Christian Lollike • Director of The Cake Dynasty
“It’s good to get a chance to laugh and cry at the same time”
by Marta Bałaga
- While discussing his new film about a cake factory facing ruin, the Danish director talks laughter, tears and everything in between
In Christian Lollike’s The Cake Dynasty [+see also:
interview: Christian Lollike
film profile], which has world-premiered at the Zurich Film Festival, Niels (Nicolas Bro) needs to acknowledge a simple fact: his cake factory is facing ruin. He can’t do anything right, not even kill himself, but cleaning lady Zeinab (Bahar Pars) might have a solution. One that – luckily – doesn’t involve healthy cookies. "To me, making a film is a collective process where different artists work together. That's why it says: 'A film by kollektivet'," Lollike says. "It would be wrong to say it's a film by Christian Lollike." The director also had the following to say about his new movie.
Cineuropa: Your film is not exactly politically correct. Did you always want to go for the kind of humour that could be viewed as controversial?
Christian Lollike: Hopefully, we also get to tap into something universal here because it was never my intention to make people uncomfortable. I have been interested in two subjects: this obsession we have with looking good and thin, and how Muslim communities can be perceived in my country. I know I might be stepping into a minefield, but my intention was to surprise people, to allow them to face their own prejudices.
There used to be a lot of love for satire, for stories acknowledging certain taboos. Today, many prefer to avoid it.
Yes, I totally agree. The atmosphere is tense, also when it comes to non-Muslim filmmakers making films about Muslims, or about having overweight characters in your film if you yourself are not overweight. I do not believe in that.
You start with this image of Nicolas, being so exposed. You show many different bodies; it’s part of the story. Why this decision?
I visited a cake factory, and that’s what many of the workers looked like, so I would be lying by trying to hide it away. Nicolas was never afraid of showing his body. We talked about it a lot, with the other actors as well – also about what purpose it would serve. To him, it really wasn’t the issue. He was more concerned about the moment when his character decides to convert and needs to recite certain words from the Quran. But we talked about it with our Muslim actors. They convinced him to embrace it, saying it would just make them proud.
From its description, it seems like a heartwarming story: after all, it’s about a cake factory! But then you go very dark, very quickly.
It would have been easy to turn it into some broad comedy, but we wanted to combine this easy, old-school humour with something darker, yes. To be more honest – for example, when telling this love story. These people are all driven by the economy: Niels, his wife, Zeinab. He wants to save the factory, which has been his entire life. She is offering her culture as a business tool – she works as a cleaning lady and needs money to reunite with her child. But then, they also fall for each other.
Humour and tragedy are so deeply linked. I have known many depressed people in my life, even in my family, and it’s so tragic what they go through. But at the same time, there is something comical about how they act. I admire the directors who mix the two, like Ruben Östlund with Triangle of Sadness [+see also:
interview: Ruben Östlund
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile] and The Square [+see also:
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile]. It’s good to get a chance to laugh and cry at the same time.
Audiences might be a bit squeamish these days. But violent scenes also make it into the film, like – well – the disembowelment of an animal.
My taste is like that, I guess. Twin Peaks has always been my guiding star: they combined something funny with something disturbing, and I liked that they kept switching back and forth. It’s something that, at this point, I just can’t get away from. Also, I saw a TV show about Muslim women in Denmark, about how they live, and one of them was out hunting. She shot a deer and took it home, stuffing it into a lift. It’s not something I invented!
When your characters discuss possible new strategies with Niels’s daughter and her husband, both very corporate-like, the way they talk is quite funny as well.
His daughter went to business school, and now she is coming back to her hometown. This pair, they are also quite lost. I wanted to stay close to reality, and I know people who really do talk like this. Although, as soon as you put it in a film, it sounds ridiculous. It’s like with that hunting scene – something rooted in reality is usually the craziest part.
I would say I am interested in all these awkward situations, happening to us all the time. In Denmark, we prefer to stay away and not interact with another culture sometimes, just because we are afraid of saying the wrong thing. We play out all of these anxious scenarios in our head. It’s so sad, I think. We should just get over our stupidity. Maybe that’s what I am trying to show.
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