Oscar nominee Eskil Vogt – who co-wrote “The Worst Person in the World” with Joachim Trier, and directed Cannes selected “The Innocents” – delivers another love story, but he goes darker in “Copenhagen Does Not Exist,” a Snowglobe production directed by Martin Skovbjerg, recently awarded at Göteborg Film Festival following its world premiere at Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam.
“So many movies, because of how the culture has changed, are trying to be very clear-cut. This one dares to show that humans can be complex and paradoxical, egotistical and gentle. We are fucked up beings,” he says.
In the film, a young woman suddenly disappears. Her father is looking for answers, especially from her boyfriend, Sander, who agrees to be questioned by him. Angela Bundalovic, Jonas Holst Schmidt and Zlatko Burić star, while TrustNordisk handles sales.
“I have been in this dark place for so long. I am just happy to be out again,” says Skovbjerg, also recalling a difficult lockdown shoot. “Being in that space, and trying to understand this couple, was hardcore.”
“It’s a story about isolation, about spending time in your apartment. It seemed so exotic: such a radical, weird thing to do. But then the pandemic came. The world caught up with the script, in a way,” laughs Vogt.
While they decided not to focus on the pandemic, the sense of anxiety, of loneliness, stayed in the film. As well as in Sander, whose behavior – as noted by Vogt – is bound to make some viewers uncomfortable.
“People would ask: ‘Can you make him more… active?’ He is too feminine, not strong enough – that’s what they meant. It’s very provocative, still, to have a man taking a backseat. He stops working! As a guy, can you do that?! They are going against the grain,” he points out. Also talking about the film’s unusual interrogation scene.
“When I read the novel [by Terje Holtet Larsen, called ‘Sander’] they just lock the door and start asking him questions. And he agrees to do that! Why? He should be more devastated, more provoked. This fear that you can’t trust your main character is there from the start and you just want to slap him sometimes.”
With such complex characters, casting was key, they both state.
“I needed someone who could just close his eyes and remember things, and you would see them,” says Skovbjerg.
“Jonas can do that, so can Angela. Together, they are creating a new world. Sander begins to understand who he really is, through Ida, and by letting go of the norms.”
Their relationship, which isolates them from everybody they know, could be viewed as toxic. Or it could be a “beautiful expression of love,” says Vogt. “It’s both, at the same time.”
“When you fall in love, you want to spend all your time with this person. Call in sick, order food, have sex and just talk. Hopefully, we have all been there. What they are doing is a continuation of that, in a way.”
While centered around a mystery, waiting to be solved, “Copenhagen Does Not Exist” ultimately heads in an unexpected direction.
“There are some unspoken rules in movies and usually, when someone is being investigated by a guy who looks like Zlatko, you think you know how it will end. But this is an existential drama. With some thriller beats,” explains Vogt, with Skovbjerg adding: “We dance around these rules, but it’s not just a thriller, not just a love story. It has time to be both.”
Trying to be respectful about multiple subjects discussed in the film – including depression – the duo also wanted to make sure that Ida won’t be just seen as a “ghost,” haunting her loved ones.
“For most of the movie, we are with Sander and inside of his head, so we never get her perspective. I hate the term ‘strong character,’ because they are usually boring. You need vulnerability, you need faults. But Ida is a strong character, because you can’t forget her – they talk about her all the time. She talks to you too, in the movie,” adds Vogt.