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4th December 2018
Norwegian noir
Title of film: The Hunger
Director: Kenneth Karlstad
Though darker than a big dark thing, Kenneth Karlstad’s arresting, award-winning short The Hunger flirts with a gentle humour in its portrayal of a young lad seeking the noir in ‘Norway’s New Jersey’. The Stink-signed Norwegian director’s trippy promos, impactful PSAs and spooky shorts display he’s as adept at menace and magical realism as he at sentiment and psychological truth. Here, he tells 1.4 about ‘the hunger’ in his own youth when he dabbled in petty crime and drugs, and how music and stream of consciousness are vital to his creative process.

In The Hunger, Jorgen’s craving for the dark side is undercut by moments of tender humour… ‘Lucifer’ re-folding his laundry and cuddling his cat. Do you see his quest to be a tough guy as slightly ridiculous or funny?

Funny yes, but not ridiculous. I see his quest as something pure that he really needs to explore. He is testing the extreme boundaries of himself and it becomes funny when we see that he is maybe too tender for the direction he’s currently heading. What’s scary to think of is what will happen if, later on, he goes bad and suppresses this beautiful tenderness he has…

Why are you drawn to depicting sensation-seeking behavior, is it a knot in yourself that you are trying to unravel…?

The first real sensation-seeking for me was graffiti. That started when I was around 12-13 years old, painting trains and walls, running from the police and so on. Later that took a turn towards experimenting with petty crime, drugs and so on. I’ve always been drawn towards the feeling of being overwhelmed by something, when I was around 14-15 years old I used to lie in bed listening to trance dreaming of how it would feel like to be high on ecstasy. I think that urge for something overwhelming intuitively translates to the screen when I work.

You’ve said The Hunger depicts the competitive macho scene of your industrial hometown of Sarpsborg, and how a homoerotic dream you had as a teenager caused you stress. Would you like to explore gender issues more in your work? Is it a theme that might continue in The Hunger in its adaptation into a drama series?

Not exactly in my work generally, but in developing The Hunger, yes. While working on both the short and the drama series, I’ve thought a lot about how troubling these masculine gender roles were to me growing up. So that’s something I feel confident in depicting. But I love being masculine, so it’s also a celebration of it, too. I think The Hunger is needed now that society is trying to redefine masculinity.
 
You’ve said that some of the scenes in The Hunger came to you as music video ideas. What role does music play in your creative process?

It’s my main inspiration and has everything to do with why I make films. Every idea I get comes out of music. I’m constantly on Soundcloud checking out new stuff and getting ideas for scenes. I need music to write.

Before going to film school aged 26 you worked in construction, did you not have any artistic motivation during that time or while growing up? 

I had lots of it! As a kid all I did was listen to music while drawing, that transferred to graffiti and I studied art in high school, but got sick of it and dropped out. Around that time, I got drawn towards the petty crime stuff and started hanging out with a crowd that was the complete opposite of my earlier friends. They were bodybuilders and construction workers and I found that intriguing. I come from a family of craftsmen as well so it felt natural to start working in construction. Around that time I didn’t think about art, but after some years I got bored by construction work and again started dreaming of making films – like I had done as a child.

You’ve admitted you can be a bit ‘shouty’ on set… Is there a distinct work you and a non-work you?

I guess ‘shouty’ is a bit misleading. I’m just very focused and direct and I expect that from others as well. It’s more like ‘let’s put politeness and social codes aside so that we stay effective and make something great in this short time we’ve got.’ And that works fine. I’m a nice guy both on set and off set! Just ambitious and focused when working.
 
You’ve said your brilliant, dreamlike promo for Kaja Gunnufsen’s Au was written in a kind of stream of consciousness and shot before you could analyse it too much. Do you like to work instinctually and analyse later?

Yes I do. For an example one of the key scenes in my upcoming short, The Dreamer, was written in stream of consciousness. It is pretty surreal and graphic, but without analysing it too much, I actually ended up building the whole film around that particular scene. The problem with working like that is getting funding, [producers] often want to be spoon-fed answers right away and [might avoid] something they don’t understand. But they all love the works of Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Lynch!

Tell us something about The Dreamer. Is horror a genre you want to work more in?

It’s about a mother trying to cope with her six-year-old daughter’s night terrors and difficulty separating dreams from reality. I’ve been intrigued by the horror genre since I was a kid. It contains mysteries that hint at something profound. It’s fun writing horror cause you can make up your own mystery and explore why you find that particular mystery interesting. You are soul-searching while at the same time scaring the hell out of people – that’s extremely rewarding for some strange reason.

Interview by Carol Cooper

LINKS

Stink

Credits

The Hunger

Writer and Director: Kenneth Karlstad ( twitter.com/KennethKarlstad )
Producer: Petter Onstad Løkke
Executive Producers: Synnøve Hørsdal & John Einar Hagen

Director of Photography: Pål Ulvik Rokseth
Editor: Karsten Meinich & Kenneth Karlstad (co-editor)
Production Designer: Mirjam Veske
Sound Designers: Johannes Dekko & Inger Elise Holm
Acting Coach: Maria Grazia Di Meo
Costume and Makeup Designer: Rebecca Kilcline Abbott
Casting Directors: Maria Grazia Di Meo & Thea Hvistendahl
Colorist: Dylan R. Hopkin

Kaja Gunnufsen, Au

Director/editor – Kenneth Karlstad
Cinematographer – Torfinn R. Sanderud
AD – Maria Grazia Di Meo
AD – Joachim Joachimsen
Camera assistants – Jon Røgeberg, Jonas Rand Haukeland

Drinking Awareness Campaign

Ad agency: Trigger
Production company: Fantefilm

Director: Kenneth Karlstad
D.O.P.: Kristian Jaran Engelsen

The Dreamer (trailer)

Directed by Kenneth Karlstad
Produced by Kristoffer Sindre Vittersø, Frokost Film

Cinematography by Kristian Jaran Engelsen
Sound design by Johannes Dekko, Nordisk Film Shortcut Norge
Color grading by Dylan R. Hopkin, Nordisk Film Shortcut Norge

Trailer edited by Jørgen Berfendal & Kaya Kessler, Nordisk Film Shortcut Norge
Trailer soundtrack Lenny Dee – The Dreamer (Buzz Fuzz Remix)

Red Cross, Light
Production company: Fantefilm
Agency: Try

Director: Kenneth Karlstad
D.O.P.: Kristian Jaran Engelsen

Post prod: Shortcut Oslo

Eva and The Heartbreaker
Director/producer – Kenneth Karlstad
Cinematographer – Pål Ulvik Rokseth
Production manager – Emil A. Jensen
Production designer – Mirjam Veske

1. AD – Joachim Joachimsen
2. AD – Christina Lande
B-Foto – Sindri Tyr Högnason – sindrityr.com/
Lighting – Stig Tvenge
Stylist – Anette Ousdal
Colorist – Raymond Fruseth Gangstad – Nordisk Film Short Cut Norge
Storyboard artist – Tarjei Tandstad
Grip – Espen Zubi – gripservice.no/

Assistant production designer – Victoria Wælgaard
Production assistant – Ola Flåten
Production assistant – Babatunde Adam Oluwalana
Production assistant – Morten Bjørnådal