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Oscar Winning Director Bille August on ‘The Kiss,’ His Craft, the Streamers
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January 31st 2022

Oscar Winning Director Bille August on ‘The Kiss,’ His Craft, the Streamers

Oscar and double Palme d’Or winning director Bille August (“The Best Intentions”, “Pelle the Conqueror”) is attending the Göteborg Film Festival for a Director’s Talk and the gala screening of his psycho-drama “The Pact”.

He will also pitch at the adjoining Nordic Film Market (Feb. 3-6), the work in progress of his upcoming Danish pic “The Kiss”.

August spoke exclusively to Variety about “The Kiss,” his enduring interest in the complexity of human beings, book-to-screen adaptations and his belief in the big screen experience.

Loosely based on Stefan Zweig’s novel “Beware of Pity and transposed from an Austrian to a Danish setting, “The Kiss” is a romantic drama set in 1913. The helmer has reunited with “A Fortunate Man”’s lead Espen Smed, cast as cavalry officer trainee Anton. Introduced to Baron von Løvenskjold’s daughter Edith, a wheelchair user following an accident, Anton is attracted to her, but unsure if his feelings are of pity or true love.

Starring alongside Smed are Clara Rosager (“The Rain,” “Before the Frost”), David Dencik (“No Time To Die”, “The Chestnut Man”), Lars Mikkelsen (“Borgen”, “Ride Upon the Storm”) and Rosalinde Mynster (“Persona Non Grata,” ”Darkness: Those Who Kill”).

Produced by Thomas Heinesen for Nordisk Film Production and Lars Sylvest (“Robots”, “Cliffhanger”), the film is due to open in August in Denmark.

LevelK is handling world sales.

What was the genesis for “The Kiss” and what attracted you to the story?

Originally the film was meant to be a more international co-production but for several reasons it didn’t go through. I was so much in love with the story, and keen to make it happen, that I decided to turn it into a Danish story, to have a better control of the financing process.

“The Kiss” is freely adapted from a Stefan Zweig’s novel “Beware of Pity.” Now it is set in Denmark, just before the outbreak of WW1. It’s probably one of the most beautiful and peculiar stories that exists, about the love between the soldier Anton and handicapped girl Edith. There is a profound humanity in the story, that makes it relevant and important today for a wide audience.

The film deals with exclusion, bullying, which is a real issue in our societies, and why I feel the story has to be told. It exposures the reasons why intolerance happens. And tolerance, compassion and healing are themes that I’m very fond of.

The complexity of love relationships is a recurrent theme in your films. We’ve seen it earlier in “The Best Intentions,” “A Fortunate Man” and “The Pact,” for instance….

Yes. I love stories about the complexity of human beings, that dive into the secret side of people. And telling it in a dramatic context is super interesting.

Do you feel that the complexity of the human soul deepens as we grow in age?

It does! It is strange. You would think that with age, you know more about human beings and that things get clearer. But it’s not the case. That’s the beauty of it. At the same time, there is always a healing process, and it is possible to dig into the human soul to unravel this complexity. Read the full Variety interview here.

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