07  July  2017

From screenwriter at The European Film College to director

After an impressive track record as a screenwriter, former student Rasmus Heisterberg decided to direct his own film. The result is the stirring existential youth drama ‘In The Blood’, which was recently screened at the European Film College’s anniversary film festival. Heisterberg visited the festival together with another former student, Elliott Crosset Hove, who plays one of the main characters in the film.

‘You have to talk a lot all the time, and you have to solve everything in the moment. Normally I could sit down and solve things over a quiet cup of coffee.’

To Silver Bear-winning screenwriter Rasmus Heisterberg (a student at the European Film College from 1994-95), this was one of the main challenges of being a director for the first time. After writing a long row of acclaimed films such as ‘A Royal Affair’, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘Northwest’, Heisterberg decided a couple of years back to direct his own film, ‘In the Blood’. The film received a Danish Bodil for Best Film in 2016, and it was recently screened at the film festival European Film College Star Alumni.

Confident in terms of dramaturgy
After the screening of ‘In the Blood’ Rasmus Heisterberg talked to the audience together with starring actor Elliott Crosset Hove, who is also a former student at the European Film College.

‘As a screenwriter I was confident that I knew about dramaturgy; what is a dramatic scene. And so I thought that if I could bring that onto set and be just as much a screenwriter as a director, that could work for me. And so I was able to say: I wrote this scene like this, now we can open it up and keep writing on set. And so that sort of became my method. I knew all the time where a scene was headed dramatically and emotional, and the safer we felt together as a cast and as a crew, the more we could explore a scene,’ Heisterberg explained.

And to young actor and former student Elliott Crosset Hove, this was a great way of working:

‘That was an amazing way to work as an actor. Rasmus really had faith in us, that we could easily handle that way of working. And he made sure that we spent a lot of time together during the entire year before the shooting, and that made us feel really safe.’

Written dialogue
But strangely enough, the actors often ended back where they started, with the original dialogue as written in the script, Rasmus Heisterberg said:

‘We always did the first take verbatim from the script. Then we sort of left it, let the scene travel all the way to outer space, and then back again to the written dialogue. That did a tremendous difference to the scene, it became much more free. Everything became more organic and not too tight. I wasn’t result-oriented with the scenes at all, apart from the emotional intention.’

Time is the strongest force
Rasmus Heisterberg also talked about why he chose to work with a main character who basically wants to maintain status quo, while his surroundings are moving forward, leaving the audience with an almost oppressive sense of loneliness and stagnation.

‘I think there is something so human in wanting to stay in the now and maintain status quo. It’s not something that we are used to when making films, and so to me it’s a theme with an important challenge, because it contains so much more reality. It is a lonely feeling to want to maintain the present, because time is the strongest force in our lives, we can’t fight it. I’ve seen and written so many films where we so quickly want to ‘place’ things in the film to make it more dramatic. Give a character cancer or something. But that’s not necessarily how we define life, it’s not necessarily through highlights, but through normality. If we zoom in on normality, we zoom in on existence,’ Rasmus Heisterberg said.

Elliott Crosset Hove
With Ellott Crosset Hove's performance in ‘In the Blood’ in mind, there is no doubt that we will also be seeing much more of him in the future.

Hove was a student at the European Film College from 2009-10, and the role as Knud in ‘In the Blood’ is his first starring role in a feature film. In 2015 he won an Ekko Shortlist Award for Best Actor for his role as Anders in the short film ‘Debut’.