Breaking up is hard to do as Swedish filmmaker David Färdmar explores in his brooding bittersweet debut feature Are We Lost Forever premiering in the UK and Ireland via Peccadillo Pictures on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital on Monday January 18th. When we first meet protagonists Adrian (Björn Elgerd) and Hampus (Jonathan Andersson) they’re sitting up in bed (the ownership of which they’ll later squabble over) in the midst of a conversation that will prove the beginning of the end. In the ashes of their relationship what can they learn about themselves and each other, can they remain friends, are they destined to make the same mistakes in future relationships, or might they even reunite? Remorse, loneliness, sex, and the desire to start a family all complicate matters in this well-observed drama.
Ahead of the UK and Irish release of Are We Lost Forever, The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann had an exclusive chat with the film’s writer-director-producer David Färdmar about the origins of his gay break up movie, using sex to investiage his characters, the stunning pop soundtrack featuring Swedish legends Ace of Base, and what he loves about Ang Lee’s classic Brokeback Mountain.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: The DVD and Blu-ray includes several of your short films as well as your debut feature, what sparked your initial interest in filmmaking and how did you get started in your career?
David Färdmar: “I actually wanted to be an actor, and I did act for a while in my twenties. I did some theatre, and although it probably seems unlikely when you watch my films, I was mainly a comedy actor. Around 2000 I started a directing course in Gothenburg and as I came into contact with trained actors I grew so much respect for the work that they do. At some point I discovered that when I spoke to an actor they understood what I had in my head and when they said what I’d written for them it sounded like what I’d imagined it. I thought that was so cool and one day I had an epiphany and knew that I was going to be behind the camera. After graduating from the directing course I began working in Swedish television in various capacities. I was a location scout and then I was a production manager. Eventually I landed a job as a casting director on a big Swedish crime series which led to me forming a casting company with three friends. I still wanted to direct though, so in between big casting projects I began to work on my own films and I made the short My Name is Love in 2008. That was followed by A Sting Of Maud which was a big production, I got 1.9 million Swedish Krona to make that (around 240,000 US dollars/190,000 Euros) which was pretty substantial for a 28 minute movie. I went on to produce A Last Farewell, which Casper Andreas directed, and then me and Björn Elgerd co-directed We Could Be Parents. After making that film, back in 2015, is when I started to write the feature Are We Lost Forever.”
Although you initially wrote it as a feature you released a short film version first, how did that come about?
“Well, in 2015 I didn’t get any of the production funding that I’d applied for to make the feature, but by the summer of the following we’d formed a creative team including my two lead actors, Björn and Jonathan, and assembled a crew. So we decided to start filming totally independently. Luckily we began shooting chronologically with the first 10 or 15 first pages of the script. We thought that we’d start up again in the fall but that turned into a year long break. I didn’t want to waste the material that we’d already shot because it was so good, so I decided to turn it into a short which became No More We. It premiered at the Gothenburg Film Festival 2018 and we had a great journey with it playing at around 50 festivals. At all the festivals that I traveled to everyone kept asking, ‘What happens next with this couple? They don’t seem to be over each other’, and I always said, ‘Well, they’re not, and I have the script for what’s going to happen next between them and how it’s going to end’.”
It’s interesting that you said audiences were intrigued by what was going to happen because with both the short and the feature you don’t spell everything out for us as viewers. There’s quite a lot that the audience isn’t explicitly told, though they can maybe sense it. Could you talk about that as a writing decision?
“I’m glad that you mentioned that because I think a lot of movies give too much away and serve up everything on a plate for the audience so that they can just eat their popcorn and not have to think too much. In writing the screenplay I jumped into scenes while they were in progress; something happens, there’s a development, and then you leave the scene maybe a little bit before it’s settled. What happens in between, before, and after, the audience has to imagine for themselves, they have to put the puzzle pieces together. I know some people might not appreciate that and get frustrated by it because we’re so used to being spoon-fed everything, but I wanted to challenge viewers to think for themselves. When I talk to people about the film they often have different views on what happens in the story because they make their own film in their minds.”
Let’s talk about the sex scenes, they look hot and steamy and feel authentic, but they’re used very intentionally and tell us something about what the characters are going through don’t they?
“I always refer to them as scenes including sex rather than sex scenes because I think they’re so much more than that. I’m tired of seeing relationship dramas that just throw in some scenes where the couple has sex with nice backlighting and music, then cut, cut, cut, and it’s over. Just to prove to the audience that this couple has sex and then there’s nothing more to it. In this film, there’s character development in them, mostly for Adrian, in the way he tries to grow and change and to break out from his normal way of behaviour. What happens before, during, and after sex is all important. I’m very thankful that the actors wanted to participate. They show themselves with emotions and also with their skin. In the script itself the sex is written out like a dialogue, all the moments in the sequence are described so they knew what they were going to do already.”
