Trygvi Danielsen Interview

Trygvi Danielsen is a multi-award-winning musician, poet and author with a degree in Faroese literature from the University of the Faroe Islands. However, his most recent creative endeavour is in the form of a feature-length debut titled, 111 GÓÐIR DAGAR [translated to 111 GOOD DAYS].

The story follows “two very different men that keep running into each other under strange circumstances in Tórshavn, the world’s smallest capital. Slowly, they find out that they are bound together by a strange and mystical force.”

Teitur (Torkil Tórgarð) and Baldur (Búi Dam) are both in search of purpose with contrasting outlooks; one, an aimless cynic escaping life through drug and alcohol abuse, the other, a self-proclaimed guru opting for spirituality and fate as a source of meaning. The story meanders through their various incidental meetings, exploring concepts of male identity, belonging and loneliness, all the while providing a funny and intriguing account of modern life on the Faroe Islands.

At Brighton Rocks Film Festival, Danielsen received awards for best picture and director. Although 111 GOOD DAYS is yet to fully put the Faroe Islands on the cinematic map, it has laid the groundwork for an island with more stories to tell.

Tom O’Brien: We met during the Brighton Rocks International Film Festival, where you won best feature film and best director. How have you and 111 GOOD DAYS been doing since?

TD: I’ve been good. Just chilling and working on some new stuff. I also actually began filming, a couple of weeks ago, just like casually on a new project test, working on two scripts, which will hopefully be funded this upcoming year.

TO: Fingers crossed! The concepts of sex, meaning and loneliness are key themes in your poetry and music. For 111 GOOD DAYS what attracted you to exploring these themes through the medium of film? Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

TD: Yes I have. I always thought that films are something that you can’t make yourself. It’s something that they do in Hollywood. I actually had gone through some stuff… Many of my friends were quite into drugs and have gotten past that point of it being fun. So I just kind of, precluded or excluded myself from going outside. I just stayed home and started to really get into films, like really. This started me trying to understand what it takes to create a film. So I made one short film in 2014 and then I made another in 2017. Then I thought, okay, now I’m ready to make a feature, which we filmed in 2019.

Dan Hasson: What films in particular did you find to be most inspirational during this time of exclusion?

TD: I was quite inspired by Richard Linklater’s early stuff. SLACKERespecially and also Kevin Smith. I was also really inspired by Roy Andersson, this Swedish filmmaker, and by Wong Kar-Wai, the Hong Kong filmmaker, and obviously a bit of Twin Peaks in there.

TO: Of the two main characters in your film, Teitur is nihilistic and Baldur a fatalist. Why did you want to explore this conflict?

TD: They’re kind of the two different inner voices, I would say. Like the flesh and the spiritual, you know, you can get quite Freudian or Jungian about it, the superego and the ego. I think many young men – at least my friends and many people that I’ve seen – are drawn to chaos, towards self-destruction and it takes something serious, like you have to make a decision to change your path. I’ve just seen many people who have tried to change, to steer into order and away from chaos. I just thought that was interesting and relevant.

DH: 111 GOOD DAYS seems almost anti-masculine in a way, as many of the men lack direction and yet almost all the women in the film appear strong and assertive. Is this contrast a reflection of your upbringing?

TD: I’ve never thought about it before in that sense. I wanted to contrast the feminine sides of the two main characters. Baldur is definitely the more feminine character or Teitur, the more masculine character. Yeah. I like the two sides trying to become a whole, but to answer your question, I grew up in a feminine household, definitely, with two older sisters and parents that were divorced so yeah, maybe that’s built in somewhere without me being fully aware of it.

DH: This is one of the few Faroese-speaking films. It is quite a unique place. The Visit Faroe Islands website says, “A place like no other on earth. An idyllic escape, peacefully set among lush green valleys, imposing basalt cliffs, grand treeless moorlands, and waterfalls plunging directly into the wind-whipped ocean.”

TD: What the f**k [laughs]?

DH: Why did you choose to not show the Islands in this way?

TD: Because I’m quite tired with the agenda and that way of viewing the place. It’s definitely not untouched or anything. It’s a place like any other, spoiled by our presence in many ways. It was a point that we made in the filming of it that we didn’t want to have any nature shots, like these typical drone shots that you always see in any video of the Faroe Islands. I just think it’s a boring aesthetic. We wanted to make it ugly really. That was the point. Make it ugly.

TO: The film intertwines this modern-life depiction of the Faroe Islands with elements of the supernatural. Is this a product of Faroese culture or something more personal to you?

TD: We have some tradition for supernatural pagan beliefs. Like people living in rocks and those kinds of things. The stuff that people were envisioning when there was only darkness. That’s in the culture but not these new age ways of thinking about spirituality. I just thought that was a really fun and an interesting part of society that hadn’t been visualised or represented in stories. There’s many things in the film like the numerology stuff. Like the angel number 111, 222. I like the faith that everything that you see is the universe trying to tell you something.

