Autumn Fall premieres in New York
The largely ad-libbed film is a love letter to Oslo and an intimate portrait of two artists
Autumn Fall begins with a montage of warmly lit cozy scenes of Oslo, a visual love letter accompanied by a haunting jazz score. This film had its North American premiere on the opening night of the Nordic International Film Festival on October 28 at Scandinavia House in New York. I was immediately delighted, as it pulled me into the city of my paternal grandparents, a place I love to explore and where I can always find unexpected surprises.
We are quickly transported inside Oslo’s lovely National Theatre, where a serious production is being performed. An obviously inebriated audience member is not impressed and decides to voice his disappointment, spewing his opinion from his seat. His visit is short lived and he stumbles into a local watering hole, where the bartender asks him to leave. But instead this lanky, craggy character cajoles him into allowing him to stay in a corner and promises that he will not drink. This sad, comical man is Jeppe (Helge Jordal), an aging but well-respected actor.
In strolls the stage manager from the production, Ingvild (Ingeborg Sundrehagen Raustøl), and the shrewd Jeppe persuades her to buy him a drink. They are soon evicted from their cozy spot when the bartender discovers that Jeppe has not kept his word.
Now, Ingvild is forced to do the right thing and make sure Jeppe gets home safely. While depositing him on his doorstep, a waiting (or so she thinks) taxi filled with her belongings drives off. So Jeppe offers to allow her to stay at his home, on the couch. She agrees, with some trepidation. And this is how the relationship of Ingvild and Jeppe begins.
As he sleeps she investigates his wonderful home, with its many wonderful objects d’art. She is especially captivated by his library. In the morning, Jeppe is clear and charming, bringing her breakfast and a toothbrush. The two take a walk to an outdoor flea market on a crisp autumn day. Jeppe takes her back to his home to make her lunch. After she takes a shower she enters the room he is in, dressed only in a robe, and invites him to the bedroom. It has taken that little time for her—and us—to see Jeppe transformed from a stumbling drunk to an intriguing, complex man.
The peeling back of each personality is delightful to watch, as is the true intimacy they share. The latter is so rare in our fast-paced, hectic time of so-called social media, when in reality we rarely have time to connect with another human being. Here the intimacy is seen in simple pleasures: the reading of separate books in the same room, sharing an experience they both love. A playful leaf brawl in Vigeland Park.
At some point Ingvild takes Jeppe to meet her mother, who owns a feminist bookshop, and things begin to unravel. Then a strange set of circumstances occurs that will deliver a twist you will not expect, and I will not spoil for you. Needless to say, it still involves the relationship between these two flawed, quirky, lovable human beings.
In a generally beautiful movie, the scene in Emanuel Vigeland’s (brother of Gustav) mausoleum is not to be missed for the startling beauty of this place. The audience’s reaction to the film? They were enamored.
A discussion led by Ingrid Rudefors, Scandinavian Film Commissioner, followed the premiere. She called the film “a beautiful tribute to Oslo and Norway as a film location” and introduced the director, Jan Vardøen, and two of the actors: Helge Jordal and Hege Schøyen, who plays the mother. Here are some highlights:
Ingrid Rudefors: What were the actors’ impressions of the script?
Jan Vardøen: We improvised. The script was very thin. You start at the top, let them go, and get out of the way.
IR: Did you know that twist in the film when you read the script?
Helge Jordal: Yes. It was like “wow!”
JV: We did tell them [the actors] the plot ahead of time.
The discussion was then opened up to the audience. One member spoke about how beautiful the cinematography was. Vardøen responded, speaking about the popularity of Scandinavian crime films with their “angst-filled blue-gray, de-saturated” palette. “I wanted to change it around,” to portray Oslo from its best sides in a warm light.” He also spoke about how they set out to pick the most beautiful places in Oslo as locations.
Audience: Could you speak about how improvising was used?
JV: The more I work with actors, the more I respect their craft. I suggested themes to let them know what’s coming … I let them find true words. The delivery came from them; that’s why it feels so natural—basically they wrote the script.
A red carpet experience
The three-day Nordic International Film Festival began with a red carpet ceremony, where this year’s winners were announced. Many of the films’ directors attended, as did representatives from the Nordic consulates and celebrities like Björn Gustafsson (Swedish comedian and actor). The event also had virtual reality simulations that let people experience the landscape of Greenland.
“[The reception] is an ultimate way to allow for audience and filmmakers to meet and mingle,” creative director and co-founder of the festival Linnea Larsdotter told me. “Our festival is always about the filmmakers and this way they can get contacts and information and joy out of meeting other fellow artists and filmmakers.”
“The red carpet itself is a great way to temporarily isolate the filmmakers and actors for a minute or two to ask them questions, to find out more about the film or their process towards making the film,” she concluded.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 16, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.