...influenced his life, disappearing fathers, the oddness of human relationships and what he has in common with one of his main characters in "Mammoth".
Since his film debut "Fucking Åmål" (1998) and exceeding the high expectations of audience and critics, Lukas Moodysson is now known as an extraordinary director. His films can be shocking as "Lilja 4-ever" and amusing as "Together" (2000). With movies that are so different from each other, like the low-budget movie "A hole in my heart" (2004) which takes place in a social housing area or Moodyssons latest production "Mammoth" (2010), shot on three different continents, it is impossible to peg Moodysson in a certain genre. But what is consistent is that, as the director, he puts himself in the position of a neutral observer. His films are related to questions of identity, conflicts inside the society or global issues like prostitution, exploitation and work migration although his movies never imply a moral concept but operate on complex layers and provoke. Moodysson’s films are pensive, direct and insightful.
AVIVA-Berlin: Women play many leading roles in your movies: two girls in "Fucking Åmål", Lilja in "Lilja forever" and now we have Ellen, the surgeon and Gloria a nanny from the Philippines. Are you suggesting that women are emotionally stronger than men?
Lukas Moodysson: It is very hard to generalise like that. I think we are individuals more than we are genders. There is a bigger complexity between human beings than just if we are male or female. But I think, according to western world present social conventions it is easier for men to escape from things. I would say that is maybe not because of emotions but because of our social roles. In "Mammoth" it is easier for Leo to go out in the word and search for something, while it is not so easy for Ellen and Gloria to leave their families. There must have been a father for Gloria’s children, but he is never present. I think that this is a very normal situation. Fathers disappear quite a lot.
AVIVA-Berlin: Why did you choose two women, more precisely: two mothers to play the main part in the story of your latest film "Mammoth"?
Lukas Moodysson: If we talk about Mammoth, Leo is very much a important role being a man and there is also Salvador who is very important and he is a little boy. So I think I make different choices depending on which film I do. But maybe it is true, that I have from time to time been more interested in womens` lives than in mens` lives. Maybe I am just all fascinated, because I am a man myself and maybe I have a bigger curiosity in the lives of women. I don`t know... maybe.
AVIVA-Berlin: Who are the women in your life? Which one has influenced or impressed you the most and why?
Lukas Moodysson: I think there are a lot of women that have influenced me: My mother of course, my grandmothers, both of them in different ways, my wife of course, and now I have a daughter. That makes four different generations. I think I have been influenced by a lot of people in my life. Professionally my wife has a lot of influence on what I write. She is always the first to read what I have written and always the first to tell me what is wrong. Than I tell her that she is wrong, and after a while I understand why she was right. The complicated thing is that she is wrong in about 5-10% of the time. So I cannot just accept everything that she says about my work, because there is always a small, small chance that this is one of the few occasions where she is wrong.
AVIVA-Berlin: In "Mammoth" why did you focus on the relationship between the mothers and their children?
Lukas Moodysson: First of all I think it is interesting that you assume this is the centre of the film. I think all films and artworks are kind of a mirror that is held up to people and people see different things. I was in Madrid to talk about the film and a lot of people have their own idea of who is the centre of the film. Some feel that the centre is the children. Someone said that the main character in this film is a child. And I did not know whom he was talking about. It turned out that he was talking about Leo because he thought that Leo was a child himself. Then of course it is true, that the centre of the film in one way is the mothers. I just find it very interesting that different people see different centres in it. For me the idea of the film started with the mothers or actually with one mother: Gloria. I was really interested in the immigration of women who come to other countries to clean people´s apartments, offices, houses and take care for people`s children. I was fantasising very much about how it would feel like for myself to be like someone who cleans someone else`s toilet. Cleaning the toilet became the starting point for the whole film. Then I started to read especially about the Philippines, because the Philippines is a country where so many women, and also men, travel abroad to make some money and send it home to their families.
AVIVA-Berlin: Fathers are mostly absent in this film...
Lukas Moodysson: ...Not mostly, but it is easier for them. It is normal for them.
AVIVA-Berlin: Except Leo we don´t see one of them.
Lukas Moodysson: He is a very nice kind father, but he is also of course quite childish and very much someone who is searching for himself or the meaning of his life. I guess it is easier for him to do that, than for Ellen.
AVIVA-Berlin: The childishness and curiosity are something you have in common with Leo sometimes?
Lukas Moodysson: I think so. I can relate to him but I can also relate very much to Ellen who is much more responsible. I hope I have a combination of naive childishness from Leo and the hard-working responsibility of Ellen.
AVIVA-Berlin: What pulls you towards topics like illegality, work migration, sexual exploitation and taboos?
Lukas Moodysson: First of all, curiosity, and lot of other strong feelings like anger, being upset by something and indignation. There are often social conflicts or problems I hear about, someone tells me about, I see on the street or I hear something on the radio. And then I feel this is something I have to write about. But it only survives not as a feeling of anger but also some kind of deep, deep curiosity. I sort of feel like I need to know more and more about this and I am not really sure why. I am interested in how human relationships get sometimes pervert. They become something they initially not began like. The feeling of longing for another being takes sometimes very destructive forms like in prostitution. In "Mamooth" it is the whole situation with a lot of families that employ somebody from another country to take care of their children. I am curious about how it begins just as a basic human need and then it turns into something quite destructive. I am interested in human relationships when they are driven far away somewhere.
AVIVA-Berlin: A pen plays a key role in "Mammoth". Does this pen made from a mammoth really exist? And why did you choose to name your movie after it?
Lukas Moodysson: It´s German actually and a real nice pen. It is a Farber Castel. They make one every year, which is called "pen of the year" and made by very exclusive and unusual materials. One year they chose to make it from mammoth ivory. I am not criticising, but at the same time I can see what a strange world we live in and what a strange thing it is to make a pen like that. I am very ambivalent about it, because at the same time I like the pen very much.
AVIVA-Berlin: Do you have one?
Lukas Moodysson: No, no, no. I have seen it. And I am very interested in writing instruments. They are very close to my heart, because as you know I am a writer. I am very interested in all kinds of pens, typewriters, pencils, both simple pens and exclusive ones. The pen in the film is of course also a quite perversive object, a symbol of exploitation and possible future for the human race, which is that there is a chance or a risk that we will be dying out for the planet. I think it is a small risk, but it`s a risk.
AVIVA-Berlin: Which project are you working on right now? And who is going to play the female leading part?
Lukas Moodysson: I am actually writing. I will not talk a lot about what I am writing, but I can tell you, it is not a film. I think it will turn into a novel. It is about two men actually, about a father and a son. There are also women, but not in main characters... I don`t think it will be a film.
AVIVA-Berlin: Is there a (famous) actress that you definitely would like to work with in the future?
Lukas Moodysson: There are a couple of three or four old Swedish actresses that I would like to work with, but no one specific. One day I would like to do something about people, who are old, maybe a grandmother thing, but not now, because I am quite tired of directing.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Please do read our review on "Mammoth" at AVIVA-Berlin.