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Interview with Lone Scherfig, Director of An Education

Lone Scherfig. Photography: Robin Holland.
 
Mette Hjort interviews Danish Director Lone Scherfig about her experience directing the film An Education:
 
Hjort: How did you end up directing An Education?
 
Scherfig: The film’s script is by Nick Hornby, and he based his script on a story by the journalist Lynn Barber. Hornby and I have the same agent, and I’d told her I was interested. So at a certain point I was called in for a whole series of meetings with the producers who wanted me to talk to them about what I liked about the script, and what I’d like to do with it. I told them I liked the tone of the script and that I’d read Hornby’s books and have always liked the compassion he manages to convey for his characters. In the case of An Education, I particularly liked the character David, who as you know is a real person, someone who’s still alive. I liked the idea of making a film with a male character who has enormous drive and who isn’t entirely sympathetic. As a character David is a lot more dubious than the
male characters in my earlier work, with rare exceptions. Peter Gantzler’s role in
The Birthday Trip has a bit of what I’m talking about.
 
Hjort: You’ve usually been involved in the scriptwriting process yourself. What was it like to work with a script by someone else, and by an established writer?
 
Scherfig: My position from the start was that it was Hornby’s script, and that I didn’t
have any intention of somehow making it mine. I do think the producers had
the idea that by bringing in a Danish director, as opposed to a British one, they
might be able to give the film a certain edge. I don’t know whether I managed
to do that. It’s not a film where I wanted to be really visible as a director. The
film is very much about the characters, so it’s important to be able to pull back
as a director. It’s not the director the audience should be noticing, but the
characters, especially Jenny. If people leave the cinema and remember her, then
we’ve achieved our goal.
 
Hjort: You’ve made two feature films outside Denmark. Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself is set and shot in Glasgow, and An Education is set and shot in London. What’s it
like as a filmmaker to work in a language and culture that’s not your own?
 
Scherfig: In the case of An Education I was very conscientious about the film’s look, in relation to the time in which it’s set. I worked a lot harder on this film than on any of my earlier films, precisely because it’s about English culture, and because I know there are things I can’t take for granted when I’m working in a foreign language and in a foreign country. I did things I would never have dreamt of doing, had it been a Danish film. It was also a matter of living up to that concept of excellence that is so noticeable in a British context, where absolutely everyone seems always to be doing their best. I was met with a thoroughness and self discipline unlike anything I’ve seen before. And that works well with this kind of film, but the challenge then becomes to ensure that the film also has lots of narrative energy, and some real levity. I felt that an important part of my job was to ensure that the film didn’t get crushed in the production machine, because it’s a film that really depends on fine details.
 
Read the full interview and many others in The Danish Directors 2, now available. 

 

 

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