Bent Hamer • Director
"Going where the story takes you"
by Thomas Martinelli
- Bent Hamer • Factotum's director
After the success of Kitchen Stories, Norwegian director Bent Hamer chose the US to shoot his latest film Factotum [+see also:
film profile], based on a novel by Charles Bukowski. The casting includes American actors Matt Dillon, Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei, and the former Jarmusch producer, Jim Stark, assured the executive production. However, in this interview in Haugesund, the director confesses his non intention to settle on the other side of the Atlantic.
How different was working in the US for you?
Bent Hamer: Factotum is an independent low-budget film, like those I usually make back home. For me as a director, the difference with this film is that I had the chance to work with big stars, and they were interested in working with me. Perhaps we sense the notion of hierarchy more so where the technical cast is concerned, but that also depends on the director. As a producer, the differences were clear to me, the fact that there are unions makes things unpredictable. You always have to plan well in advance — it’s very complicated to shoot in these conditions. What’s more, it wasn’t even a Hollywood production. I controlled and directed the film, which I also co-wrote and co-produced with Jim Stark. It was more or less like making any other independent film.
In Factotum the main character is in permanent conflict with his work environment and there is a total absence of solidarity. Do you think workers have changed in time?
It’s a mentality shared by millions of people: there are jobs that nobody really wants to do, but that somebody has to them. As for solidarity, I don't think anything changed. Nowadays, everyone is afraid of everything. The book covers the post-war period up to 1975, when the book was published, so the film is set in this period, but the type of instability that he describes has always existed.
Despite your “differences of opinion” with the US system, would you consider returning to the States?
I didn’t go to the States because I wanted to work there, but because the book obliged me to do so. I guess it is always interesting to go where the story takes you. That's also the reason we shot in Spain. I don't have any particular wish to shoot in the US again, but I am open to it. It depends on the upcoming scripts.
What are the perspectives for new Norwegian cinema?
It's vulnerable. We produce very few films each year, 15 or so, but on the whole it’s quality cinema. But since 1994/95 something has changed and there is now more funding available to make more personal stories, although not necessarily "politically correct" and because of this, they are not interesting.
Are you optimistic about the future?
Yes. There are a lot of problems, like everywhere, but as a small country, I think we have a good chance to succeed in making the most of our film potential.
And is that also because of co-productions?
Perhaps, but they can ruin things, because sometimes, when there are too many producers working on one project, something gets lost in the process. When you depend on other people’s money, compromises always have to be made.
Are you defending auteur films?
Undoubtedly, but I am not saying we should all produce, write and direct our own films. Very few succeed in doing this. But we should defend our own films, and if that’s what being an auteur is, then I do defend this type of film.
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