Today: February 25, 2024

Director Lisa Aschan

Out now in cinemas is Lisa Aschan’s awarding wining psychological drama, She Monkeys. FilmJuice was able to speak to the writer/director about her feature film debut .

Out now in cinemas
is Lisa Aschan’s awarding wining psychological drama, She Monkeys. FilmJuice
was able to speak to the writer/director about her feature film debut .

What’s clear from
the start of the interview is just how passionate about her craft the Swedish
filmmaker is. Like every creative mind, hers is one that relishes creating new
worlds and stories but doesn’t limit her creative output to one medium. “I have always been interested in building
my own worlds and creating drama in different ways. And I don’t only work in
film. I think it’s my way of playing God and building my own world.”

In recent years
there has been a number of breakout successes from Sweden; Let The Right One
In and of course the Millennium
trilogy
by Stieg Larson, creating a surge in popularity within the
Swedish film industry. Danish drama The Killing (which Aschan worked on
as a second unit director) also took the world by storm.

Her debut feature
film She Monkeys is a powerful and provocative movie. A dark and psychological
coming of age story on the surface, but the multi-layer drama explores
relationships and power struggles in a variety of forms. The film was made
possible with funding from the Swedish Film Institute’s Rookie Project,
the scheme was set up to counter the decline in homegrown talent and is only
open to debut feature film directors.

The two lead
performances were pivotal to the success of the project, as not only did they
have to find good actresses they also had do the complicated and potentially
dangerous stunt work, so an intensive casting process took place.

“It was a long process, it took 4 months, and I was involved from the
beginning. All the three girls (the little sister and the two older girls) it
was in a way love at first sight when I first met them, but then there were so
many things that they had to do and they had to be both acting wise, but also
physically, because they lied about knowing this sport during the casting
process, so when I found out I had to see if they were able to learn how to do
these quite dangerous things, it’s a galloping horse, and you have to stand on
one leg, so if you don’t know how to do it you can have an accident, and we
didn’t have any stuntmen because of the way we wanted to shoot it, so it was a
challenge.”

For She Monkeys
Aschan sites Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns as her main inspiration, “I thought western was a good pick… every
scene is kind of a duel and I have horses and guns as well.” Aschans
inspirations are not set in stone, and each project will always dictate the
inspiration requirement “It changes
for every film, so for the next one its going to be something else. I am not
very loyal in what I like.”

Whilst many filmmakers
may feel that choosing a specific inspiration may limit their creativity,
Aschan believes that working within a frame is important to her creative
process; “What I do when I make films
is try to set up as many rules as possible for my work, and then one of the
things that I usually work with is genre, and then I try to pick a genre that
fits with the theme of the film.”
The western may appear an unnatural stylistic choice for
a coming of age drama, but the decision pays off. The film is beautifully shot,
the cinematography by Linda Wassberg
is stunning and the dark and gritty nature serves the material well. It is
perhaps these rules that allow Aschan to be at her most creative. “Ultimate freedom, that would be like the
worst curse I could get.”

There is a almost
dream like quality to the movie, occasionally some of the scenes feel
disjointed but the writer/director prefers to raise more questions than provide
clear cut answers to her work: “I
don’t like to serve the audience my point of view or anything. I think its much
more fun to work with a mystery, that’s the way I like to watch films and tha’ts
the way I want to make my films, so its the way I work, I don’t think so much
about it while I do it, it’s the only way I know how to make films.”

Aschan is
currently writing her next project; The Deposit is a straight up horror film
that will be filmed once again in her homeland.

Due to the success
of She Monkeys, Aschan was awarded $730,000 in grant money from the Stockholm
Film Fund to make The Deposit. To everybody’s surprise Aschan and her producer
declined the grant as they both agreed the horror project wasn’t eligible for
the award. The grant was then awarded to Sofia
Norlin
for her movie Tenderness.

It’s impossible
not to admire this act from the two filmmakers, as this decision highlights
their commitment to the Swedish film industry, allowing another promising
talent to get that all-important break.

She Monkeys is out
now in selected cinemas.

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