Submitted by Denmark as the country’s official selection for the Academy Awards’ foreign language film category, Henrik Ruben Genz’s “Terribly Happy” opened in New York City last weekend, and expands to Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday. The film – released through Oscilloscope Pictures – found great success on the festival circuit, winning awards at the Chicago International Film Festival, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Festróia – Tróia International Film Festival, and Valladolid International Film Festival. A thriller about a Copenhagen cop who moves to a small town after having a nervous breakdown, indieWIRE spoke to Genz about the film, which will continue to expand in the coming weeks.
How or what prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?
My childhood friend, the author Erling Jepsen, told me about his idea for a new novel. The story was based on events from his own family. Furthermore, the film was set in our old romping grounds – the same area we grew up in. So I was immediately drawn to the idea. Because of our shared history and my knowledge of the culture of the area, Erling brought me in as a sparing partner in the development of the novel. I developed the treatment and screenplay at the same time.
Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
For years, I have wanted to base a film in this powerful and hostile landscape. But I hadn’t been able to find the right material for this setting until Erling presented me with “Terribly Happy.” My point of departure was a western that slowly developed characteristics noir and the psychological thriller. So I was very aware that this story would become a patchwork of various genres.
What were your biggest challenges in developing the project?
Production wise, the biggest challenge was to convince my producer the necessity of filming in this particular landscape instead of finding something that might look like it closer to Copenhagen. This would require transporting the crew to the other side of the country which would be a costly affair. This landscape is so unique, that the film would not be the same without it.
In the content of the story, the biggest challenge was the intricate balance involved in leading the main character through the point in the story where he commits an unforgivable act while still maintaining sympathy for this character.
How do you think audiences will take to the film?
First of all, I hope people will allow themselves to be entertained by a good dark comedy. But I also hope they will discover the sublevels which I believe the film also contains. For example, the story comments on the issue of integration which is a hot topic in Europe at the moment.
Are there any films that you consider inspirational to you as you made your film?
There are of course a lot of directors whose work I admire. But Hitchcock remains one of the major influences. When I was very small, I used sneak in to the living room to watch his films with my older brothers on German television.
What are your future projects in the pipeline?
There are various projects in development but nothing concrete at the moment.