I like the little details that I think make it seem more real. Adrian is quite reluctant about being a bottom and we see him grab the lube. In a lot of movies we don’t see things like the lube or the condom on the floor afterwards as we see here, and condom use is part of the narrative also. The dynamics of gay sex aren’t generally explored on film that much, like the discussions about bottoming we get here.
“To be honest, when I wrote the script I wasn’t that aware of how it was going to be received. In my mind Adrian is struggling with letting someone get close to him. I mean, you don’t have to be a bottom to be afraid of someone getting close, but that was something from my own experiences and from discussions with boyfriends and friends who’ve said it can be an issue. I thought it was a good metaphor for Adrian because he’s so square and very anal.”
For Adrian specifically bottoming is associated with trust and intimacy isn’t it?
“Yeah, that’s right, and like you said it’s something that I haven’t seen explored too much on film and I always want to create images that people haven’t seen before.”
I like your use of Swedish pop music because I think we associate falling in love and falling out of love with the music that we listen to at the time we’re going through those things and the lyrics seem to be speaking directly to us. Tell me a bit about the musical aspect of the film, including that great Ace of Base track that you include.
“From the beginning I didn’t want to use much score because it’s so easy to cover up everything with it and to help direct the audience. At one point my sound designer Per-Henrik Mäenpää, who is also a composer, wrote a score and we tried it with the picture, but it just wasn’t the film I wanted to make. Then I discovered when we were editing that there was so many scenes that could have music playing in the background, like in the restaurant and café and so on.”
There’s a lovely needle drop sound effect before the record plays in the café scene which I appreciated.
“Oh yes, and in that scene the song playing is by Stakka-Bo who had a big hit in the 90s with Here We Go Again. Stakka-Bo is actually the filmmaker Johan Renck who directed Chernobyl. He was a big musical artist in Europe in the 90s, and now he’s an Emmy-winning director. I did a casting for him for a Swedish TV series so he’s a friend of mine. Actually all of the music is by people I know. I just approached them and asked if I could use their music in the film. Ace of Base are one of my favourite artists and they’re from Gothenburg too which is fun. The song we used was originally going to be their comeback single but they never released it. I wanted to have The Sign, but it was too expensive so they offered me this song and actually the lyrics fit the scene perfectly. Lost Forever is by The Lovers of Valdaro, a Swedish synth pop duo who released that song just after my short film No More We came out in 2018. As we were working on the feature I was listening to it and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this song is about the short film!’ So I asked them if I could use their song and eventually it became the title of the feature.”
But it was a coincidence, right? It wasn’t directly inspired by your short film?
“No, but it was a happy coincidence or art by accident as I like to say, like a lot of things with this film!”
In working with your lead actors did you recommend any films about relationships for them to watch for the tone or mood of this movie or was there anything that directly inspired you?
“We talked a lot about Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy because I really like those films as does my editor Christoffer Sevholt. As with my film there are long dialogue scenes and mainly just two characters.”
Talking of those two characters Adrian, played by Björn Elgerd, and Hampus, played by Jonathan Andersson, I believe you wrote the roles specifically for them?
“Yes, I actually met both Jonathan and Björn back in 2012. In my day job I cast Jonathan in a supporting role in a feature film and since then I’d always wanted to work with him on my own. As a casting director finding new stars I often get jealous of the directors who get to play with my stars! I had Jonathan and Björn in mind when I wrote the script because their personalities are so different, and they look so different too. I thought they were going to be a great match. After I’d written it I called them up and told them I’d written something for them and then of course I had to try them out to see how they looked together and if they liked each other and could work together. As soon as they started to interact with each other I was like, ‘Okay, it’s done, that’s Hampus and Adrian.’ Thankfully they liked the script. They’ve been very involved in the project from the beginning and have read different versions along the way and we’ve rehearsed together and tried out different things. They’ve been so supportive for this whole five year project. They had a lot of time to get to know each other and worked so closely together that when we filmed all the scenes it felt very natural and easy.”
What’s your favourite LGBTQ+ plus piece of culture, it could be a movie, TV series, play, book, music, or anything else you’d like to select or a person who identifies as LGBTQ+. Someone or something that’s made an impact on you and resonated with you over the years and why?
“The film that’s had the biggest impact on me is Brokeback Mountain. When I saw it in the cinema back in 2005 I cried so much. I was there on my own in the cinema during the daytime and I was so struck by it. Even to this day, as soon as I hear one note from the theme music I start to cry. I haven’t seen it since. I can’t watch it again because I don’t want to destroy the memory of that experience.”
By James Kleinmann
David Färdmar’s Are We Lost Forever premieres in the UK and Ireland on DVD, Blu-ray and digital on Monday January 18th from Peccadillo Pictures. Pre-order now on Peccadillo Player, Amazon and Apple TV. The DVD and Blu-ray feature cast and filmmaker interviews plus four short films by Färdmar; My Name is Love, A Sting of Maud, We Could Be Parents, and No More We.