This week we attended the sneak-preview screening of In Order of Disappearance at Scandinavia House. Following the viewing, film critic John Anderson joined the director Hans Petter Moland and actor Stellan Skarsgård for a Q&A session.
In the movie, Stellan Skarsgård plays the character of Nils Dickman, a quiet man whose life takes a vengeful turn. Upon the revelation that a drug-lord arranged his son’s murder, Nils supplements his everyday occupation with the title of “assassin,” taking down the men responsible for his son’s demise. Mixing comedy and violence, Hans Moland creates a dynamic narrative dealing with blood, loyalty and revenge.
To begin the panel, John Anderson opened with a brief anecdote connecting himself with both Moland and Skarsgård, stating:
“I consider myself the longest standing Stellan Skarsgård in New York. I’ll tell you why. It’s because it was in the mid-90’s and it wasn’t Breaking the Waves – which, kind of, broke Stellan out here – it was Zero Kelvin, which had opened a year earlier, and was directed by Hans Petter Moland.”
The audience applauds, eager to discover more about the men behind the movie, and John Anderson wastes no time, leaping into discussion of In Order of Disappearance and the co-workers extensive history with one another
John Anderson: You guys have worked together now on four films, why?
Hans Petter Moland: Well, since you’ve seen Zero Kelvin, which was our first film and Stellan was a big star at the time…when he said yes to that film, it gave me a great boost of confidence because it meant that somebody with a fantastic reputation and someone I really admired could say yes to being in my film. So, I thought there must be something good about this project, you know? And…we had such a terrific time exploring that material together that it seemed like such a shame not to try to do it again. I think he gave me a lot of courage.
Stellan Skarsgård: You know, we shared a tent in the arctic…He’s the only director I’ve slept with.
The audience chuckles. There is a very steady stream of camaraderie between Skarsgård and Moland; during the discussion the artists naturally bounce off one another like friends, or family.
SS: I slept with him in a tent in the arctic on a glacier that was about 2,000 meters high. It was him, me, a revolver to protect us from the polar bears and a bottle of cognac. It was a great night.
JA: Going into this project, did you know what to expect or were you just going to put yourself in Hans Petter’s hands?
SS: We work well together and…we’ve developed a shorthand in communication, we trust each other…we can say anything to each other without feeling offended, but when he came with this project to me, I didn’t understand the script. It was so many genres, so many different tones, so many different films and I could not see the film. I was reluctant to do it but he convinced me with one sentence: “trust me.” I did but I didn’t know what film I was in until I saw the finished cut!
JA: What ties it together, for me, seems to be the landscape and also, the sounds.
HM: I think you’re right. The landscape is a reflection almost of [Nils’] character, this great vastness that is solitary…it’s only his little strip of civilization going through it. And he’s quite comfortable there…it gives him a sense of purpose and the feeling that he’s a meaningful human being. In a way, it allows him to think he’s a better man than he actually is because there’s nobody out there challenging his worldview. And, in just watching the last ten minutes, I was reminded of the variety of music. It was a real challenge as it’s a Western but I wanted it to have some resonance of the ethnicities of the film.
The conversation trails into a discussion of Norweigan and Swedish ethnicities within and beyond the film, to which Skarsgård contributes the comment, “I’m the most famous actor in Norway and yet, I’m Swedish.” The audience chuckles, once again, following the natural charisma emanating from the trio on-stage.
JA: With the exception of a few scenes, Stellan, you weren’t really interacting with other members of the cast. Except for a few lines, you’re acting on your own.
SS: It’s true! Most of the time, I’m saying one-liners and punching people in the face. To me, it’s such a pleasure to work without dialogue because film is not like theater; it’s not a literary art form. So, for me, it’s a pleasure to work with a director that is an expert in telling a story without having the actors have to tell it. It’s like the end scene of this film, which I like very much, with the wonderful Bruno Ganz. We don’t say anything, but it’s still a scene.
At this moment, Moland lifts the microphone from his colleague’s hand to interject,
“Actually, the last word in this film is ‘c*nt’ and it’s spoken ten minutes before the ending.”
Anderson moves then to discuss Moland’s son who played a key-role in In Order of Disappearance. Before long, an audience member interjects with a brief, simple question:
“How old is he?”
HM: He was 11 when we shot [the film], he’s 14 today. He’s grown about a foot; he’s sprouting a lot of pimples. He didn’t get asked [to act in the film] because he was my son, actually…I asked him if he wanted to do it, he said, ‘If you’re offering me the job because I’m your son, I don’t want to do it,’ which I think is a very healthy response.
An audible “awh” comes from the audience at this moment, touched by the level tenderness between father and son.
JA: The blackout, or “in memorium,” sequences are very effective…but the one that goes up for [The Count], what is that?
HM: That’s the one thing that doesn’t translate well. It’s the symbol for the Humanist Society of Norway, so it’s for people who are really ethical…if you’re a good, kind human being, you belong to this society.
As Anderson opens up the panel to questions, a couple of audience members nod and smile at the irony of the symbol; The Count, the movie’s top villain, a member of a humanist society? Another example of Moland’s subtle use of visuals to communicate an idea that’s both wicked and hilarious.
After a brief round of questions, John Anderson thanks the speakers for attending. As the audience prepares to depart, Hans Petter Moland raises the mic to his mouth, thanking the audience for supporting his work. Whilst individuals file out of the auditorium, Hans and Stellan remain side-by-side, chatting; chances are, they are discussing their next project or who knows? It could even be another camping trip.
In Order of Disappearance will be released in select U.S. theatres on August 26th, 2016.