The Danish director Annette K. Olesen, 46, has her own unmistakable voice in films.
Ever since her first feature, "Minor Mishaps", won a Blue Angel at the 2002 Berlinale, she has continued to refine her craft in strong, character-driven dramas that often have resonant political themes. All of her films were made in close collaboration with the actors, often with long development phases focusing on improvisation and research into the environments described.
Olesen in 2004 followed up "Minor Mishaps" with "In Your Hands", a Dogme-tinged prison drama that she and her writer, Kim Fupz Aakeson, called the first Danish feel-bad movie in years. "In Your Hands", as well as "Little Soldier" (2008), about a female soldier who returns from Afghanistan, rootless and traumatised, were selected for competition in Berlin.
Working in a series format
Working on the TV series "Borgen", which has been a huge hit on BBC, was very positive for the Danish director who put her past experiences to good use in the format of a TV series.
"It was great fun and professionally very satisfying to work in the well-defined genre track of a series. It’s a bit like doing a Dogme film: you submit to a set of rules, in this case certain genre conventions."
Initially, though, she was quite nervous that she wouldn’t get the time she needed under the tight production format to use her method of working in depth with the characters.
"But in fact I was surprised how well everything worked out. The actors had already done most of the work of mapping their characters’ past. I talked with them about what their characters had been through and what their dreams were. I didn’t try to foist a lot of new ideas on them but started from the facts, their experiences with their characters. This proved to be a very good fit for a TV series," the director says.
An eco-political thriller
Olesen is continuing in the genre track in her new film, "The Shooter", a political thriller currently in production. In the near future, large sections of the Danish population are in uproar because the newly elected government, breaking its campaign promises, is partnering with the US to drill for oil in the fragile Arctic. The film’s protagonist is a woman journalist, played by Trine Dyrholm, who has long been dogging the government. When she publicly states that she understands how someone might go very far to block the government’s plans, a disaffected geophycisist and former Olympic marksman, played by Kim Bodnia, takes her remarks to heart – and an intense drama ensues.
The film is a remake of a Danish film from 1977, "before the fall", as Olesen puts it. That is, before the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme, before global terror and climate change. "The world has changed so much since then," Olesen says. "Last summer, as we were writing the screenplay, there was flooding in Copenhagen and the tragedy in Utøya, Norway, happened. "The Shooter" is, scarily, more relevant now than it was when it was written 40 years ago."
"The Shooter" is written by Lars K. Andersen, Michael W. Horsten and Åke Sandgren, and is produced by Nordisk Film with support from the Danish Film Institute. Release is scheduled for February 2013.