2014 Tribeca Film Festival Interview: Hans Petter Molland (Director – ‘In Order of Disappearance’)

Upstanding community leader Nils (Stellan Skarsgaard) has just won an award for “Citizen of the Year” when he learns the news that his son has died of a heroin overdose. Suspecting foul play, Nils begins to investigate, uncovering connections between the death and an ongoing turf dispute between Serbian drug dealers and a sociopathic criminal mastermind known only as “The Count.” Soon Nils’ relatively modest quest for vengeance puts him at the center of an escalating underworld gang war. 

With a pitch-black sense of humor and a snowballing body count, director Hans Petter Moland depicts Nils’ righteous vengeance spiraling out of control with style, humor, and surprise, delivering an entertaining and intelligent action-thriller set in the dead of frozen Norwegian winter. 

‘In Order of Disappearance‘ screens as part of the Spotlight Selections at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, April 20 and again on Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  We sat down with the film’s Director Hans Petter Moland on-site to discuss the film’s themes, working with the prolific Stellan Skarsgaard and much more.

Find More Information & Tickets to ‘In Order of Disappearance’ at the 2014 Tribeca Film FestivalHERE

What was thee first aspect of what would ultimately become ‘In Order of Disappearance’ that came to you? Was it a character, setting, theme….?
Revenge.  It was the idea of someone who believes himself to be a civilized, law abiding citizen encountering the more primitive aspects of the mind in order to inflict as much pain on those who deserve it as possible.  It is something very primitive, yet recognizable; so we can all relate to this idea.

INORDEROF_kraftidiotenEven though the idea of revenge is a commonly used genre, I find ‘In Order of Disappearance to be a distinctly uncategorizable film.  Can you speak to your influences within the revenge genre or, perhaps, your filmmaking influences in general which may have interjected themselves into this film?
As you point out revenge is not an uncommon theme in movies, but I wanted to explore it in a way that other people have not.  I take it as a compliment when you say it is difficult to categorize this film because I wanted to blow the doors off of any genre limitation out there in the firm belief it is possible to have tragedy and absurd comedy live side by side.  In order for that to happen you need to have very strong, recognizable and, in a way, uncomplicated, themes to explore.  I think this helps the audience to navigate the film, especially when they may not know what exactly to feel or think.

In terms of my influences, I saw Charles Bronson films when I was living here 30 years ago.  I actually do not know if I am a revenge genre buff in any way because my personal favorites are much different. Terence Malick, for example, is one of the great filmmakers.  Nikita MikhalkovUrga‘ is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen.

I lived in the United States in the 70’s when American films were vibrant.  More so than many of my European and Norwegian colleagues, I am a great fan of American films of that era.

Watching your film I finally realized what a prolific actor Stellan Skarsgård is at both the independent and studio level. As a Director, how do you approach working with Stellan?
The reason why he pops up everywhere is because he is one of the greatest actors living.  This is being recognized by his Hollywood colleagues and indie directors alike.  It is that simple.

This is our 4th film together.  We are good friends and have great trust in each other.  I think filmmaking is a very risky undertaking, but you cannot shy away from it.  You might as well take those risks.  We like to egg each other on and help each other in taking them.  We take delight in flying without a safety net.

In terms of directing Stellan, we have a shorthand that is valuable since we have done so much together.  I know he enjoys working with me. He has gotten good roles and has publicly said they have been some of the best roles of his career.  When we work together it also gives him the opportunity to get beyond the obvious.  We rehearse, not to set things in stone, but to get everybody up to speed and explore and re explore the material. To me, this is what filmmaking is about.  It is what I do as a screenwriter; what I do with my design team; what I do with my composer, cinematographer and editor.  It is all about exploring and refining.  In doing that with Stellan, he likes to be challenged.  He knows it is dangerous anyway so we might as well do something that defies the fears apparent in most actors.

INORDEROF_noknyic8The film’s antagonist, “The Count” is a very colorful, volatile character.  Can you discuss the inspiration behind him?  Also, what was the strategy behind the world the count lives in from a design perspective.  There are some oddly gaudy aspects of his interior home life, which I am curious as to how they were conceptualized.
It is having fun with the designer.  We ask ourselves how this character would manifest his wealth.  What is his vanity?  He is a satirized version of any rich, young metrosexual Norwegian man.  He has political correctness in carrying the obvious, like his electric car and vegan diet, yet he is also the most intolerant, despicable human being. He is not necessarily bright, but he is sly.  He can smell deceit from a mile away.  He has all the sociopathic qualities somebody in his position needs to have.  This does not necessarily eliminate him from having aesthetic pretentions.

Interjected at points throughout the script I found certain “critiques” of modern Norwegian culture.  There are references to the welfare state, as well as the “cushy” prison life.  As an outsider, we are constantly told that countries like Norway and its Northern European neighbors have some of the best quality of life in the entire world as a result of these types of systems.  Is this the consensus amongst the people of Norway or, specifically, within the Norwegian artistic community?
I would not say it is a critique but it is highlighting some of the absurd fallouts of this system through the interpretation of some not very bright people.  When two gangsters discuss sunshine vs welfare, you may first think they have a point, but as you continue to think about it you realize it is not so.  The greatest civilization in European history, the Roman Empire, had a sunny existence for the most part, so their theory does not hold up.  I think the commentary on Norwegin society is more along the lines of the provincial need to be modernistic and its vulgar highrise version of itself.  The film is void of any of the old Oslo, it is just the new highrise look of the city.  Even the access road was manipulated.  It exists next to the fjord but we took it and put it over the fjord, directly traveling into the heart of modern Oslo.

Also, how can this society defend itself against the blood avenging criminals.  It really has no defense system because it is so benign and trusting; some would say naive.  I think this film proves the only thing is has going for it in terms of meeting these brutalities is the dichotomy of children skiing and playfulness.  It is not a big deal but it says that these guys who work in this arcane structure, when say see Norwegians do what they do, it pulverizes the structure of their own organization.


About The Filmmaker
Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland made his debut as a feature film director in 1993 with the WWII-drama, The Last Lieutenant. His next film, Zero Kelvin (1995), garnered him the Norwegian National Film Award Amanda for Best Picture, as well as the Grand Jury Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival. He has continued to direct award-winning feature films with international acclaim ever since.

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