Berlinale 2016: Family, Success, And Curiosity - An Interview With Thomas Vinterberg

59 minutes ago

“Putting yourself at risk makes you curious and makes you actually feel young,” says Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, who is backstage at the Berlinale Talents.

We talk about how he tries to stay fresh as a filmmaker and the theme of family in his latest semi-autobiographical film, "The Commune."

“Repetition in art reminds you that you are going to die. It’s like feeling old a little bit. It’s like rubbing on your old success. It makes you feel lazy and old," explains the director.

"How does that work with your own success? Is that something you have to distance yourself from when you create?" I asked.

Photo of Danish director Thomas Vinterberg at 66th Berlinale Film Festival.
Credit Marlene Melchior

“Well two things can happen when you have a premiere of a film. One thing is, you fail, and that will slightly paralyze you. You’ll start to become strategic and think, ‘Well, what am I going to do next?’ to save my career and stuff. But even worse [is] you can have success. That is awfully uncreative, so what I have learned and what I have actually taken advice about – from Bergman himself – is to always decide your next project before the opening of your existing project. Then you do it left-handed in the middle of production, and then there is shorter between the heart and the hand," replies Vinterberg.

"Why are you attracted to family portraits?" I asked.

“It is so difficult to answer why you are attracted to things," explains Vinterberg. "I guess the structure of a family is the one you have been put in that you didn’t decide. It can be very, very claustrophobic, and it can tear you apart, but it is still also the most important loving nest you can have in your life. It’s so full of energy, and it’s so full of internal systems and internal love that I keep having curiosities.”

I ask him, "Do you think that the biggest risk of a family is that it can fail? Does that attract you?"

“Well I think the families that allow themselves to fail are the healthy families," the director tells me, "and I think there is a lot of fear and correctness in how to approach family life that actually is a part of the claustrophobia.”

"The Commune" is certainly about a family that dares to fail and premieres this week at the Berlinale. Vinterberg’s upcoming project is a celebration of alcohol.