Director says European actors "ugly"

Wed Nov 3, 2010 11:09pm EDT
 
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By Scott Roxborough

COLOGNE (Hollywood Reporter) - In her films, Danish director Susanne Bier specializes in taking good, decent people and putting them through hell.

"In a Better World," Denmark's candidate for the 2011 foreign-language Oscar, is no exception. The film moves between a Sudanese refugee camp, where Danish doctor Anton tries to keep the peace, and Anton's home in Denmark, where his marriage is on the rocks and his son is being bullied at school.

It marks her follow-up to the 2007 box office disappointment "Things We Lost in the Fire," which was viewed as an Oscar magnet for Halle Berry.

YOU WENT TO THE U.S. TO MAKE YOUR ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DEBUT "THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE." WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE MAKING A FILM IN THE U.S.? HOW DID IT COMPARE TO THE EUROPEAN SYSTEM?

It was a wonderful experience. But I think what I'm doing as a filmmaker is the same in U.S. or Europe. As a director you aim to create a scene that is alive. The director channels all the elements into one vision and it's irrelevant where you are. And there are a few issues I have with the European tradition. The European auteur tradition has great advantages but distinct disadvantages as well. Look at the amount of European films made that are really boring. You have to ask if never questioning the director's autonomy is all that healthy.

Another issue I have is why actors in European films have to look so ugly. Why is it a virtue that they should be unattractive? There is a tradition in Europe of indulging in misery and I'm not particularly fond of that.

"IN A BETTER WORLD" HAS SIMILARITIES WITH (HER 2006 FILM) "AFTER THE WEDDING." AGAIN YOU ARE CONTRASTING LIFE IN THE THIRD WORLD WITH RICH WESTERN SOCIETY. WHAT INTERESTS YOU ABOUT THIS CONTRAST?

First of all I think I have an interest in showing that we are not all that different which is I think is important. And I have an interest in making it clear that the Third World is part of our world. We don't live in a privileged secluded island. I'm not interested in making a topical, political movie but I am interested in making a film that engages people. In so many European films, the political topic is the main interest and I've always hated that. I don't like topical films. I don't like films that have all the answers ready. I personally like to be entertained and engaged and them make up my own mind.   Continued...