Unruly, the second feature by Danish director-writer Malou Reymann, premiered at the Toronto festival, is a gripping 1930s drama about a rebellious teenager forced into an institution, the real Sprogø Women’s Home.
At a time when women’s control over their bodies is under attack, your film has a special resonance. Is what happened on the? Kellersk Institute on Sprogø island well known in Denmark?
Among young people, few know about the Sprogø Women’s Home and its entire historical context. And they are angry that this was not something that was taught in school. The whole political aspect of the sterilization laws is not something that people know about. Denmark was actually the first European country to make eugenics-based sterilization laws, so when Nazi Germany made their laws, they looked to the Danish laws. It all stemmed from an attempt to control society’s gene pool. And it was developed at the same time as the social security system, so the concept was that if the state is to take care of people who can’t take care of themselves, we should reduce the number of people who can’t take care of themselves. take care of themselves.
Everything looks historically correct. What kind of research have you done?
There is a great book by Birgit Kirkebæk about the Sprogø Women’s Home where she analyzes the diaries of the first 18 women who were admitted to Sprogø. This book was really our bible while Sara Jønsson and I wrote the script. But we also went to the national archives to read letters from the doctor and the director and some of the women. We didn’t shoot the actual island of Sprogø, but I’ve been there a few times. There is one room left: the “reflection” room. It has scratches on the walls and on the door. It was very emotional standing there and I felt very connected to all the women who had been there.
There are a number of scenes that can make a young actress vulnerable. Have you used an intimacy coordinator?
I didn’t use an intimacy coordinator for the sex scenes because I wanted the actors to feel safe with me; I didn’t want the communication to go through another person. I used to work as an actor and did some intimate scenes when I was very young, so I know what it’s like to work with directors who take responsibility and directors who don’t. It was important to me to create a workspace that felt safe and where I was in charge and where we could talk about what we were doing and where the three of us could rehearse in the room. I think it’s super important for a director to take responsibility for these situations and take it very seriously, but also somehow embrace the awkwardness of it all.
Tell me about your head, Emilie Kroyer Koppel.
Emily is great. She is still so young but she understands everything and is not afraid of anything. She wants to be a filmmaker and in a way she is more of a filmmaker than an actress. She absolutely loves filmmaking, so everything is exciting for her. She had that energy I wish Maren had, but also the emotional depth to go as deep as the character.
What’s next for you?
I am working on two new projects. One is a TV series about the persecution of witches in Denmark in the 1600s, which I am working on with the Danish author Olga Ravn. The other is a light-hearted rom-com about a woman in her fifties who is torn between her marriage and a flirtation.