Pål Sletaune Talks BABYCALL.

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Pål Sletaune Talks BABYCALL.
I first came across Norway's Pål Sletaune in 2005 with the release of his third feature, Naboer. Released on these shores as Next Door, the film is a gripping, twisty, punishing psychosexual thriller that remains a huge favorite of mine and has left me waiting for whatever Sletaune may do next ever since. What he's doing is Babycall, a new thriller starring The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace as young mother who believes she hears a murder through her child's baby monitor.

Though he's editing the film right now, Sletaune was good enough to answer a few of our questions via email.

You gained a certain amount of notoriety for turning down the directing job on American Beauty and I notice going over your filmography that you have at least a co-writer credit on every one of your films. Have you deliberately chosen to only film your own screen plays or is this something that has just worked out that way? How important to you is it to be involved from the very beginning of creating your stories?

I´ve always created  my own stories, it is the most important part of filmmaking for me. I love the moment when the ideas I am working on suddenly come together and a story surfaces. I like stories to be like mysteries, most of the time I don´t write synopses or outlines, I like to experience the film like the viewer, not knowing what will come next. Over the years I´ve read and looked for other people's material, but I`ve never come across the right project for me. That doesn't mean that I´m not interested in other people's scripts. I  would die to do anything based on Patricia Highsmith.

Can you tell me a bit about your working methods? You've maintained a fairly large gap between each of your films - four year, four years and now six years - what's the reason for that? How do you keep yourself active and creative in between feature projects?
Yeah, I know its been long between films. It bothers me, I would really like to do a film every other year. Why so long? Different reasons. I am very self-critical with my scripts, over the last five years I´ve been working on several projects that have ended up in the drawer. I´ve also done a couple of plays but I didn't actually find that very rewarding. I have also tried to educate myself in music and literature.
As a producer and founder of the Four And A Half production company you've become quite influential in finding and promoting new talent in the region. How active a role do you take in mentoring the young directors who come in to the company?
Not a very active role I am afraid!

Scandinavia in general seems to be experiencing a surging interest in genre film, a movement you were at the early edge of with Naboer. Is there anything in particular that has led to this? What is your own interest in these dark themes?

Well, I´ve always been interested in films like The Shining and the early Polanski. I think the thriller genre is interesting because you can address interesting and challenging psychological stuff and still make a film that will work with an audience.

What can you tell me about the beginnings of Babycall? It seems like the sort of story that could come from real life - was there a specific event that triggered it? What can you tell us about the story?

Babycall was written very fast, in two periods, one three week period and one four week period half a year later. I´m not sure what started it, I´ve heard stories about people hearing other people's sound on their babymonitor. Somehow it struck me as a very interesting starting point for a film. Then the character of Anna, a mother on the run, escaping a violent relationship, appeared in my imagination. Then I started writing, and as I did on Next Door, I wrote the screenplay without knowing the end, just going on, trying to live through the story with my characters.
When did you cast Noomi Rapace? Had she already experienced the success of the Millennium films? How was it for you working with someone who is now such a big international star?

Noomi had her breakthrough half a year before we started casting and was all over the world promoting the film. I had seen the film and been totally struck with her presicion and presence, so I approached her to read the screenplay. She got back to me right away after having read it, saying she felt the story and the character had blown her away, and that she had been dreaming about the story the whole night after. Noomi is a fantastic actress, and its been wonderful and challenging to work with her. She demands that everything should be true, every movement, every line, every emotion.

One of the things that really struck me about Naboer was how powerful the female characters were and now you're going back to that sort of territory with Babycall. What draws you to write these women?

I don´t think it so much difference between female and male characters. I don't try to write like "She is a woman, what will she do in so and so situations?" I think my female characters are as much me as the male characters. Even if you're a man, writing a story about a man and awoman, it doesn't mean that you identify most with the man. Watching Antichrist, I think von Trier identified more with the Gainsbourg character than the DeFoe character.

I was very happy to see Kristoffer Joner in the cast for the new film. Naboer was the first film I saw him in and he has become one of my favourite actors in the world today. Do you enjoy building ongoing relationships with your performers? How does it change your working relationships to come back to someone you have worked with before?

Kristoffer is a fantastic actor and a good friend. I try to work with different actors in each film, I am afraid of repetition, and I had a totally different actor in mind when I wrote the male character in Babycall, but after having done an audition with Kristoffer I had no choice. He´s the best and most interesting actor in Scandinavia.

And, finally, when do you expect Babycall to be done? When will audiences have the chance to see it and are you thinking at all about what will come next?

Babycall will premiere in spring 2011! My next project is a film called Thou Shall Kill, which I hope will start prodction next year.

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More about Babycall

Major_RagerJune 28, 2010 12:40 PM

Maaaaaaaaan, I thought NEXT DOOR was such incomprehensible garbage. Hopefully BABYCALL will be much better.

Joshua ChaplinskyJune 28, 2010 12:45 PM

Huge fan of Naboer. Can't wait for this. Sletaune + Rapace = excellent pairing. Good to hear he has another project lined up so soon as well.

Dustin ChangJune 28, 2010 1:02 PM

Interesting. I really dug phychosexual headtrip of Naboer too. I'll definitely check out Babycall.

Kurt HalfyardJune 28, 2010 3:30 PM

There is a wonderful Alex De La Iglasias film made for the 'Spanish Master of Horror' series (Films to Keep You Awake) called THE BABY'S ROOM, which I highly recommend, it also uses germ of a story outlined above (more or less)


Ben UmsteadJune 28, 2010 6:10 PM

I'd only heard of Sletaune before, waayy back too. The poster and his approach to writing has him back on the radar for sure. It just seems that so many Norwegian films are having a hard time finding a home outside of Norway.

cuckooJune 28, 2010 6:51 PM

I enjoyed Naboer and look forward to this one, thanks for keeping us in the loop Todd.

Ard VijnJune 29, 2010 10:13 PM

Maybe "Babycall" can have its world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival?
(Hey, it didn't harm "Let the Right One In", so...)