Searching for the hard answers

Per Fly, aged 45, is one of Denmark’s new generation of inspired filmmakers, and with his first trilogy he has already soared beyond the borders of his country with numerous entries and awards at international film festivals. Fly, along with a handful of other directors from this small north European country, come hot on the footsteps of celebrated auteurs such as Carl Dreyer, Lars von Trier and his close «relative,» Thomas Vinterberg, and at November’s Thessaloniki International Film Festival, a tribute to Denmark’s cinematic production left audience and critics pleasantly surprised. The feeling culminated with Fly’s «Manslaughter,» the final installment of a trilogy that began with «The Bench» and «Inheritance.» «Manslaughter» was without a doubt one of the best films to come out in 2005. Full of meaning, operating on many different levels and beautifully structured, it surgically slices through Danish and, by extension, European society through the story of the illicit affair of a 50-year-old family man and professor with a much younger woman who is also a political activist. The death of a police officer will bring the woman before the law, and the professor will have to take stock of his life, his family, his beliefs and the structures of his own society. Fly and his film, along with some of his contemporaries, are the product of Denmark’s long, systematic policy in the film industry, which appears to attest to a new blooming of Danish cinema. In fact, in this country of 5.5 million, Danish films account for 25 percent of box office sales. Fly’s trilogy will be shown in Greece at the Danaos cinema tomorrow, although «Manslaughter» will be screened regularly at other film theaters as well. In the event of this presentation, Fly agreed to a telephone interview with Kathimerini. Reality in fiction Each part of the trilogy addresses a different social stratum. Could one say that the common element between the three is the concept of individual and group accountability? Yes, we could say that. I do a lot of research before embarking on any film. I collect material, I talk to people who live like the characters in the script. The story is completely fictional, but the environment in which it takes place is the product of research. In «The Bench,» the main characters are alcoholics. I spent half a year meeting with people like this before starting to write the script. In «Inheritance» I refer to very wealthy people. So, I met with businessmen and people who are influential in Copenhagen. On the other hand, «Manslaughter» describes the middle class – which accounts for 85-90 percent of Denmark’s population – through a very unusual story. In the first two films, the situations are connected to the social class, but in this last one it is exactly the opposite. A murder is not «commonplace» in the middle classes. Is this why the characters are upper-middle class? I wanted the character in «Manslaughter» to resemble myself. The hero is an intellectual professor, a leftist. We may not have the same age but we think in the same way. Through the character I wanted to bring to the surface some of my own political convictions, my own concerns. With all the research you do, you act much like a documentary filmmaker would. Yes, in a way. But there is an essential difference. My stories are all connected to one another, and what I like doing more than anything else in my films is telling stories. I can do whatever I like to reality because the film is fictional. In documentaries you are more restricted; there are things you are not allowed to do because you are dealing with real people and real stories… Globalization In the past, you stated that the social classes have become «cemented» in this day and age. Do you believe there was more flexibility in the past? Over the past 10 years globalization has made things in Denmark very difficult. We have a very small lower class in Denmark. My research has shown me that it is very hard, if not impossible, for someone in the lower classes to move up a class. «Manslaughter» is a caustic study of political activism. The main character defends the accused political activist as her lover. Are you saying that love must obey the laws of morality, or not? He not only defends her as her lover, but as a person with political convictions too. He cannot come to terms with the fact that the policeman’s murderer will never be found. He is in conflict with his own emotions. Love does not need to obey the laws of morality, but it must have a moral code. Morality is different from country to country, but the moral code is the same. The real dilemma in the film lies elsewhere. The hero says that if you want to fight for a better society, there will be victims. There is no other way. Naturally, we reject this. We say that lives need not be lost. But look at the other side of this argument. Bush also says that in Iraq we are fighting for democracy and there will be victims. There really are no easy answers to these kinds of questions. What are your future plans? On April 10 we begin filming a television series that is inspired by Kurosawa’s «Rashomon.» It is about one event which we look at from different angles. This interview was translated from the Greek text.