The Possession Ole Bornedal Interview

Ole BornedalAfter we interviewed a medium about the reality behind this years best possession movie The Possession its time to talk to the man behind the demonic mystery himself director Ole Bornedal to find out more.

We’ve read about a real life Dibbuk box… how much was the movie version inspired by it?

Ole Bornedal: A lot! Juliet and Styles studied the story and elaborated on it – but had it not been based on what happened to that family who were in Possession of the Box – and the event that followed – there would have been no movie.

With possession being at the centre of a fair few horror films over the years, what prompted you to go down the route of a possessed box? Was the Pandora’s box angle appealing?

Ole Bornedal: It was a Director-Craftsman-challenge. Usually I write my own stories – and I was in a process of writing this 400 page long war epic, which is gonna become a very big Danish-German project in 2013. Sam Raimi called me and gave me the challenge of doing this tale, which was a challenge – it being perhaps the strongest American genre. And a genre that suffers from very often very superficial characters that are absolutely incomprehensible to identify with as an audience.

I don’t like those movies. Trying to add a human angle to it – was the challenge.

There is a scene where Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character researches into possession online with some scary results. How much research did you do for the movie and what were some of the real life stories that shocked you or shaped the final film?

Ole Bornedal: I didn’t do any research really. Not more than an average curious guy des on the internet. The film is shaped by my own fears and my own neurotic anxiety for a certain light, a certain colour of a voice, a timing in suspense that let me and the audience know more than the victims on the screen does. Exploring the dark sides are always challenging. Trying to see what you cannot see.

Ole Bornedal

How did Natasha Calis cope with the challenging role? How did you direct her?

Ole Bornedal: I more or less brought her into a sort of trance in the casting session. “Transformed” her into being Em. Once she became that character – I started interviewing her as that little girl. She fell apart in front of the camera, started crying her heart out. The difference in the Em character, from so many many other “possessed innocent little girls” in scary movies – is that she is TORMENTED by this thing inside of her. It makes her SAD. She doesn´t just run around in the movie with this demonic smile on her face, being perfectly all right with scaring the hell out of everybody. It makes everything vulnerable – and real – I guess.

What was it like working with the other cast members; Jeffrey and Kyra seem to of that league of actors that can transverse genres?

Ole Bornedal: Well, they are intelligent great actors. And if I should ever try to nail down what makes a brilliant actor it is that rare combination of being divinely PRESENT and intelligent. Apart from that – they were just as brilliant to work with as so many other great actors I have met in the past. It´s the source of filmmaking – and where I put my greatest effort. The work and the intimacy with the actors and constantly trying to avoid the clichés – find new angles and interpretations.

How much was Sam Raimi involved in the film considering his horror lineage? How much influence did he have over the project?

Ole Bornedal Ole Bornedal: As an American producer his influence is of course BIG. It was his decision to bring me in – but after that had been settled, I was more or less left “alone” with my own creative interpretation of the story. Some of my choices challenged the other producers on the show. But Sam was always supportive whenever we had a conflict. He is a filmmaker himself. And that makes him a good producer.

Do you think audiences have had enough of low plot, large budget special effects laden movies and are seeking more in depth character driven pictures such as The Possession?

Ole Bornedal: YES. I do not understand why noise and fast editing have become the formula for so many movies?
I my world silence is much more interesting – and a film that understands its own language and its scenes – a film that have self confidence to believe in itself even when its slow, almost put to a halt – and then can accelerate again as a speeding bullet. Its music! A film is a symphony – not a music video.

Tension is really important in horror films, what techniques did you employ to create and build this throughout The Possession?

Ole Bornedal: The techniques are hopefully nothing but the way I sing.. .that’s how I sing…..that’s how I move the camera. It’s a question of choreography I guess. I don’t know where it comes from.

Your work in the past has been often centered around drama and horror. What is it about these genres that appeal to you?

Ole Bornedal: No I don’t really like horror. I was challenged by it in this case – but only because this film was an allegory about DIVORCE. About a family already have fallen apart. But it’s true I like the big drama. In that sense I’m probably not the usual European director who likes everything to be deeply psychological and understated. Or making stories about Daily Life in the Suburbs of Coxwold.

The Possession

What are your own favorite Possession movies and do you plan to return to the Horror genre soon?

Ole Bornedal: I don’t think there will be more horror movies. This was a one time challenge with the genre. I like good stories – not especially any genre as such. I saw The Shining again the other day. Kubrick is still brilliant and will always be.

You have had critical and financial successes with films that you have made in both Europe and in America. Which would be your preferred region of cinema to work in?

Ole Bornedal: US or Britain. Or where the good story is. It’s hard to make films in Denmark these days. It’s hard to find the money – and many of my films are sold for remakes in the US. And are to be made by foreign directors. I do not see myself in the future do many more Danish movies just to see them being made again. It seems to me as being an unnecessarily detour.

The PossessionWhat is your opinion on the supernatural do you have a belief? Or is it all fantasy?

Ole Bornedal: It´s fantasy. But then again. What the hell do we know? 50 minutes with Derren Brown can always make my world turn upside down. And wouldn´t the world be a less exciting place if the world was just the world as we saw it?

Any creepy tales from the set?

Ole Bornedal: Things exploded without reason. Light fixtures exploded – with no electricity connected to them – the warehouse that contained all of our props – burned down one week after wrap. No cause found for the fire. The usual crazy stuff. Would we have noticed if this had been a Love Story? Perhaps not.

Now, it being a horror movie – everybody noticed. But I don´t wanna go there. I do not need to face any other demons than the demons contained in myself. That’s where all the demons are – not OUTSIDE – but INSIDE all of us. There they lie inside a little box, waiting for us to open it. And the art of living is to try to avoid opening that Box – keep it closed – and be a nice and caring person.

The Possession is in cinemas now and you can read our review right Here and check out and #thepossession for more.


Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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