* Your new film is a departure. For a while we are where you left us in your last film ... and suddenly it turns to horror.
For me it’s like making pasta: You put in just a little bit of cayenne. Just enough so you think, when you taste it: “Oh what’s that?” I think some people came to that really violent scene with the monster and they thought: “Oh finished, I’m gone, before that happens again”. I’d rather have it like that, than people wanting to see a creature film. I hope to win my audience with a love-story.
* What interested you in the creature? The genre?
I first started working on “Jack & Diane” that summer in Berlin (in 2003), when we lived there for a month. My assignment for me back then was to write ten scenes a day. I was trying to write a fiction film like a documentary – the way it is filmed and the way it is written. I would imagine scenes, what the girls were doing and just write them down. And then I could construct a narrative on whatever happened. But, I knew the film was about finding love.
We made “Salt” in a similar way. We shot a lot of footage and cut it down to a smaller film. We followed the actors and shot the scenes like a documentary. I am still really interested in that process and I found out that I couldn’t write without it - to get material down, to help me learn about the characters, what they do, how they speak. A scene could be one sentence. This is maybe my way of working.
One day I had this image of the opening of the movie, where Diane walks out in the bathroom of the club and she’s a creature. You know, she’s a sick monster. It was just in my mind and I said: “Oh, that’s it!”
* It came like that, was suddenly in your mind?
Yes. As I said, it's like cooking. But this was even more as if something fell in your pot and you taste it and you say: “Oh, what’s that? That makes perfect sense, now I can start writing the script.”
I started writing the script a few days later. The first part was originally 80 pages until they kiss. It was very slow. The moments of her coming to the Poster Shop, meeting Jack and going to the club, and then finally getting to kiss each other, were originally 80 pages alone. It was because I described everything: when their hands touch, when they look at each other. The first draft was about 530 pages. There were a lot of scenes that were interchangeable and switch able. But for this beginning, I don’t know why, this part came out in one chunk. Part of what I was exited about that girl being a creature was that I really felt that it’s inside her, that’s her emotion, it's how she can express herself.
I was also missing something that was closer to “Salt”. In “Salt” I was exploring this folktale and how it could play in a contemporary narrative. I wanted to do something similar in America. But we don’t have folktales. I still was very interested in magical realism and it occurred to me that genre films are our folk tales. So this was also a way of doing the same thing in America. Especially since my first film was an Icelandic film. And in my first American film I wanted to have subtle references to American cinema that were different than the Nordic experience.
*Between “Salt” and “Jack & Diane” you made “The Exploding Girl”. Why is “Jack & Diane” your second film?
I wrote “Jack & Diane” as my second film, but it took so long to make that I ended up working on “The Exploding Girl” in the interim. The script and style for “The Exploding Girl”, came after “Jack & Diane”. It was a study on Hou Hsiao-Hsien and his film “Café Lumière”. It was like me learning him, like a course on the framings percept by his style, like an exercise.
* There are elements in “The Exploding Girl” that are similar to “Jack & Diane”, especially the way the girls are acting. It seems to be very natural. Was there space for improvisation also in the dialogues or was it all scripted?