A journey of self exploration through northern Denmark’s hauntingly desolate landscapes, Casper Balslev’s fallen man thriller End of the Rainbow (For Enden af Regnbuen) tracks a down on his luck criminal as he clumsily navigates a return to his home town whilst trailed by a wave of destruction very much of his own making. Casper joins us today to discuss how his local knowledge of this underutilised region on screen set the scene for his decidedly Danish western.
I wrote the script with Screenwriter Christian Gamst Miller-Harris (Helium). We had been circling around a few film ideas for some years and wanted to work together. I pitched him a rough script outline, a thriller set in the remote northern part of Denmark, and we went on from there. The first draft I send to Gamst was a more horror orientated road trip about a criminal under huge pressure, set in one single night. But it lacked on a more overall goal for the main character so we started to develop the story along with my Producer Nadja Nørgaard Kristensen.
We developed the concept of the rainbow, which was a great framing for a journey, as well as to challenge a character in. The rainbow is secondary in the story, to begin with. Our main character barely notices it. He gets constantly challenged. By the end, he is out of options and the rainbow guides him to his safe place. We aimed to understate the rainbow element in the story, not make it or the story too stylish, but keep it as grounded, lo-fi and as simple as possible.
The film is also a western, in the sense that we have the heist, the whorehouse, the small town church and endless landscapes.
Another starting point for developing the script was to set a story in the northern region of Denmark where I am original from. It is a fantastic place with many great locations. I grew up in this area, it’s personal to me. It is very bleak, windy and raw in the fall and winter. I always wanted to illustrate a story in that environment. Few film productions go there, which I think also was interesting for us as well as future productions. I know this area so well I could address each location in the script process.
If I have to pull some references and inspiration for the film I would say it’s a very Danish version of No Country for Old Men. Even Get Carter and First Blood inspired the theme of “failed man returning home”. The film is also a western, in the sense that we have the heist, the whorehouse, the small town church and endless landscapes.
We had almost zero funding. We could probably have applied for some, but it would have taken a lot of time and energy, and we just wanted to keep the energy and momentum once we felt the script was right. So Producer Nadja Nørgaard Kristensen and I agreed to go for it anyway. We had a smaller budget that I put up myself, as well as support from our production company New Land.
We collected a small, but brilliant team of collaborators we know well. Everyone was so supportive of the project. As we go for holidays in this area every summer I pre-scouted most locations on my summer holiday last year, with my kids on the back seat.
We shot the film over five days in November. It went really smoothly and was well prepped. We got so much support from the local community in the area we shot in. For instance, a local out of season sea resort gave us access to ten summer houses for the entire production’s cast and crew to stay in. Staying there for sure gave the film shoot a greater collective spirit, which was crucial due to the long shooting hours we had every day.
The main character is played by Actor Jonathan Harboe. Originally I intended the character to be older, but Jonathan came to mind from an earlier production of mine. He and I had many conversations about the character. Jonathan is really handsome looking, a pretty boy some would say. He knows that and he wanted to be challenged on that so I told him it was necessary to alter his look heavily. He was then even more hooked.
The part also required a local dialect that people speak within the area where the story is set. Of course not that noticeable for non-Danish viewers, but it was very important to get it right. Jonathan, who is from Copenhagen, was very keen on learning this local dialect right. He spent many hours recording the dialect and refining it.
Early on in the process we also spent a day, just me him and a camera, just doing a rough screen test, developing the pure presence of the character, with no dialogue. And also just to get even more used to each other.
We wanted to stay very true to the region we shot in. All the characters were more or less cast locally with help from my frequent Casting Director Ditte Kiel from ArtCast and the local theatre Vensyssel Teater. This was to bring as much authenticity into the story.
I would say it’s a very Danish version of No Country for Old Men.
Cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro and I decided to shoot on Alexa with some old rehoused Kowa Anamorphic primes. This set up added a nice soft and timeless feeling to the film, not least adding a more dusted and less polished aesthetic, which was in line with the story we wanted to capture. The final drone shot was done in one single take. We did about ten takes before we had it. Thankfully the church choir was very patient with us.
We worked a lot with the building of tension already in the script. The film follows the script really closely. That said, the edit took a lot of time and energy to nail. We challenged the order of scenes a bit. Me and my Editor Emil Gundersen worked and experimented a lot with different pieces of music, feelings and moods. We had a close dialogue with Composer Martin Dirkov on this. We wanted the film to have a clear and simple musical theme. Something that was suspenseful and emotional. Overall we approached the edit having the story in mind first, staying with the characters. We tried not to make the edit too fancy. We trimmed a lot of cutaways, aerials, even a suspenseful car chase, all elements that slowed down the film and were not key to the story.
I’m currently working on some new narrative projects. I have a few scripts I’m working on simultaneously. Some shorter ones, as well as longer format ideas. I’m also working on a documentary about a gang of Danish wrestlers.
End of the Rainbow is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.