Our November top three contained a dystopian Black Mirror sort of thriller, a sci-fi set in space and other planets, and an excellent drama looking at how much one could not know about their partners just before the wedding. In the end, ‘Feelblock‘ was the winner, and we are sitting here with director Halldór Frank Hafsteinsson in order to find out more about his film – other than the fact that it’s excellent, of course.
JL: Our congratulations on Feelblock! How happy have you been with the general reception it has received so far?
HFH: Thank you! Well, the reception has been incredibly positive; TMFF is the first festival I have screened Feelblock in so I did not know what to expect or even if it would be selected into it. My mind was totally blown when I found out it had won all four categories it was nominated to. I had only once screened it before and that was for a live audience along with many incredible films from my fellow graduate students from The Icelandic Film School. And in that screening people seemed to like it so I am just thrilled how well the film is doing.
JL: What inspired you to write Feelblock?
HFH: Well, one day I just had a bad day where I felt like nothing was working out and I found myself thinking “I wish there was something like Adblock (a service that clears ads from your web browser) that would get rid of bad feelings. And I thought “Hmm, I bet there is a movie in there…”. So I imagined what that world would look like and how would you mourn the dead?”
JL: Feelblock feels dystopian but also very relevant in today’s world – I guess comparing it to Black Mirror was quite unavoidable. Did you set off trying to make a Black Mirror sort of story, or did that happen in the process?
HFH: I actually did not set out to make a Black Mirror type film; I am definitely inspired by them though. The idea of the Feelblock device came to me before I thought about making it as a film. And when I thought of the device I thought of the world and how it would be different from the world we live in today. But I think the process of writing might be similar to what they do when writing Black Mirror. Taking one problem or issue in our world and getting rid of it, making us a new set of problems.
JL: Emotions – both positive and negative – play a continuous and crucial part of our lives. What would we be without them?
HFH: I think we are afraid of feeling bad, that is in our nature and I definitely find myself being afraid of having a bad day. We are constantly trying to find ways to pass the time without getting bored, find ways to make us feel better or find ways to make our lives easier and convenient. But we can’t have a good day without having a bad day every once in a while.
JL: What did you find more difficult – writing or directing the film?
HFH: That’s a good question. I love both stages of the process probably the most. The writing came pretty naturally to me. Once I thought of the device I was already thinking about the scene in the beginning where there is a group of loved ones celebrating the death of Áslaug. And what happens when you take the feeling filter away from the main character after losing her grandma at the same time she is falling in love? Well, chaos and chaos is fun to write. Directing it was more difficult. How do you direct when the actors can’t emote except for unfounded happiness constantly? As a director and especially for actors, you are always searching for the cause of their emotions in each scene. Most characters had to be constantly smiling. Of course with the two main characters Gríma and Gabríel it was a different story, for most of the film Gríma’s Feelblock is broken so she could emote quite a bit. But I also have to say, I just loved the chemistry between Kolka (Gríma) and Bragi (Gabríel). They were amazing together. But even though I knew it would be a hard story to tell, I just surrounded myself with people that really understood my vision, with my fellow producers Sonja and Sunna and of course Stefán who is just a great cinematographer. I knew we could make a fun film.
JL: Kolka Heimisdottir jumps from one extreme to another – from showing no negative emotions, to being overwhelmed by them. How happy were you with her performance – which won her our Best Actress award?
HFH: Her performance was amazing. Of course I am extremely happy about it and also so happy for her to win that award. Kolka is a fantastic actress. We started at the same time in the film school so I had often seen her play in school films and shortly before I wrote Feelblock I worked with her on a small project so I was totally confident that she would kill it. And she did! When we started filming we unfortunately had to start the first day by shooting the last scene where she is crying feeling sad and ends up laughing through the tears in the same shot. She was also sitting beside a well known and beloved actor here in Iceland and I knew she was really nervous and so was I. She nailed it from the first take, a bunch of tears and all! So I knew that I would not have to worry after that first shot.
JL: Do you have any new projects under the radar, or are you fully concentrating on promoting Feelblock?
HFH: Well, both actually. I have applied to many festivals for Feelblock and am excited to see how far it goes. I am also working on a bunch of projects and two documentaries. Me and my friend from school are beginning to brainstorm a new short film and also now I am writing a full feature Feelblock film where I take this world to the next level but also keeping the same characters and some of the best scenes from the short.
JL: Many thanks for your time – we look forward to taking a look at more of your work in the future!
HFH: Thank you again, TMFF. This has been a great honor and opportunity, looking forward to applying with more films to your festival.