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Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR
Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

Interview With Director Kjersti Steinsbø On Chilling New Thriller: Hevn (Revenge)

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Updated: 2 December 2016
On the heels of recently successful Canadian co-productions such as the Oscar nominated Room and Brooklyn, which both boast female protagonists, comes Hevn (Revenge), a Norwegian-Canadian film (the first in 16 years) that turns the male-dominated genre of revenge thriller on its head, taking no prisoners in the process. Written and directed by Norwegian filmmaker Kjersti Steinsbø, Hevn is a chilling drama, made by a primarily female cast and crew which inverts the genre’s staple male gaze to tell a story entirely from a woman’s perspective.

Without giving too much away, the film follows Rebekka, brilliantly played by Norwegian actress Siren Jørgensen, who returns under a false identity to the vacation town she visited as a child to seek revenge on the man who destroyed her sister’s life. However, as Rebekka gets deeper some troubling and unforeseen consequences begin to complicate her plans and her morality.

Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

Set against the stunning yet eerie fjords of Western Norway, perfectly encapsulating the looming and unnerving atmosphere of the film, Hevn, much like its daring and determined protagonist, takes hold of its target,–the audience–, and is unrelenting until the final credits roll. Strengthened by its captivating plot and complex characters, this thriller is not to be missed.

Upon the film’s theatrical release in Toronto on May 27, Culture Trip had the opportunity to chat with writer-director Steinsbø about her remarkable feature film debut, as well as her experiences in Canadian film and as a woman in the industry.

What made you decide to go into filmmaking?

For me, film is the ultimate way of telling a story since it combines the different arts. As a kid I was completely blown away with how movies were able to create universes that would suck me in. I love the different challenges in the stages of working with film, and the feeling of teamwork when things go well.

As a Norwegian filmmaker, how has the country impacted your process and outlook as a filmmaker?

A hard question since being a Norwegian is the only experience I have! We live a very comfortable life in Norway, maybe sometimes too comfortable. I often feel very fortunate to live the safe life I do, and try not to take that for granted. You never know when things can change. Like many Canadians, I think Norwegians are quite down to earth, something that might be good sometimes in this strange business. I try to make stories that can resonate with people from different places, stories with a universal feel to it.

Set in Norway, your new film Hevn (Revenge) tells the story of Rebekka, who returns to the small vacation town of her youth to avenge her sister – with unforeseen consequences – against the man who wronged her…

What inspired you to tell this story, as both the film’s writer and director?

My producer, Kristine, read the novel the script is based on and asked me to read it. We are both from smaller towns, so I think that the theme of secrets in small communities appealed to both of us. But for me the most intriguing thing was the ambivalence I felt towards the main character. I found it exciting that I had mixed feelings towards the protagonist. I like it when characters are not just good or bad, since in reality people seldom are. I wanted to create a character that some people would root for, and some would not.

Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

As a woman in the film industry, what is your opinion on the apparent disparities between men and women in terms of pay, opportunity, etc? Do you feel a responsibility to make films with female protagonists, from a woman’s perspective?

No. I feel a responsibility of making films, but I want the freedom to portrait whomever I want, male or female. I find people interesting, not first and foremost what sex they are. But that said, my protagonists are most often women, probably because that is closer to me, being one myself!

What was the most challenging part about making this film? What was the most rewarding?

As always with films, you work against time. This is a low budget film, so we did not have long to shoot. We wanted to shoot many of the scenes right before the sun set, but that certain light only lasts 20 minutes or so, so you have to work fast.

The actors and crew all stayed at the hotel we shot in. We had the hotel by ourselves, and at times felt that we were at summer camp. The friendship and general mood during the shoot is something that I will always treasure.

Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

Hevn (Revenge) | Courtesy of Touchwood PR

is a Canadian co-production. What are some of the best parts about working in Canadian cinema?

I’ve been fortunate to work with people with a lot of experience during the post-production period in Toronto. I loved working with Michael White, our composer who brought so much feeling to the film. The co-operation also gave a more international feel to the project, which I liked.

I’ve fallen completely in love with Canada and Canadians.

What message, if any, do you want audiences to walk away with after watching the film?

I hope that people want to discuss the film amongst themselves afterwards. Maybe disagree about the main character’s motive and method, but nonetheless talk about the issues I’ve tried to raise.