Looking back

Miri Ann Beuschel and Anton Honik talk time, love, monkey puppets and Parents.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Miri Ann Beuschel with Anton Honik on Bodil Jørgensen: "They thought that I looked a lot like her."
Miri Ann Beuschel with Anton Honik on Bodil Jørgensen: "They thought that I looked a lot like her." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Christian Tafdrup's Parents (Forældre) certainly features the most bizarre moment of male bonding this year on the screen. This is a film where doing laundry and raking leaves are the actions that glue together fragile states of mind. Is the white rabbit or the torrential rain to blame for mysterious rejuvenation?

Kjeld (Søren Malling) and Vibeke (Bodil Jørgensen) say goodbye to their son Esben (Anton Honik), who moves out to go to college in the city. Their house in the suburbs feels big and empty and Kjeld has an idea with unexpected consequences. What if they moved back into the city as well? Into the old apartment they shared before their son was born?

Parents (Forældre) director Christian Tafdrup: "I knew I wanted Bodil Jørgensen and when Miri Ann walked through the door it was just so surreal."
Parents (Forældre) director Christian Tafdrup: "I knew I wanted Bodil Jørgensen and when Miri Ann walked through the door it was just so surreal." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Magic lightning strikes and the flat isn't the only chassis that brings the past into the present. Kjeld and Vibeke, now played by Elliott Crosset Hove and Miri Ann Beuschel, discover that their bodies went back in time too, making them about the same age as their own son.

Anne-Katrin Titze: How did you get involved with this project?

Miri Ann Beuschel: I was put in an archive, three or four years ago. I had my photo taken and they asked me some questions. The woman in the film who plays the female lead [Bodil Jørgensen], she is my aunt. They thought that I looked a lot like her. They asked me, "How can it be that you look so much like her and sound so much like her?"

So I told them that it was my aunt and they wrote it down. When you [to Christian Tafdrup] were casting, they remembered, "Oh we had someone in three years ago, her niece." And they tried to find me but they couldn't. Then Christian had to ask her [the aunt] for my number. I had been in drama school but I think she said that I didn't want to be an actress anymore.

I was taking a break, I had just bought a small house and moved out of the city. They sent me the script, just a small part of it when I was in London. I rehearsed it overnight at the hostel with eight other girls in a room. When I landed in Denmark, I went to the audition and it felt very natural.

Vibeke (Miri Ann Beuschel) with Kjeld (Elliott Crosset Hove): "It was really much more subtle, my interaction with the husband."
Vibeke (Miri Ann Beuschel) with Kjeld (Elliott Crosset Hove): "It was really much more subtle, my interaction with the husband."

AKT: How did it feel playing the same person as your aunt?

MAB: It feels good! I know her and I know how she thinks.

AKT: The two guys [Søren Malling and Elliott Crosset Hove] must have had a more difficult time.

MAB: I think they did.

Christian Tafdrup: I knew I wanted Bodil Jørgensen and when Miri Ann walked through the door it was just so surreal. It was such a gift for us. That of course was more difficult with the male lead.

MAB: I had only done theatre. It was really much more subtle, my interaction with the husband. You asked me to be always fiddling around, sometimes a little bit eccentric but in a sweet and funny way.

AKT: The laughing attacks?

CT: People are amazed because Bodil is a very famous actress in Denmark and they think "How can she act like Bodil?"

Kjeld (Søren Malling) Vibeke (Bodil Jørgensen)
Kjeld (Søren Malling) Vibeke (Bodil Jørgensen)

AKT: You, Anton, don't have a double in the film. You are just you with your laundry and two sets of the same parents. How did you enter the picture?

Anton Honik: I was in Argentina, actually. I'm part Argentinian. I got a phone call from the casting director, it was actually about another movie, a short movie. I didn't get the other one and then I went to a casting with you [Christian] the first day and it went well. It was very simple, a couple of castings and then we started.

AKT: What did you think of the script the first time you read it?

AH: I thought it was good. There were a couple of versions.

AKT: The film has one of the strangest male bonding scenes I know of - between you and your "young father" in the kitchen.

AH: There are a lot of surrealistic scenes.

Anton Honik as Esben: "I have this sort of mask throughout the movie almost and then in the end, I let go."
Anton Honik as Esben: "I have this sort of mask throughout the movie almost and then in the end, I let go."

CT: I added that scene very late, actually, while shooting. I wanted the scene to be very moving so that you actually forget these are two boys. You should think in that weird logic, it's the father and the son.

AH: We also thought, how much do we cry? How much is too much?

AKT: It's interesting, you, Anton, get the crying and you, Miri Ann, get the laughing. The two sides of a mask!

AH: I have this sort of mask throughout the movie almost and then in the end, I let go.

CT: You should be the most common boy in the world because all the others are so strange.

AH: For me it was about being as normal as possible.

MAB: It's very well orchestrated. When we show up at his housewarming, you can tell the contrast between him and his friends who are cool, calm and collected.

AKT: The idea of nostalgia is prominent in the movie. You are both young, but do you relate to that feeling? Are you nostalgic? Can you identify at all?

Anton Honik on the transformation of his parents: "There are a lot of surrealistic scenes."
Anton Honik on the transformation of his parents: "There are a lot of surrealistic scenes."

MAB: Yes, I think for me especially when my character starts to drift away from her commitment, from her marriage. I think when someone gets fixated on an idea of something that was, that is out of the present moment, it can become an obsession almost. It's hard then to be present and to connect to someone. You have to be present with them.

I think it's hard for love to flourish when one of them is more into the idea of something that was. He has an emotional attachment to that time but it's hard for her to be a part of that. He forgets that it's not about the place, not about the time, it's about the way that they connected back then. It's kind of heartbreaking. We do it all the time to people we are close to. We get more attached to an idea of something than the actual connection.

AH: It's also about the difference of loving a person and being in love. He is looking for that we-just-met kind of love.

AKT: The object that helps that journey backwards is a monkey hand puppet, a childhood toy. Meaning the transformation backwards could go even further?

Vibeke and Kjeld: "It feels good! I know her and I know how she thinks."
Vibeke and Kjeld: "It feels good! I know her and I know how she thinks."

CT: You have a lot of silly things from your past. I don't know why, but they had this monkey. I spent a lot of time with the one who took care of the props to find specific props that would be of symbolic meaning. A monkey puppet, a tape, a record - stupid dead things but they represent a lot of life.

MAB: They want that attraction back, that spark.

AKT: With the use of these symbols you allow the audience to make up their own links. You could, for example, say that the bunny did the transformation. Or the rain did it.

CT: The rain, it's such a cliché but I had a very strong opinion about it that it should be in the movie. Because it's some kind of force of nature and these people go against the nature.

AH: There is also something hyper-natural about it.

MAB: Sometimes it's an art form to use clichés in a beautiful way.

AH: Also, it rains a lot in Denmark.

Parents screened at Michael Moore's 12th annual Traverse City Film Festival in Michigan running from July 26 through July 31.

Read what Christian Tafdrup had to say on the making of Parents (Forældre).

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