Nordic Trips | Finland
An interview with the Finnish team, Zaida Bergroth and Lau Nau
by Caitlin Quinlan
Representing Finland for the Nordic Trips project are Zaida Bergroth and Laura Naukkarinen, or Lau Nau. The pairing brings together the filmmaking talents of Bergroth, an award-winning director whose last feature Maria’s Paradise recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where two of her previous works also premiered, and the musical experimentation of Lau Nau who plays across styles and explores multiple collaborations with other artists. The transcending of genre is a skill shared by the two in their individual works, and so their short film creation for Nordic Trips promises to contribute to the project’s "wild, strange, and atmospheric" filmmaking aims. Here are their own thoughts on their work and their collaboration, as well as what they are looking forward to in the final anthology.
Left, Zaida Bergroth. Right, Laura Naukkarinen
What was your initial reaction to the Nordic Trips proposal? What did you think of the project, what ideas immediately came to mind?
Zaida: I felt I was given the permission to play and explore, it was wonderful. To try to tell something about Finland today was intriguing and felt wonderfully overwhelming at first. I also loved the challenge to try to create something courageous and strange, something that defies genres, something that is strongly affected by music but at the same time still escapes the traditional music video aesthetics. To not go towards a certain kind of end result was freeing and inspiring.
Lau Nau: I was glad to hear that the aim of this anthology was to find a fresh view to the Nordic mythology at this moment we are living in, instead of repeating the exoticism and archetypes often related to Scandinavia.
It felt like a chance to refresh that dusty image and even address some problems that the Nordic countries are going through today.
If you were to explain what Nordic Trips means to someone, how would you describe it?
Lau Nau: It’s a chance to explore!
Zaida: Yes, it’s about filmmakers and composers collaborating, playing around and creating new Nordic myths built on the old ones - something like that!
What did you know of each other’s work prior to being paired together in this team?
Zaida: I had already listened to a lot of Lau Nau before we met - I absolutely love her unique and beautiful sound. I’ve also followed her as a film composer, for example her work in the film Silmäterä made a big impression on me. I’m a big fan.
Lau Nau: I have been admiring Zaida’s courage and strength as a filmmaker for a long time, her ability to create these complex works with her own vision. Her first film Skavabölen pojat (Last Cowboy Standing) made an impression on me when it first came out in 2009. I was a big fan of arthouse films and didn’t see so many exciting films coming out in the millennial Finland, and her film was one that gave me hope.
What excited you about working together? What has your collaborative process been like?
Zaida: The idea of letting the music influence everything and somehow even direct the process was so good - I was listening to Lau Nau while writing the screenplay and I built the moods almost based on her music. And even though the use of dialogue wasn’t forbidden, the film ended up with just one little whispered pray - the rest is sound and music. From my perspective our collaboration has been great - easy, inspiring and fun. She created the music and I was responsible for the pictures.
Lau Nau: Every now and then I have the chance to compose music for films and what I love the most about it is the discussions and dialogues with the director. These discussions help me to make music that will be an essential part of the film and is ever so exciting! So I was very excited about working for the first time with Zaida, being her fan.
Our work together started so intuitively and easy that the whole journey from the first ideas to the finished film was like playtime.
What did you take from Iain and Jane’s set of principles?
Lau Nau: There were many inspiring principles, like the aim for synergy between the film and music instead of making a music video or a film with music. I think we managed that part pretty well and did something that was only possible to do together. I was also inspired by the encouragement to make something that tells about the world we are living in right now.
It’s better to push and fall short, than not to push at all, don’t look for anything conventional, be ambitious - actually I loved all the principles. Each film should seek to reveal a truth about now, and the world we live in. That was maybe the most important one. -- Zaida
What have you learned about your own ways of working and your own artistic styles through working on this project with each other?
Zaida: I want to hold on to the playfulness which I found again in this project - I enjoyed this process tremendously and it is because of the encouragement to explore. Giving all that space to sound and music was wonderful.
Lau Nau: I think likewise that finding the playfulness was special, to be able to go over my own boundaries too, in order to find something new, which is one of the core processes of developing one’s artistic practice.
Can you give us a vague outline of the ideas you explored in the film you’ve been working on?
Zaida: My process started with thinking about our national epic Kalevala, and its different characters: the furious and vengeful young Kullervo, the mother of Lemminkäinen by the River of Death. I thought about the meaning of religion in our country and how it has possibly molded us.
The strictness of Christianity, the demand of not trying to be anything special. I thought about the silence, aggression towards anything different.
I thought about a certain notorious Finnish show dancer whom people love to hate. I started thinking about hate speech and bystanders. All these elements started to mold into a strange story of a show dancer whose real identity we can only guess. A show dancer on a mission.
Lau Nau: Zaida’s wonderful idea of the show dancer as a saint or saviour inspired me to make music that would elevate our experience from the mundane to the universe of Kristal and not only to express the comfort and forgiveness she is able to give, but also the complexity of the situation.
What are you looking forward to seeing in the final anthology film?
Lau Nau: I’m excited to see how the final anthology film sums these short stories up and how it will possibly become more than the sum of its parts. I’m also curious to see what subjects and myths all the filmmakers have been processing, can you find a red line in between them.
Zaida: I believe we’re gonna see something wild, strange and atmospheric. I think it’s wonderfully exciting to see what people choose to tell about their countries, what kind of stories feel relevant to them.