Director Jonatan Etzler returns to Close-up Culture to talk about his latest short film Get Ready With Me.
Q: ‘Get Ready With Me’ is a chilling satire about social media, suicide and teen angst. What was your initial reaction Amanda Högberg and Axel Nygren’s script?
A: Amanda, Axel and me developed the story together. I had been working as a film teacher and had experienced a similar situation to the first scene of the film, when some of my students showed the class a film about suicide.
When I read the first script, I was immediately affected by the alienation and loneliness of the main characters, and also the issues it raised about generational gaps and the power of moving images.
Q: The film has a lot of interesting things to say about the changing face of youth culture or, more precisely, the tools young people have to play with. What are your thoughts on our social media age and the impact it is having on young people?
A: I can’t say exactly in which way young people are affected, but I can say that it is a lot. There has been a huge change in our society over the last few years, and it’s changing the way we think about the world and the way we communicate.
Q: I was particularly interested in the incapability of the adults in the film to deal with the young people and ineptness around social media. Do you see this as a pressing issue?
A: Yes it is. I don’t know how to solve it though. There is a clear generational gap. As a filmmaker, I feel that it’s important that I show the world today as it is, and I think more filmmakers should do that. Watching a film like this is one way to learn about the current youth culture.
Q: The are some really fun details in the film, like Vendela opening addressing her YouTube viewers by saying: ‘Hey Vendelisteners!’. Did you research young YouTubers and the culture more generally before making the film?
A: Yes, we did and mainly the screenwriters watched a lot of YouTubers. We were very inspired by some Swedish YouTubers. Miriam Benthe, the lead actor, watched a lot of videos to get inspiration for her character. It was important for me that the situation and the characters feel real.
Q: This is a complex role for a young actor. What was it like working with newcomer Miriam Benthe?
A: It was great. Miriam is a huge talent. The film was shot in Stockholm so we flew her over from Brussels for a few weeks to do rehearsals and work on the character. She’s a very intelligent young girl and she has a very special charisma. I think that engages the audience when they watch the film.
Q: Conversely, how did you approach working with an experienced actor Shanti Roney?
A: Shanti is also great. He’s very experienced, so he can take any direction from me and turn it into his own. He’s very kind and respectful of everybody, and he always goes ‘all the way’. He does everything with total dedication and professionalism.
Q: There is a glum look to the film with muted colours and bleak settings. What was the visual style you wanted to create with cinematographer Nea Asphäll?
A: We wanted to avoid the colour red except for the blood in the film. We also wanted to have the feeling of a dark and depressing Scandinavia. We wanted the school to be built with gray concrete, ad it was very hard to find this kind of school in Stockholm. We had to scout all over town until we find some schools.
We wanted the feeling of a dark world where the light has gone away, and all the buildings are old and falling apart. The old world is dying and the youth is taking over.
Q: Why did you want to start with – and return to – the image of the bleeding tree?
A: The bleeding tree is open for interpretation. I wanted the audience to think and interpret that image. It could be a representation of internal wounds of the main characters, or of the world bleeding. It could also be nature warning us for what’s gonna happen soon in the story, just like in mythological stories or romantic literature.
There are actually some birches that bleed for real, you should google it!
Q: What kind of reaction do you hope this film will provoke when it screens at festivals next year?
A: I hope audiences will be engaged and be provoked to think about the world, but I also hope they’ll laugh. I do think it’s a film with many funny moments of dark humour, and it will be interesting to see how the audience responds to that.