The Swedish director talks about his first foray into fiction.

Swedish director Ester Martin Bergsmark’s Tiger award contender is based on the novel You Are the Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth in Place by Eli Levén. 

“There was something in his language that was really intriguing,” Bergsmark says of Levén’s writing. The filmmaker warmed in particular to the romantic side of a novel which takes readers to “dark and dirty places”. “He (Levén) transforms harsh reality into something that is beautiful.”

The film tells the story of young androgynous Sebastian who (in the words of the director) has a “longing for intimacy” and “struggles to be loved”.

Levén, a transgender artist, was the subject of Bergsmark’s earlier film, the poetic documentary She Male Snails. (Some critics compared it to the early work of the late Derek Jarman.)

Something Must Break is the director’s first foray into fiction. “In some ways, I am getting closer to the characters and to real life in fiction,” the director reflects of the paradox that drama can sometimes have a rawer, more intimate and truthful quality than documentary. 

Levén was closely involved in the project. “We wrote the script together. He was also the music researcher. It [the film] has a beautiful soundtrack,” Bergsmark says of a film which includes everything from classical music to punk and from R&B to contemporary songs.

“It is not a film about sexuality. It is a film about love,” the director suggests.

Something Must Break was produced by Stockholm-based Garage Films (the outfit behind such recent Swedish features as Pioneer and Call Girl). It will be released in Sweden by Triart Films. 

This month, alongside its Rotterdam screenings, Something Must Break will also show as the opening film at the Gothenburg Festival (where it will be competing for the Best Nordic Film Award). When he was interviewed in mid-January, the director was busy commuting between Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm, putting the finishing touches to a project that he has been working on for roughly five years.

Bergsmark’s short film Fruitcake (co-directed with Sara Kaaman) was part of Dirty Diaries, the Swedish feminist portmanteau of 13 short pornographic films that turned into a worldwide success after its premiere in 2009.