It was Valentine's Day yesterday, so what better time to indulge in a film all about love? Admittedly, this particular piece from Danish filmmakers Mathias Hovgaard and Christophe Dolcerocca is all about being madly in love before having your teen heart brutally broken by first love gone bad, but we like to keep things real.
Produced by LA production company Station Film, Heartbreak 101 has experimental nods to French New Wave Cinema and is an unsentimental mashup of the private lives of the teenagers it portrays, in a one-liner odyssey of emotional turmoil as they try to figure out love. It speaks to young lovers with a tender yet chaotic collage of human (in)experience, yet leaves no promise of unbroken hearts.
It was created as part of a collaboration between friends and fellow directors Mathias of Station Film and Christophe, who is repped by Missing Link Film in the UK.
LBB's Addison Capper chatted with them about the project.
LBB> Why did you want to make a film about the intensity of young love?
Christophe> We simply wanted to make something about love in a way that anybody can relate to. Sure the subjects were young, but we all carry those stories from personal experience within. Not much cuts deeper in memory. And we definitely counted on older audiences being taken back emotionally.
Mathias> I think growing older you start reflecting on your own past and your own experiences. The project evolved from there and we both found the subject very interesting. Through the process we learned how young love resonates with everyone.
LBB> How much of this film was inspired by personal experiences?
Christophe> It’s hard to say. In a way, being adults with much experience in love, you sort of know any relationship that happens when you’re young is bound to break up sooner or later. In a way the premise of the film was given beforehand, regardless of any of the young couples’ responses.
Mathias> It’s cynical to interview about such grand and personal issues, such as emotions and relationships, knowing that our conclusion is that they will fail, regardless of how eternal love might seem at the moment. I love how things just happened in the moment and how these spontaneous statements clearly resonate with the audience.
LBB> Once you had that idea, how did you build the concept? What was the writing process like?
Mathias> There was no writing. We wanted to keep it real and blend documentary elements with a strong visual concept. We really tried to make an effort in casting couples we thought would represent a diverse range of couples. Then our approach was to be super laissez-faire about the project. We tried making them feel like the whole thing was going to be easy and fun and no big deal at all.
Christophe> Before shooting we hung out with them, making them understand that we literally wanted them to be themselves and to just play around with the improvised scenes and action, while being seemingly directed very loosely. Though Mathias and I were always trying to get an emotional arch into the scenes, like boy meets girl, they fall in love, amazing times, it goes sour, they break up. We knew we could edit together an abstract love story as long as we had those emotional expressions to juggle around.
LBB> Each of the stories that make up the voiceover, tell us about them. How did you go about capturing those stories in the right way for your film?
Christophe> They are all true and personal answers. Interviewing them was the tricky part. As they are not real life couples we had to frame the questions in ways and look for answers that could connect to the illusion of being from a mutual relationship. I was actually editing the scenes in my head in real time while interviewing them.
Mathias> The process was very interesting. Christophe and I come from very different styles of filmmaking. I normally shoot very real and authentic almost documentary inspired storytelling whereas Christophe comes from the world of fashion and beauty storytelling. Working together we found this space in-between where we could meet and blend the best of both worlds while capturing the personal stories.
LBB> It's all hooked around the pulling point of the heartbreak - how did you go about making that as powerful as possible?
Christophe> The film itself embodies the emotional turmoil of youth. The visual style reflects the content. The edit helps to accelerate the chaos into a visual climax and then silence. In the end we mainly see the interview clips making it more real than any point in the film.
Mathias> Their responses might be simple truths, but they feel quite naked and you know these guys are struggling for real. The music helps to underline that there is a great beauty in learning to love even though it will break your heart.
LBB> There's a very particular aesthetic to the film. Tell us about your main aims and ambitions with the grade, etc.?
Mathias> I have been working on different projects with director of photography Rasmus Heise who had just finished work on the HBO series ‘The Outsider’ and I asked if he wanted to join us to explore the visual possibilities of this project. Rasmus has a great eye for working with natural light and also shooting handheld and moving with the camera. As Christophe mentioned we made the visual and grading reflect the storyline.
LBB> What was the production like? How and where did you shoot this?
Christophe> Super small and intimate. There was no budget. We literally ran around Copenhagen for two days and shot everything in natural lighting. Such a good job from our DOP Rasmus Heise to deliver like that.
LBB> The wardrobe is pretty ace too. There are some very good haircuts and jackets. Tell me about it!
Christophe> We had just finished watching ‘Euphoria’ and were quite inspired by how styles really can help create authentic characters without being too focused on fashion.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?
Mathias> Definitely directing and editing the interviews in ways that made them feel like they were real life couples. We always thought that the audience would suspect, yet accept, that we manipulated the interviews but it was amazing how the couples themselves were caught up in the magic of tumultuous young love. They understood what the film was about and got lost in it all. I think you feel that energy.
Christophe> We feel like magic happened with this project, that most audiences completely think these are real life couples. We also feel like this is the kind of magic that is more likely to happen when working with a small crew and a very loose concept. It was all about working with intuition. Intuition was the script.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Mathias> Working on this project really showed us how collaborating with the right people is the key to making great things. It clearly showed me how the sum of my own and Christophe's experience made the project better. We brought our own strengths to the project and I'm very happy that we decided to collaborate on this piece. And hey, it’s great to make people feel 17 again.
Christophe> This project was very much a personal one made for fun. We made something together as two very different directors. What could we learn from each other? And it was such a success, to the degree that we want to be open to doing it again on a professional scale. In fact we have started to pitch on projects together, so that’s really exciting. Who would have thought?