Born in 1965 in Oslo, Marius Holst studied at the International Film School in London, graduating in 1990. His first feature film, "Cross my Heart and Hope to Die", won the Blue Angel Prize at the 1995 Berlin Film Festival. His second, "Dragonflies", is a psychological thriller in which a couple's world is turned upside down by an old associate, recently released from prison.
How did you get involved with "Dragonflies"?
I read the short story by Ingvar Ambjørnsen, who's a friend of mine, a few years ago when it came out, and I told him that it was really strong material for a film. I had been working on a big project which had fallen through, and I was looking for a vehicle that had a very simple, classic framework. With "Dragonflies", you could work on small character details, and the film's mood, in a way that more plot-driven films don't permit. Here we could change and rewrite things along the way.
You had to shoot "Dragonflies" in just 18 days. How much did that put you under pressure?
Those limitations give you a freedom and an energy. There are certain things you can't worry about and that you can't do because there's not enough time. You work more from instinct. I'd worked with my director of photography, John Christian Rosenlund, on short films and commercials. We decided not to do the film in the style of Dogme, and make it look rough and smudgy, and have a handheld camera throughout. I wanted to frame it more classically, but what was hard was maintaining the uniformity of the film's look over the 18 days when we were making changes on the run.
Why the title "Dragonflies"?
The short story was actually called "Natt til Mork Morgen", which means "from night till dark morning", almost in the tradition of titles like "Long Day's Journey into Night". I thought that was too heavy for the film's title, so I came up with "Øyenstikker", which translates as "Dragonflies". The dragonfly is a beautiful insect, but it's also a predator, which lives in still and muddy waters. In Ibsen's work the smell of the swamp is an image of the past left behind and secrets buried. So in Norwegian, the title is both beautiful and frightening.
The character Kullmann, who's played by Mikael Persbrandt and who intrudes upon the couple's rural idyll in "Dragonflies", is unsettling in a subtle way...
Mikael is a very good film and stage actor, yet in films in Scandinavia, he's been used in a one-note way, which I find sad. They always highlight his physique and his menacing qualities. I always thought he was an actor who could play with much more nuance. Also he's one of the few actors in Scandinavia who can stand toe-to-toe with Kim Bodnia [who plays Eddie] without overacting. I wanted to show Kim in a different light as well, to show his friendly and vulnerable side, in a film which is all about containing and holding back.
Unlike many thrillers, "Dragonflies" seems more about looks and glances than snappy dialogue...
We cut out a lot of explanations from the script about the background of the three characters. Films these days tend to spoonfeed you too much. We let the audience fill in the blanks about their past with their own experiences, which are probably more exciting than what I can fill in with a few snips of dialogue. I was worried in editing, though, that I'd left too much out.