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LAFF ’10 | Director Pernille Fischer Christensen On Her “Family”

LAFF '10 | Director Pernille Fischer Christensen On Her "Family"

Pernille Fischer Christensen’s “A Family” (En Familie) tells the story of Ditte – who has been a dutiful and adoring daughter all her life, the darling of her charismatic father’s eye. It’s been a privileged life too, for the Rheinwald family has built its fortune as master bakers—selected by the royal family as purveyors of bread to the Danish crown. In this intimate and powerful family saga, Ditte’s devotion to her father is tested when she’s offered her dream job as a curator for a New York art gallery just as her recently remarried father falls ill and asks her to take over the family business. [Synopsis courtesy of the Los Angeles Film Festival].

A Family (En Familie)
Narrative Competition
(Denmark, 2009, 102 mins, 35mm)
Directed By: Pernille Fischer Christensen
Executive Producer: Peter Aalbæk Jensen
Producers: Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Vinca Wiedemann
Screenwriters: Kim Fupz Aakeson, Pernille Fischer Christensen
Cinematographer: Jakob Ihre
Editors: Janus Billeskov Jansen, Anne Østerud
Cast: Jesper Christensen, Lene Maria Christensen, Line Kruse, Pilou Asbæk, Anne Louise Hassing
Music: Sebastian Öberg

[EDITOR’S NOTE: indieWIRE is profiling the Narrative and Documentary Competition filmmakers who are screening their films at the Los Angeles Film Festival.]

Christensen on how she got into filmmaking…

As a child my mother always took me to the cinema, she was a cineast. I think I was 10 when I had already seen Bertolucci, Nichols, Kurosawa, Pasolini all those guys. As I grew up I wasn’t thinking “I wanna make movies”, as a young girl I was interested in all kinds of art. Poetry, dance, painting, litterature, music. At one point (after not really have success in any of these artforms) I thought that the art form to combine all this is cinema, and I was lucky to get a job as assistant director and editor and later also lucky to get in to the danish filmschool where I am educated as a director.

On what prompted the idea for the film…

In a my earlier work i’ve approached the various stories from the outside like an antropologist, they spring from studies of environments i’ve been curious to learn more about. ‘En Familie’ is very much a study my personal relations and my losses. My fear of losing people close to me. This my first really personal feature film.

On her approach to making the film…

This film started as a very personal journey. I started writing a text when my father died i 2001. It wasnt really a film or a script but more an essay or a pieces of poetry. Together with my husband who is a script writer I went down in these texts and together with him and my creative producer we created a script. I wanted it to be a film that celebrates life and “living life”, down in the smallest details. In the film the family comes from a long tradition of bakers, not any kind of bakers but the best. They are a family with a sence of quality and who pay attention to the world around them. The sun, the colors, the smells, the beauty. They LOVE life and I wanted the film to have very much that feeling, in the images, the music, the tempo. I wanted the film to say: Be here with me now. Its summer and I am your friend. Everything will be just fine.

On the project’s biggest challenges…

To make the personal issues a common thing. Making the actors confident and calm in the believe that we could describe death and loss in a way that is truthful both fysically and existentially and yet give us the lust to lives fully with love and beauty.

On what LAFF audiences will take from the film?

We’re all born into something that already is a family, circumstances, parents, siblings, love and demands, norms, manners, values, a language. We’re given a name. We’re somebody’s son or daughter. We belong somewhere.

It’s bestowed upon us, imposed upon us. A family is both privilege and duty; if we’re lucky, we can count on our family, but we can usually also count on it to expect something of us.

We dream of the family as something steady and unchanging, but life is change. Sometimes we can control it: we can get married, divorced, travel, stay at home, have kids or chose not to.

At other times, the family changes before our eyes. New members join; others pass away, perhaps the most beloved and indispensable.

We have to discover ourselves in all of this, find out who we are, what to do with all that’s been bestowed upon us. We may be expected to honor our father and mother, but we’ll probably also tell them no, disappoint them and reject them.

And get ready to make our own lives for ourselves. Create our own family, bear new members into the life we’ve prepared for them … This is what my film is about. Something that is very common.

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