Known for Minerva (1997), Cyclomania (2001) and Open Up to Me (2013), Finnish film director, screenwriter, actor and author Simo Halinen, is making Finland proud of its cinema.
With a sold out UK premiere of his latest work – Open Up to Me – at the Fringe Film Festival (London, 2014), Halinen speaks to FilmDoo about his rather touching film about human relationships.
Could you please talk a little bit about Open Up To Me and the purpose of the film?
I wanted to make an open, honest film about the most difficult thing I can imagine as a subject for a story: the intimate feelings we have for each other.
Are you happy with the final product?
Yes. The film was made with a very small budget, â‚¬818,000 euros. So in that sense, yes. We did the best we could.
How did you come up with the character of Maarit?
At the beginning I had an image in my mind: a woman is cleaning a psychotherapist’s office when a man comes in. The man needs help. The woman is not a therapist but starts pretending she is. I was intrigued by a character who takes on a false role, a character that wants to do good but uses deception to do it. Once this image was imagined, I started to ask questions about my main character. I began to wonder what could be the burden she’s hiding from Sami. I knew it had to be something very important for her. A real burden. Then I realized the reason she understood this family man so well. It was because she had been one herself.
How did Maarit being transgender factor into her characterization?
My first goal wasn’t to make a story about a transgender person; it was to tell Maarit’s story – in this case, a woman who pretends to be a therapist. It was important to me that I liked Maarit even before I had come up with her past as a man. Her most important quality is the ability to empathize with people. I was intrigued by a character who takes on a false role, a character that wants to do good but uses deception to do it.
Are any of the characters a representation of someone in real life?
No. I put a lot of myself into all of them. This is something I always do. I really think of my characters as myself, almost always. I try to, at least. But they are not based on people and incidents that I know or have experienced myself.
Could you please share with us something that marked you throughout the creation process?
I wanted to make a film which does not victimize my main character. She can be lovable, she can be miserable, she can be a bitch, but she must not be a victim.
It’s been around 12 years since your last big production (Cyclomania). Why such a long gap in time?
I wrote two novels. I co-wrote and directed two miniseries. I’m lousy at thinking career-wise. Feature filmmaking is not an obsession for me anymore, although I’m writing a couple of scripts right now.
What are your thoughts in regards to the independent film industry?
Hard to say. All filmmaking in Finland is independent!
Would you like to leave a word of advice to young and aspiring filmmakers?
Learn to read! It’s the most difficult part of writing and directing. Finding the story and its meanings.
As interviewed by Joí£o Cidade for FilmDoo
Watch Simo Halinen’s Open Up to Me here