An everyday, dull business meeting in an otherwise ordinary Icelandic café becomes the site of a fascinating and gripping moral dilemma in Gunnur Martinsdóttir Schlüter’s Cannes Special Mention winner FÁR (Intrusion). As our protagonist becomes easily distracted during conversations about real estate, a seagull is betrayed by the false allure of the windowpane and is tragically injured; acting as a sudden intrusion and disruption to the commonly-accepted norms of business culture. Highly economical in construction, avoiding any unnecessary musical cues and using a tight, claustrophobic 4:3 frame, Schlüter, also starring in the lead role, creates a fascinating exploration of what happens when the laws of business and the laws of nature combine. DN had the opportunity to talk to Schlüter about leaving interpretation up to the audience, the benefits of being the lead in her film, and her reaction to winning a Special Mention in the Cannes Short Film Competition.

What was the inspiration behind the story?

The inspiration was a situation I found myself in. For me, in FÁR, an example is given about the unexpected and the unorganised, as nature itself crashes directly into the organised.

It was important to show the absurdity of how people have become careless and untouched by what’s happening around them.

FÁR opens with a relatable scenario — being stuck in a boring business meeting — before carefully disrupting it with the seagull hitting the window. How did you want to approach this exact moment?

I wanted it to be unexpected and somehow cut into the atmosphere inside the coffee house. I can’t describe the atmosphere in the coffee house, since I think the audience can read out of it what they want. The protagonist of the film is observing and we see the coffee house through her eyes and mind, but it’s up to the audience to decide or feel what she is experiencing.


For me, it’s very clever in the way it presents making a decision that goes out of the norms of polite business culture. Is this something that was fun to play around with?

I think for me it was important to show the absurdity of how people have become careless and untouched by what’s happening around them. I did not seek humour; I just tried to show the decision-making process of a person who wants to change something. I played a little bit with the background dialogue: it’s a normal chat, but normal chat can sometimes be a bit banal.

The filmmaking is very economical, only showing us what we need to see in just five minutes. Was there a longer version that you trimmed down or did you always want to have it short and sweet?

No, I have no longer version. I was very stressed, at first, about how short it ended up. It wasn’t planned, it just happened after I told everything I wanted to say.


The performances are particularly well-calibrated. What was the casting like and did you give much direction to the crew?

I had an amazing cast! I cast the children and think I was very lucky with them. They are very talented. The other characters sitting in the café, Jörundur Ragnarsson and Þrúður Vilhjálmsdóttir, I asked directly. I knew Jörundur since we worked together a few years ago. Some of the guests in the café are my relatives.

I was very stressed, at first, about how short it ended up.

You star as the lead character as well. Did you always want to be the lead, or was it more circumstantial? What benefit does starring as the lead have?

Since I’m also an actress and I’ve had this story in mind for a long time, I was sure from the beginning that I wanted to also act in it. The benefit is that you have a strong gut feeling about what you’re going to play and do. You just have to have a conversation with yourself. On set I got help from my Producer Rúnar Ingi who has also experience with directing, I’m lucky there was so much trust between us and on set. My other Producer Sara Nassim was also there. She was more than a producer, she was also a friend and someone I can have a conversation with.


I love how you frame her judgment through the window, just letting her co-workers watch without saying anything. What was the challenge of finding the right café that would achieve this look?

It was challenging finding the right café. Because of that end scene and other thoughts, I wanted to play with windows and glass. We had some cafés in mind, but it was also a question of what the interior tells in the story. In the end, we choose this café because of the windows and the charming old style. I think it says something that those three business people are having a meeting there.

I was sure from the beginning that I wanted to also act in it.

I noticed no music in the film, allowing the sound design to provide an aural impact. How did you collaborate with the sound designer here?

I had a very intensive and good work with my two sound designers Björn Viktorsson and Haraldur Þrastarson. I think through conversation and listening you can take steps together and create the world we are seeking for.


You have a muted colour palette and a 4:3 frame, which suits this world very well. What did you want this world to look like visually and what kind of camera equipment did you use?

My DOP Eli Arenson used an Alexa. I was inspired by the capital of my home country Iceland, and the blue cold colours you can find both in the sea and the sky and when the sky mirrors the sea.

What’s it like to have a Special Mention at Cannes?

It’s a great honour. All the films in the competition had something special, but this encourages me to trust myself a bit more.

What are you working on next?

I’m writing at the moment. I have some ideas, but at the moment I’m thinking of the question and seeking inside of me which stories and ideas have the urge to be told; to hopefully help our surrounding to become a better one. I also act and have a few acting projects next winter.

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