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2014, 71m, drama
Ludo is a psychologial drama taking place during a day and a night in the life of a young family living in a beautiful house by the sea in the village of Sandur in the Faroe Islands. At a first glance it seems like an ordinary, happy family - mum and dad and their 11-year-old daughter - but soon we realize that something dark and sinister lies lurking behind the facade.
10 questions with Ludo director, Katrin Ottarsdóttir at the half-way mark.
Friday, September 16th, 2016
1Hello Katrin! On behalf of Fandependent Films, what was the initial inspiration to make this movie? The movie grew out of a poem called "Ludo" from a poetry collection of mine that was published late 2012. I wanted the movie to be just as dense as a poem, to cut away all unnecesary side stories and strictly stick to the very core of the story: being stuck in a dysfunctional family. As a filmmaker it was perfect for me to be receptive to a poem and build a story over it.
2The art direction in this movie is SO GOOD! Could you talk a bit about how much of this was designed as opposed to just finding a great location? Yes, it is so good because the art director, Edward Fuglø, is a true artist himself - a painter, illustrator and installation artist. We know each other so well - you could say we are kindred spirits - that we don´t need to waste time discussing every detail. He knows what I like and how to pinpoint exactly my visions. He doesn´t do art directing as a living, but he is always ready for me and my films. As he himself puts it: "Who else but me can see, understand, and value your twisted brain?"
Everything you see in the movie was put there by us. Together we found the wallpaper, (actually the most expensive post on the budget), the linoleum layers for some of the floors. Nothing in the house, and I mean nothing, is there by accident. All the furniture, lamps, beds and all the way down to the matchbox we put there. No single color is there by chance. The house itself was nothing like that in reality. The role of the art direction in the movie is to psychologically underpin the characters in an expressionist way.
3Images repeat throughout the movie in an almost musical way, whether it's shots of the house, shots of birds, shots of the waves crashing, or just repeating colors. They don't necessarily add up in any logical way, but an effect is certainly created nonetheless. What was you idea behind this approach to the imagery/editing? Yes, and although these images repeat, it is never the same footage reused over and over again. They are of course new and different shots each time. I would say these images work as a kind of a refrain between the different “verses” throughout the movie, refrains that function as an indication of an mood and help us keep up with the slow but ominous pace of the movie.
4This is something of a follow-up to the last question: What was with the birds? A bird has the privileged position of being the first and last shot of the movie, as well as repeating throughout. Apart from the fact that these birds - ravens and crows - are very smart birds, they also are the allied of the girl, her “invisible” friends so to speak (maybe she is the only one who actually can see them). They give her the strength to break away at the end. At the beginning of the movie the raven helps us vaguely sense that everything might not be right in this very beautiful and cosy house that we are approaching. The raven at the far end of the movie is a kind of a reminder that we should treat our children decently. It “says” that it will always be there watching and listening, ready to intervene.
Apart from that the film was shot in a place where I spent a great deal of my childhood visiting my grandparents, and these birds - ravens and crows - were all over the place. I remember walking to church with my grandfather, who was the village teacher and parish clerk, passing this red house on our way.
5Some of the specific images in the movie were very striking--particularly, for me, the bird eating another bird and the woman walking through a kitchen floor covered in knives. Where did these images come from? They seem like nightmare images. Nightmare images, yes, but not only "night-nightmares", but daytime nightmares as well. I wanted to remove the border between reality and nightmare - and for instance make it unclear who of the characters actually is experiencing the vision with the knives in the kitchen - in order to express that they are all affected by the mother's mental illness.
The mother also has this feet thing, always reaching for her fancy slippers, so the worst thing for her would be to get scars all over her beautiful and well pedicured feet.
The bird eating another bird is a sign to the mother and confirms her suspicion that the father and daughter are eating her up. It also tells us that she can´t enjoy a meal like everybody else, not even like the happily eating bird. It can also be seen as a prewarning of what is going to happen to them all, eating each other up.
6I don't know the game Ludo. Could you explain its significance to this family's story? Ludo is a very simple board game. It´s called Parcheesi in America. It´s a simplified version of an old board game from India. It´s a game where chance rules and everything is unpredictable. You just can´t choose any strategy that will help you win the game. You are as lost in the game as you are in the belly of the family game in the movie. No matter what you do, the dice decides who wins.
7The wife's illness reminded me of Gothic novels and the way disease was represented in the 19th Century. What was her illness and how would you explain its impact on her life? It is not important what her mental ilness is called. A diagnosis is irrelevant. The main thing is how mental illness CAN affect a family being locked in with mental illness of any kind. The impact on the whole family, particularly on the child, was the important issue to me.
I wanted the audience, in the darkness of the cinema, to feel (also physically) as trapped and suffocated as the family in the beautiful and tasteful house.
Mental illness is still a reality in our modern world - and is still a taboo. Whether you let the illness dominate your (family) life depends on how willing you are to accept the existence of the illness and how willing you are to seek help - and how good the doctors are at discovering the illness in their patients.
8Were there specific movies (or books or paintings, etc.) that influenced the movie? I can´t say there were, not on a conscious level at least. I have seen so many movies, read so many books, seen so many paintings that I guess I must be influenced a bit here and a bit there. On a whole I like movies from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, South America and Independent movies from the US - any movie with a personal signature, movies that take risks and are true to their own idea, not trying to please the audience, movies where something is at stake for the director. Very, very few mainstream movies appeal to me, life is too short for all these predictable Hollywood stories.
9What was the hardest thing about shooting this movie? The lack of money. Never knowing if we were going to be able to finish the movie or not. Racing against time and weather. The weather on the Faroe Islands is very unpredictable, (like a nice movie ;-), but very unconvenient for shooting movies). We only had 12 full days of shooting the whole movie but we managed to get everything we had planned in the can. When shooting I´m in my element, regardless of the conditions.
The hardest thing during editing was not to get emotionally affected by the mother's heavy authentic crying - since the mother is my daughter. (Confused? The actress playing the mother is my daugther :-)).
The best thing was having the privilege to work with a small but dedicated crew of talented people willing to work almost for free.
10What's next? Good question, but hard to answer. Like any filmmaker I´m always working on a new project or two never knowing if any of them will come true ;)
About the Interviewer: Nick Toti
Nick Toti is a decidedly amateur filmmaker, writer, and occasional visual artist who lives in Los Angeles.
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