EJ Moreno speaks with filmmaker André Øvredal about his new movie Mortal…
For years, André Øvredal has explored different genres in his work. From what he calls comedy in Troll Hunter to the family-friendly scares in Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, the Norwegian film director understands the power of the genre. This makes his newest film Mortal interesting as it’s an explosion of so many styles we all love.
In this interview, André Øvredal speaks with me about his genre-bending ways, what he loved about exploring Norse mythology, and if there’s more in the Mortal universe.
Immortal is one of your first films that doesn’t feel like a straight-up horror film. It has some darker elements, though. What made you want to jump into the fantasy/action genre this time instead of sticking to your more straightforward horror approach?
I mean, I think this is more related to Troll Hunter than my American movies. I think this is more the different side to me that is more free-flowing with storytelling and blending genres. I think that The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a very hardcore, simple, straightforward horror movie. Scary Stories, it’s fun. More of an Amblin horror movie, if you will. It’s pretty straightforward in the genre.
While Troll Hunter and Mortal are more of a massive blend of genres, and I think when I’m working on something that I write myself, I have a tendency to be pulled in that direction. So I don’t consider Troll Hunter as a horror movie; I consider it a straight-up comedy, but it has some scary monsters and scary scenes. It kind of works in both aspects.
That is a good way of describing Mortal. This has a little bit of everything, especially with the mythology that you’re diving into here. Was that something you’re always interested in, or did that come later in life when you’re just thinking about new mythology to play with?
You know, it’s always part of your life in your way because it’s our mythology. So, you never escape it. In a way, it becomes everywhere. As with Troll Hunter, I wanted to tell a story about the trolls and the fairytales that I grew up with here. I wanted to modernize the mythology because it’s been dormant and kind of just not used for anything.
Mortal was such a great opportunity to twist it and make it about an ancestor instead of the actual mythology and put it in a modern setting that is just grounded in an almost Fargo-like world, except in some country and in a place in a country that you never heard. I think that was a fun aspect to recreate the Northern mythology for this movie.
I love that it was a different version of this story that you experimented with, especially with the Eric character, who has a crazy amount of powers and does so much. Is there one power that he uses that you particularly were drawn to? There was a lot of lightning in the movie, but you play with a little bit more in this film as well. Was there one that really stuck out to you?
I mean, just the ability to turn water into mist or the other way around or make the atmosphere denser. Or, like when she’s in the car, she’s almost strangled outside the pharmacy there because the air has been changed, the density of the air, or, however, the audience perceives it.
And I think those are interesting aspects that you don’t necessarily expect because it’s just part of life. If somebody could control or could affect or be affected by the atmosphere, what are the actual consequences? What is the atmosphere? It’s air. It’s wind. It’s you know, it’s a lot of things. And to play with that was a lot of fun.
I noticed this was your third film working with your cinematographer, Roman Osin. What is it like having a bond with a cinematographer like that? I always think it’s good when the director and the director of photography speak the same language, and it seems like you guys have that type of bond.
Yeah, he’s an amazing visual storyteller in every aspect of how to do things with the camera. His technical know-how balanced with his love for light and his understanding of light and understanding of lenses and understanding where the camera goes. And I think that my strengths are where the camera goes and how to shoot the scene. And he elevates whatever I have in mind. He makes it so much better because he knows how actually to do it in a different way.
And we have a very intimate relationship on set. He’s such a calming force, actually. It can be very energetic, and he’s also very energetic. But he’s also very concentrated. And I love that. That helps me focus, as well.
Is there more in the Mortal universe you want to use? I know everything’s a franchise now with a million sequels and everything, but I left this film wanting more. I felt like I just got enough here. Are there plans for more in this universe? When you were writing this, were you writing intending to expand the story?
Yeah, I mean, to me, this is always the beginning; from the moment I realized the ending of this has to be basically the beginning of the next story. This is the beginning of a larger story. This is the first act if you will.
And I love the idea of twisting the movie just moments before it goes into credits. You completely twist it upside down, and then you have no idea where the sequel would go. I do have a degree of knowledge of it, but I still don’t know exactly, which is very exciting. The sequel would be something completely different, a whole different movie. And I think that’s a very exciting prospect.
So I really hope it’s possible to get back to this franchise, actually make it a franchise.
I hope so as well. This felt like the confident type of open ending that you’re are letting us know you have more to tell. Are there more Norse stories you want to tell? Not to give us a hint at anything else, but any stories that stand out as something you may want to play with?
I think that more than stories, I think what we’re talking about is characters. I think there are so many intriguing characters in mythology, male and female, especially female! Yeah, that would be really intriguing to add into a sequel.
Many thanks to André Øvredal for taking the time for this interview.