Brúsi Ólason • Director of Dalia
“Getting a healthy dose of a European point of view on the film industry was just what the doctor ordered”
- Icelandic director Brúsi Ólason talked to us about his short film Dalia, which will screen as part of this year’s EFP Future Frames
In the wilds of Iceland, a 6-year-old boy goes to his father’s farm. But since his parent’s divorce, the father and son find it difficult to spend time together. As the father tries to introduce the son to his world, they discover a horse that needs to be put down. The subsequent events causes their relationship to change irrevocably. Icelandic film Dalia is a tender and beautiful evocation of a fractious relationship
The graduate film from Icelandic director Brúsi Ólason, who studied directing at Columbia University in New York, will screen as part of this year’s European Film Promotion’s Future Frames, which takes place during Karlovy Vary’s Eastern Promises. We talked to him about what the film means to him and how important it was to make the film in Iceland.
Cineuropa: How personal is Dalia to you?
Brúsi Ólason: It is very personal in a way because it is loosely based on a true story from my own childhood. There was an injured horse that my father had to put down and he did explain the process to me much like happens in the film but that is sort of where the similarities end. I had written a draft of this idea in my first year at Columbia that was much simpler and did not explore the questions that the film does now. While at Columbia I became good friends with a Chilean classmate named Leticia Akel and I noticed that a lot of her work focused on masculinity and so I thought it would be interesting to ask her to write the script so we could focus on questions of masculinity and get her point of view on this personal story from my life. We talked a lot about how we could explore the toxic traits of masculinity but always ended up wanting to find and understand what elements of masculinity were in some way beneficial. What is the value of the toughness of our fathers and how does it simultaneously help them and hurt them. Leticia’s contribution is obviously incredibly important as both her feminine insight and previous explorations of the masculine really elevated the film. Perhaps that is also another element of how the film is personal to me, I got the chance to explore my personal history and my own masculinity with a trusted collaborator.
The narrative sometimes takes a surprising turn. Were you deliberately trying to subvert audience expectation?
The father has no way to connect to his young son except through manual labour and he makes no attempt to see the world from his son’s point of view. When the time comes to put down the horse these same traits suddenly become a way for the father to connect to the son. The toughness that has kept them apart is the thing that brings them together: so in some way we were deliberately trying to subvert audience expectation but doing so to explore the themes of masculinity.
The vast and empty location is a big part of the film. Can you tell us more about where you shot Dalia?
The location in Iceland was very important to me because I knew exactly what kind of Icelandic location I wanted because, despite the feeling that Icelandic films all look the same kind of beautiful, the landscape can be used effectively. We shot the film in two different locations in the south of Iceland. Both have a flat and empty quality to them but the one we used for most exteriors has these sudden great menacing mountains very close to the horizon. It feels sort of like a wall or a fortress looming over the flat and empty landscape. I felt this was very important because to me it reflects the father's character. He is a solitary man that has a hard time letting people in like a vast and empty landscape closed off by a wall of mountains.
You’re taking part in Future Frames: what are your hopes and expectations for EFP’s event?
As of writing this I have already been through half of the events planned for us by EFP and I have already gotten to meet a lot of very interesting people and learn a lot. Having been educated in the US getting a healthy dose of a European point of view on the film industry was just what the doctor ordered.
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