets the carpenter Andersen, played by Trond Espen Seim. They get on well and swap lives. I won’t say anything else. What’s certain is that the real Father Christmas doesn’t have much in common with Walt Disney’s Santa Claus. He more closely resembles a spirit of the forest, the goblins and trolls illustrated so well by cartoonist Kittelsen. They are an integral part of the age-old natural environment.

I believe Father Christmas invited you all round to his house, did he not?
Exactly, but to respect his privacy (he’s afraid of the paparazzi!), we decided to shoot in Romania with Philip Øgård, our director of photography. And it was in Oslo that we did the editing with Elise Solberg, as well as the post-production work. We took particular care over the special effects, which we wanted to be soft and nuanced. I don’t really like blockbuster films that require a whole host of machinery. We wanted to put the outdated charm of Christmases of yesteryear, of provincial life in the country at the end of the 1960s, front and centre, with a fairly slow tempo, moderate visual effects, and the music composed by Magnus Beite.

The basic plot is a bit thin.
Yes, the original story was just three pages long, but our screenwriter John Kåre Raake padded it out by dividing it into three acts preceded by an episode introducing the Andersen family. He adapted, developed, polished and invented things with the producer, Martin Sundland, and myself. We elaborated on the original story with plenty of good cheer, just like we worked with all members of the team. We spent seven months on the writing and meticulously preparing to shoot in our various locations. When we start shooting we have to, in my opinion, have sorted out any problems first, so that we don’t waste any time or money.

Do you rehearse with your actors?
Oh yes, rehearsing is very important. To test and rework the script in particular. Anders Baasmo Christiansen, who plays Father Christmas, is also from Hedmark, and really helped the other actors with the regional accent. The actors, being the professionals they are, were clear and precise without us having to intervene much, remaining credible throughout, and the atmosphere of the film owes them a lot. The six children we cast, aged between seven and 12, behaved magnificently, and Ingeborg Sundrehagen Raustøl and Johanna Mørck, who play the wives of our two heroes, also contributed to the local feel of the film, to the magic of Christmas à la Prøysen.

(Translated from French)

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