The apocalypse according to Thomas

-- By Stéphanie Lamome, Premiere issue n° 294, September 2001
-- Photos by Marcel Hartmann

Since "Festen", the Danish Thomas Vinterberg assures the promotional tour of Dogma. An overdose that now makes him shoot a film of paranoiac anticipation, with a beautiful set, a big camera and international actors like Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes, who didn't even have to iron their socks.

It's never night, the mobile phones have a jingle of The Final Coutdown, from a band called Europe, we eat reindeer at lunch, Krisprolls spread with marmalade and small cheese, and the very modest hotel welcomes you with an issue of Penthouse next to the Bible in the night table drawer. We are in Sweden, and the weather is beautiful. Vinterberg doesn't care, as he's shooting his new film, "It's All About Love", in studio today. His crew doesn't care either because they organized a 20-hour football match: the Danish against the rest of the world (Swedes, Americans, British, Irish and Germans...)

We work hard at this moment. The crew has captured the small town of Trollhättan and the Film I Väst studios. Around, the lush scenery immediately makes you think of the scene in "Dancer In The Dark" where Björk sings 'I've Seen It All' on a moving locomotive. We are right: at that place, Lars Von Trier's film is shot. When you look very well, you can find a pizzeria that serves pizza with cabbage and displays a menu with a plat du jour called the "Björk Special" since the singer had a meal there. The activity of Film I Väst is so important (four films being shot at the same time as Vinterberg's movie) that everybody talks about "Trollywood". In autumn, Trier returns here to shoot his next film, "Dogville", with Nicole Kidman.


On the set, "safe" and "suicidal" are two contradictory words that we hear incessantly. "Safe", that's the adjective we find on the tip of everyone's tongues to describe Vinterberg, who doesn't seem to return the compliment: "Not only do I have my doubts about everything, but moreover, I have trouble hiding it. They think that I know what I do? They are wrong!" "Suicidal", is to define the project, "a classic love story in a world on the verge of a cosmic collapse". Except for the fact that the love story begins with a rupture, that the Africans are in levitation (?) thanks to an overthrow of the law of gravity, that it snows in summer, and that the New Yorkers fall dead of stress in the streets without more ado.

Vinterberg wrote the script with his co-writer of "Festen", Mogens Rukov, and this despite the hundreds of scripts he received: "After 'Festen', I got sent script from everywhere...Some were good. I almost moved to the United States with my two daughters and my wife to make a film with a big studio. The problem, that is that I need to write my own scenario. You don't ask another person to choose his fiancee."

The idea of the script came to him while what he calls his "Dogma tour": "For two years, after 'Festen', I was incapable of focusing on another thing but Dogma, that we wrote in just thirty-five minutes while we were laughing our heads off! I gave interviews in the whole world, I enjoyed passing myself off as an arrogant asshole with Lars [Von Trier]. It was during this journey that I thought of writing a scenario about celebrity. I always wanted to be famous. I even used to think I could become a rock star. I played the guitar in a band based on U2 that didn't even have a name."

In the near future, invented by the Danish, the skaters are the new pop stars. The story: Lena, an ice skater surpassed by celebrity that ruined her marriage, wants to retire. Her manager and his two assistants are heavily disagreeing with her. After having cloned Lena to assure their future, they try to kill her. She manages to escape thanks to John, her husband who came to ask for a divorce. Claire Danes plays Lena, and Joaquin Phoenix plays John. She still talks about her encounter with Vinterberg: "After having read the script, I thought I would meet a 75-year-old scatty guy, fat and short-legged,...And then I see this guy beautiful as a god and totally...sane!"


According to Vinterberg, 'It's All About Love' will be the antithesis of everything he has done in the past: "It's epic, decadent, completely antidogme. I ask for a trick, and they build one for me (?), while on 'Festen', the actors had to read over their lines on their own...Anthony [Dod Mantle, the director of photography], who worked on three dogma films ['Julien Donkey Boy', from Harmony Korine, 'Mifune', from Soren Kragh-Jacobsen, and 'Festen'] and me, we were sick and tired of Dogme, and this at the same moment. Everything that was shot on video was was stamped 'Dogme', it was a passport to get selected by festivals. There were even dogma clothes, dogma furniture..."

The set, shot in super-35 and in CinemaScope, looks retrofuturist and inspired by old Technicolor films. Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix, who gets a second vegetarian menu, eat in the canteen, and not in their trailers. At the weekend, they don't work and everyone returns home. This shoot is so human that Joaquin, who is filming his fourth movie in Europe, after 'Gladiator', 'Quills' and 'Buffalo Soldiers', is afraid to go back to work in his homeland.

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Production: Nimbus Film, Memphis Film
Location: Denmark, Sweden, Norway, New York
Budget: 10 million dollar
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Claire Danes; Douglas Henshall, Alun Armstrong, Margo Martindale, Mark Strong, Geoffrey Hutchings,...