The Pioneering Director On Danes, Darkness and Rom-Coms
Cult director Thomas Vinterberg reflects on a childhood spent among “happy hippies,” and explains how Danes are “just like Hobbits,” in this short from NOWNESS regular Alison Chernick. Filmed at Aamanns-Copenhagen, the downtown NYC café frequented by Scandinavians hungry for a taste of home, Vinterberg had stopped off in the Big Apple for the premiere of his latest film The Hunt, in which a kindergarten teacher (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is falsely accused of sexually assaulting a child. “For me, interviewing Thomas brought to light how crucial context is; if you understand Danish culture, his films will resonate that much louder,” says Chernick, for whom Vinterberg’s Festen left a lasting impression. Also known as The Celebration, this excruciatingly dark family drama won the Jury Prize at the 1998 Festival de Cannes, and brought Vinterberg international acclaim. It was also the first production released under the avant-garde Dogme 95 movement, pioneered by Vinterberg and notorious cinematic provocateur, Lars von Trier. Eschewing Hollywood mega-budgets, Dogme emphasized simple production values and ‘truthful’ storytelling over “superficial action” and special effects: a very Danish approach.
Danish Band Efterklang Explores a Mysterious Landscape in a Poignant New Project
Nostalgic dispatches from a former Soviet mining town in Arctic Norway punctuate this excerpt from The Ghost of Piramida, a film project initiated by the Copenhagen-based band Efterklang and directed by fellow Dane Andreas Koefoed. Soundtracked by the synth-laden “Apples,” footage of band members in the majestic Svalbard archipelago is overlaid with projections of home movies belonging to a retired Russian miner named Alexander Ivanovic Naomkin. The found tapes document domestic life in the former colony Piramida before its desertion in the 90s—an era that was difficult to comprehend for the visitors. “What we saw up there is a place that is clearly not for humans,” says bassist Rasmus Stolberg. “The land is too strong to cultivate and settle in.” The unworldly setting furnished the band with over 1,000 samples to incorporate into last year’s album Piramida, while abandoned machinery and tumbledown shacks were utilised in the creation of new instruments. “We have always worked with field recordings,” says Stolberg. “We wanted to start with an expedition and then base the initial songwriting on these experiments.” The grainy moving images of cheerful swimmers and optimistic settlers chime with the band’s sonic themes exploring memory, the power of nostalgia and the transience of meaningful human connection—all central to The Ghost of Piramida, which premiered to much acclaim at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam last November. As a part of this groundbreaking project, Efterklang and Andreas Koefoed invite fans to host “private-public” screenings in their own cities, available on application until March 13.
The Photography Legend Turns a Sensual Lens to Tokyo’s Annual Floral Explosion
Known for his darkly erotic portraits of women and his suggestive shots of flowers, Japan’s prolific Nobuyoshi Araki set out to harness the stunning cherry blossom season in Tokyo for this exclusive series. An annual occurrence in the Japanese capital and the center of centuries of local tradition and literary inspiration, the sakura flower has very rarely featured in Araki’s oeuvre. This year, as the trees bloomed early in Tokyo, the celebrated lensman used vintage Polaroid film, framing the vibrant pink flowers’ silhouettes with a distinctive, pitch-dark corroded border. Shot amid the petals at Tokyo’s Hamarikyu Gardens and Aoyama Cemetery, the results seem to reflect the traditional Japanese interpretation of the cherry tree as an enduring metaphor for the cyclical nature of life itself. “The city’s skyscrapers appeared as gigantic tomb stones in the background,” Araki explains of his melancholic urban florals. “Then at the graveyard I photographed a beautiful woman with a baby in her arms and another child happily running around the trees. For the first time, I realized that cherry blossom brings happy memories too.”
Do you go to see the cherry trees in bloom every year?
Nobuyoshi Araki: I hardly ever go, but I’m still very attracted to it. The flowers only blossom for one to two weeks out of the whole year, which creates this ephemeral quality. People sympathize with that.
What attracts you to the cherry blossoms in particular?
Araki: Flowers are there for me to love, and cherry blossoms are the top of their kind. I can’t quite put my affection for them into words, and that’s why it continues to hold a special place in my photographs. When standing under the old trees, the layers of flower petals look like women’s underwear, transparent to the sky above.
How do you feel these Polaroids stand out from your previous work on the subject?
Araki: They are completely different. In recent years I have experienced the tragedy in Fukushima, the threat of the nuclear power station and the passing away of a very close friend. I believe that that emotional proximity to death brought a different dimension to my work this year. Photography has never been a method of documentation for me, but a reflection of raw feelings and sensations born out of my experiences. This is why I only trust my libido—instead of "thinking" about photography, which is something I completely gave up some time ago. I don't analyze the situation; I capture the moment.