The Wait is over for Aku Louhimies, as he readies his next film
by Marta Bałaga
- In his new, small-scale drama, the director of the war epic The Unknown Soldier shows how to stop worrying and love the COVID-19 restrictions
As the pandemic restrictions ease up, film and TV productions are slowly resuming all over Europe. But few upcoming projects seem to fit the new on-set rules as well as Aku Louhimies’ Odotus – The Wait, an intimate love story set on an isolated island, all the way up in the Finnish Archipelago Sea. It is to be shot already this summer and, as advertised, in a sustainable manner, thanks to the collaboration with Compensate – a Finnish non-profit organisation combatting climate change.
“The script was already written before [the pandemic], but the current situation made us think: ‘Ok, why don’t we just plan the production so that we can do it this summer?’” explains Louhimies to Cineuropa over Zoom, discussing the story which, inspired by Juhani Aho’s novel The Vicar’s Wife (published in 1893), was penned by the director and actress Inka Kallén, who will also play the conflicted lead, torn – as one tends to be – between her head and her heart. “I often write with someone else. For me, it’s just another form of collaboration. All this thinking, going through things together, is just something I really enjoy. In this case, Inka contacted me first – I have known her for a very long time. We decided to look at this novel, as there was certainly something interesting about it. The film is inspired by it, but it’s a present-day love story. So, ultimately, things are quite different from how they were all the way back in the 1800s.”
Louhimies, who, following his 2017 smash The Unknown Soldier [+see also:
film profile] – the third film adaptation of the Finnish literary classic of the same name by Väinö Linna, not that that diminished its appeal – jumped into thriller territory with the series RIG 45, seems to be looking forward to such a drastic change of pace. “It’s fun to look at life from a different angle. We will film in the Finnish Archipelago Sea, so we are depending on the weather – that’s it. It’s liberating. You just accept that there are things that you can’t control and live with these elements.” But although, at least for a while, making a film on a The Unknown Soldier-like scale would surely prove problematic, the Finnish director remains optimistic about the medium’s future. “Cinema is important – it’s a social tool, even though so much content is streamed nowadays. I think we will be always interested in good stories.”
Although his last feature set the local box office alight, Louhimies also found himself under fire, following criticism of his working methods on set, reportedly targeted mainly at women. “It happened two-and-a-half years ago,” he says about [public service broadcasting company] Yle’s article that quoted the actresses he had worked with in the past. “I asked the police to start an investigation into the claims of that journalist and also her editor-in-chief. There were so many lies and so much misinformation in that story, and even though they had the chance to admit they made mistakes, and there were things that simply weren’t correct, they didn’t do it,” he adds. “Of course, you can’t argue with somebody’s feelings. But we can’t forget the facts, not even in the yellow press. I want to forgive, and I want to move on and keep on making films. That’s what I want to do.”
Still, as he stresses, the decision to tell a female-centred story had nothing to do with the accusations. “The Wait happens to have a female protagonist, yes, but I think that, in this particular case, the main character could easily be a man. Their gender is irrelevant – it’s the element of love that’s universal.” Indeed, this is something he also appreciated in other unabashedly romantic films, both old and new. “I really liked Cold War [+see also:
Q&A: Pawel Pawlikowski
film profile], and I recently re-watched The Piano and the series Normal People [co-directed by Room [+see also:
film profile]’s Lenny Abrahamson]. Then there’s the French New Wave and Terrence Malick. Then again, I also like Charlie Chaplin – it’s always good when there is a comical element in the story as well. It deepens the drama,” he observes. “We start filming at the beginning of August, so it remains to be seen what will come out of it in the end.” One thing is certain, though – this time around, COVID watchdogs don’t need to worry.
Odotus – The Wait is being produced by Andrei Alén, Kaarina Gould and Aku Louhimies himself for Backmann & Hoderoff. Supported by the West Finland Film Commission, the film is scheduled to open in Finland in 2021, while its main production partner, streaming platform C More, will stream the movie locally at the end of the year.
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