“It was a point that we made in the filming of it that we didn’t want to have any nature shots, like these typical drone shots that you always see in any video of the Faroe Islands. I just think it’s a boring aesthetic. We wanted to make it ugly really. That was the point. Make it ugly.”

DH: During a standout scene the characters are deep in conversation about conspiracy theories. These are currently prominent topics all over the world, but do you think they are more common in an island community?

TD: Yeah it’s quite common. Many of my friends talk like that and I always find it just so fun. I’m not sure if they necessarily believe what they’re saying when they talk about these things but I don’t really care. It’s entertaining. I think it just comes from a deep distrust of society or government and from that kind of feeling that everything’s kind of going to shit and we might as well enjoy the show. Like the George Carlin view.

DH: You chose to shoot some scenes in black and white and silent using traditional intertitles for the dialogue. However they never feel out of place. Were you influenced by any silent films in particular?

TD: I like German Expressionism. All of those films I think have a really interesting aesthetic but we weren’t really going for that very old school. That’s just an idea that came really and the way we did the whole film was really to just trust intuition.

TO: Did you write the script with actors in mind? How did you go about casting?

TD: Definitely. I think every single role was written with the person. I mean, it’s a tiny place. So you just know people. You know them from different situations as well and you know, I think that person would feel comfortable in this kind of setting. Most of them are actors but like a third of them aren’t or weren’t actors.

DH: What is the film industry like in the Faroe Islands? How many crew members did you have working on 111 GOOD DAYS?

TD: We had a decent sized crew. We had a production designer and a set designer. Of course a cinematographer, a gaffer and sound and the producer on set. So typically we’d be between ten or twenty people. Which was quite a lot really. The way I work, I prefer to work now is way smaller. The shooting that we’ve been doing now for the last couple of weeks has only been three or four people.

DH: You used several handheld shots. These stand out as they juxtapose the rest of the film’s style. Was there a specific reason for that?

TD: Practical reasons and time reasons really. It’s interesting to hear that stood out to you. It wasn’t really on purpose, it’s just as it happened. We didn’t set out to make it different from the rest.

DH: There’s also quite a few big VFX sequences, particularly the dreamscape. Did you write these into the original screenplay? How did you conceptualise these and then translate them to the crew?

TD: Looking back it was a hell of a hassle. The whole thing. Especially because we should have consulted the VFX guys before we did the shoot. It could have been done so much easier if we had been better prepared for it. It just was quite costly and took a lot of time and energy. Also the animation part was separately done by a different guy which was also very difficult and time consuming. I kind of knew that it would be difficult but I had underestimated how much of a pain in the ass it would be in the post.

DH: Well, congratulations to you and the VFX team. It’s all so well photographed. Did you storyboard and what was your relationship like with the cinematographer?

TD: We didn’t really storyboard anything, but we did an extensive shot list. We were at the locations, talked about it and wrote everything down, right. So we need this shot and this shot. Typically, we only had like a few and we tried to make it as practical as possible. Some situations, there were like up to 18 settings or different shots we had to make, which made some days really difficult in that regard. I met the cinematographer in Palestine. He’s from Finland and we were both there with a film. I just wrote him when we got back home and I sent him this script. I asked him if he would like to come to the Faroe Islands to shoot it and we made a short film and then we made this one.

TO: How long was each stage of pre-production, production and post-production for 111 GOOD DAYS?

TD: Pre-production, 2018, early 2019. Shooting summer 2019. Editing took like seven months across the pandemic period. Then July 2021 was the premiere in the Faroese cinema. It ran for like three months or so, which was quite nice. It took like three years or so, maybe five years if you include the short film.

TO: What is next for 111 GOOD DAYS? Are you seeking international distribution?

TD: I don’t know, really, is the honest answer. I’m quite tired of it. When the film was done and we had the premiere, I was very relieved. It was a big weight off my shoulders because I had been manically running around, trying to get everything done for the last six months. So when it was done, it was like washing my hands clean but then came the whole festival part of it.

TO: And you want to move on to other projects. You mentioned you started shooting something already. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

TD:It will be a feature, I was really inspired by your film, it’s also a film in which I will be playing the main character. I was in a film [SKÁL, 2021] that was made and it really opened my eyes to the simple way of filming also. Just a couple of people improvising, trying different things.

DH: What was one thing that you learnt after making your first feature? What would you do again and what would you do differently?

TD: I learnt everything that I know really about making films. It was my film school. I learned to put into more concrete words what is really important. The team and the people are the most important thing. Which I kind of knew beforehand, but I was working with some people that I couldn’t really trust and that’s a whole different story. Trust the people you work with. Being in the editing room every day for like seven months and just seeing all the things and all takes and how you could have done some stuff differently. Just the process of editing the film and trying different versions of maybe we put the scene here and this scene there. Because, obviously as you know, as an editor, that’s where the film is put together. So if you don’t have what you need, then you get a deeper understanding of what you needed to make a scene work. Learn from the mistakes.