When their immediate superior, Aksel Winther, orders them into action against two German Abwehr officers, events start to get out of hand. Flame confronts the talented and intelligent Colonel Gilbert (HANNS ZISCHLER) and for the first time hesitates to carry out his orders to kill. Something feels terribly wrong.
Ole Christian Madsen, director of the Flame and Citron, has written and directed a string of popular films beginning with his outstanding 1997 short SINAN’S WEDDING (Sinans Bryllup) and his feature debut PIZZA KING in 1999. In the year 2000 he directed the wildly successful tv-series THE SPIDER on the subject of an emerging underworld of crime in post war Copenhagen. Madsen wrote and directed the award sweeping dogme film KIRA’s REASON – A LOVE STORY (En Kærlighedshistorie) which opened in 2001. In 2005 he turned the critically acclaimed novel “Nordkraft” into a local blockbuster under the title ANGELS IN FAST MOTION. The film proved a hit with audiences as well as critics. The romantic drama PRAGUE (Prag) starring Mads Mikkelsen and Stine Stengade followed in 2006. The film was shot on location in the Czech capital.
Based on true events FLAME & CITRON this has become one of the highest grossing Danish films ever.In between his features films, all of which have been produced by Nimbus Film, Madsen has directed numerous episodes of acclaimed television series such as TAXI and UNIT ONE.
Bijan Tehrani: Your film is a unique and new type of effort in Danish cinema, especially in terms of the budget and story. How did you come up with the idea of the film and how did you manage to get a film like this financed?
Ole Christian Madsen: It’s almost impossible to get the kind of money that we needed in Denmark. The film cost 7 Â½ million dollars, which is not a lot by American Standards, but is actually quite a lot in terms of independent European films. When we first started the film nine years ago, we couldn’t get any kind of financing, there was really no interest at all; everybody thought that World War 2 was boring, gray and dusty, so nobody wanted to see a film like that anymore. But we stuck with the film, I continued to work during that time period, making four films, but I still continued to research going through all of the archives in England, Germany and Sweden. My co-writer actually got quite attached to researching the film, so he couldn’t just let this project go. Then suddenly in 2005 things changed a little. The film Downfall was released and was very successful, it showed that there was still an interest in WWII, especially with the younger viewers. So we slowly started to put the budget together. After cutting the budget down several times we were finally able to get the film financed by a German film company. It was tough because I don’t have many international connections and we don’t have many international stars in the film.
The story of the film was not very well known in Denmark before its release. I received a book from my father when I was a child that told the story that is portrayed in the film. There were many dark and scary elements in the story and when I got older I never forgot it. When me and my co-writer got together and discussed it we decided that we had to make it into a film.
BT: The two main characters in the film are based on real people. How accurate were the characters to their real-life counterparts?
OCM: I did my best to make the characters as accurate to the real people as I could, but you have to simplify the characters in order to evoke drama. But I think that the characters are fairly close to the real people.
BT: The casting in the film is excellent and the acting was magnificent. How did you cast the actors for the film?
OCM: I made two films with Thure Lindhardt; Thure has this strange quality where he can slip himself into any part. The last film that I did with him was called Angels in Fast Motion and there he played a poetic junkie. I casted him for this film about four years ago, the same is with Mads Mikelsen, who I cast in the film before his international career started. I wanted Mads, because he has this grand masculinity, and he approaches his roles like an animal. For me, all of the actors stuck to the project, were loyal, and just waited for the financing to fall into place.
BT: Were the actors allowed to improvise or were they instructed to remain loyal to the script?
OCM: In this film it was difficult to improvise because there was so much logistics, but whenever I do a film I always encourage improvisation. I always have actors’ rehearsals where we improvise and do rewrites to the script. The good thing about these rehearsals is that you can always meet with the actors and completely change a scene if needed. But with this film we stuck with the script because there were so many plot points and it was important for the film to progress from point A to point B. When you do films you need to be in control, but you also sometimes need to let go.
BT: I notice that you seem to draw some influence from Jean Pierre Melville; I also like to believe that there is a kind of “Melville” style of filmmaking. Particularly there seem to be elements of two of Melville’s works present in your film Le Samourai and Army of Shadows. Are you a fan of Melville’s work and what kind of influence do you draw from him?
OCM: I am a fan of Jean Pierre Melville’s work. I saw the film Army of Shadows about half a year before filming Flame and Citron. When I saw it, it inspired me to make a film about rituals in society. I also believe the mythologizing of the characters in Flame and Citron was greatly inspired by the works of Melville.
BT: How did you come up with the visual style of the film?
OCM: Eight years ago I did a film that was a very rigid and stylistic film-noir film dealing with the gangsters in Copenhagen. This was film-noir in its essence, very dark and very eclectic. Later, I did projects that were hand-held, and tried to do films that were more visually relaxing. So with Flame and Citron I wanted to try and combine those two styles. What I always do is write a kind of “visual bible” entailing the types of camera shots and visual techniques that I want to see in the film. I try not to be too specific because I want the people working on the film to have freedom, but by doing this I hope that the style will be coherent and attractive to the audience.
BT: Any new projects that you are working on?
OCM: I am currently working on a comedy that we hope to film in Buenos Aires in October, it’s a low budget film. I have two other larger scale projects which I am sure will be very difficult to get made. The two other films that I have done before this dealt with family relationships, so this coming film will be similar with those themes.