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Elements are no barrier for Moland

NORWEGIAN director Hans Petter Moland knows how to lure the stars into his galaxy.

BIG DRAW: Hans Petter Moland.
BIG DRAW: Hans Petter Moland.

Take Stellan Skarsgard, who appears in Moland's latest picture, the darkly comic crime thriller In Order of Disappearance.

The two first met on Zero Kelvin, Moland's second feature, which was shot on Svalbard, Norway, a place so cold even the polar bears wear bobble hats.

Besides offering him a place in a tent, Moland had three more "luxuries" to tempt the Swedish star of Thor and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - a pint of Cognac, a 44-Magnum (to deal with the polar bears) and a pillow.

"So this is Norwegian-style star treatment?" Skarsgard asked.

Still, he must have been impressed, as he went on to work with Moland again on Aberdeen (2000) and A Somewhat Gentle Man (2010), before they reunited for In Order of Disappearance.

In Order is a prime slice of Nordic noir about a snowplough driver (Skarsgard) who sets out to wreak revenge on the drug barons who ruined his son's life. One of the Mr Bigs is played by Bruno Ganz of Downfall. Skarsgard and Ganz had never worked together and Moland saw an opportunity too good to miss.

"Like all people with great talent they know they have to work hard to get it right," said the director, speaking before the film's premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June.

All of Moland's films seem to require a certain amount of extra effort on the part of the cast and crew, whether it be enduring winter in Norway or having to make Glasgow and Edinburgh look like Aberdeen because the budget will not stretch to staying in Scotland's oil capital.

The environment in his Nordic films would give most Hollywood directors the heebie-jeebies, but Moland is in his element.

"I like the snow, I like skiing, I've grown up with it. And there's something totally ridiculous about adults packed into cold winter clothing. The child within invariably comes out in most of us, which is good when you are making a film."

While filming In Order the temperature was 25 below for a month. Even for Norwegians, admits Moland, that is quite nippy. For the Serbian actors in the cast who had to lie in the snow with wind-machines blazing, "nippy" is perhaps not the phrase they would use. But everyone got on with it, says Moland.

"It's like with anything, once you go there you have to embrace it, whether it's difficult material, difficult weather, people for that matter. You're stuck, you might as well make the most of it."

Moland is never cavalier about the environments in which he often works, however. When he went scouting for locations in Spitsbergen for another film he was alone save for the helicopter pilot who would drop him off and collect him hours later. On one trip, the pilot set down and Moland walked off, only to hear the pilot shouting.

Moland raced back, jumped in, and the bird shot up into the air. A glance out the window soon revealed why the pilot had been so anxious. Right behind where he had been standing was a mother polar bear and her cub. "They were hungry."

Moland has shot abroad, notably America for The Beautiful Country. That was a breakthrough hit for him and offers started coming in to make more films in the US. With six children in Norway he was not tempted to stay Stateside long term, however.

"I go where the good stories are. Unfortunately I haven't gone where the good money is," he laughs. "After I did The Beautiful Country it opened a lot of doors. In many ways I guess I inadvertently shut them myself by not being so available. It wasn't because I didn't enjoy the attention. It was more that someone else needed my attention."

His children range from 12-28, with the youngest having a part in In Order of Disappearance. Moland junior was most amused when dad showed him the Italian trailer for In Order and saw he had been dubbed.

Watching your picture be dubbed, or remade in English, is part of the job description for many filmmakers outside America. Moland has already been approached about a US remake of In Order, and he is relaxed about the notion.

"We might dislike the fact that Americans don't see subtitled films but that's the way it is. If you want that story to be told to a bigger audience it will not be in Norwegian."

Audiences who regard Nordic countries as packed to the gunwales with clean-living sporty types might be surprised at the film's drug plot. But as Moland points out, Norway has its problems like any other western country. In 2002, Oslo was described in the New York Times as "Europe's drug overdose capital".

"There was a huge recruitment of heroin addicts in the Nineties," says Moland. "It was a society completely unprepared for the influx of heavy drugs."

For his next film he has several ideas in mind, one of them a story about the first oil find in the North Sea. I ask if it was Norwegian oil or Scottish oil.

"It's all Norwegian, you know that!"

As his new film demonstrates, there is no such thing as a border between Scotland and Norway when it comes to humour.

Glasgow Film Theatre and Filmhouse, Edinburgh, from September 12.

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