Has the Swedish wunderkind rediscovered his box-office lustre' In advance of its gala screening in competition at the Berlinale, Lukas Moodysson's Mammoth, his first English-language film, was already on top of the Swedish box-office charts. The film was outperforming The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. This was the first time Moodysson had been number one in Sweden for almost a decade. (His last big local hit was back in 2000 with his comedy-drama Together.)
Now, international distributors - many of whom have stuck with Moodysson even as his work became more experimental and adventurous - will be hoping Mammoth lives up to its name in the receipts it generates abroad.
Why the title' "Because of the sorrow that an extinct animal represents," the director suggests. "Once they existed and now they don't. No, I'm not sure that's why it's called what it is. Everyone who sees the film can form their own opinion. I don't want to decide."
Mammoth, sold internationally by TrustNordisk, is about a successful New York couple, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams, whose lives are thrown out of kilter when the husband embarks on a business trip to Thailand.
Moodysson admits it was something of a culture shock to be working on a biggish-budget ($12m or so) English-language feature, set in many different international locations, after such intimate works as Container and Hole In My Heart. " It was more difficult. I often wished I was on a small, low-budget shoot with a three-man crew and a DV camera in my hand. But when I see the finished film, I'm very glad that we made it the way we did."
He was again collaborating with his regular producer, Lars Jonsson at Memfis.
The director acknowledges his debt to Jonsson: "We've had a long partnership that has meant a great deal to me. I'm not sure I would have managed to make any films at all if I hadn't met Lars. To begin with I sent him script after script and he said no to all of them, but he always said no in a very encouraging way. Then I wrote Fucking Amal (Show Me Love) and since then we've been working together.
"Both of us are stubborn, and our opinions are often diametrically opposed. I often get a feeling that everything would be much easier if Lars didn't get so involved, and I'm convinced he thinks the same about me, that it would be nice if I didn't always stick my oar in ... Lars gets very drawn into the screenplay and the editing, less so the filming itself. You might say that I care more about the details than the bigger picture, and that Lars cares more about the bigger picture. That's why we complement each other so well."
Moodysson won't be drawn as to whether he will continue with English-language projects or go back to his Swedish arthouse roots. "I've no idea at all. No plans. Maybe a film about death, or about flowers and trees. Or a comedy, but I'm not sure that I have any humour left in me nowadays. Or maybe no films at all."
- See review, p23.