After The Beautiful Country (2004), A Somewhat Gentle Man (2010) and In Order of Disappearance (2014), Hans Petter Moland is running again for a Golden Bear at the Berlinale.

Stellan Skarsgård plays 67-old widower Trond, who lives in self-imposed isolation and looks forward to welcoming the new millennium alone. As winter arrives he meets one of his few neighbours, Lars (Bjørn Floberg), and realises he knew him back in the summer of 1948, when Trond’s father disappeared from his life for good. That same summer for the first time he felt close to a woman, the same woman who disappeared with his father.

The film was produced by Turid Øversveen and Karin Julsrud of 4 ½ Fiksjon Norway, in co-production with Zentropa Denmark, Zentropa Sweden, Helgeland Film Norway, Film i Väst, in cooperation with NRK, DR, SVT and support from The Norwegian Film Institute, The Danish Film Institute, The Swedish Film Institute and Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Nordisk Film will release it in Norway on March 8, 2019. TrustNordisk handles world sales.

When you first read Per Petterson’s book, did you immediately think of a possible film adaptation?
HPM:
I don’t generally read literature with a movie in mind. I just read for the pleasure of reading. It was someone else’s suggestion. When I did read the novel, I had an idea that I felt could make it into a great film. I roughly kept the structure of the novel and tried to extract its overwhelming quality, which is a tone, an atmosphere that engulf you as a reader. You are immersed in the characters’ universe and it goes straight to your soul. I felt that if I could achieve that, it would be far more important than a three-act structure.

What specifically did you love about the novel? 
HPM:
The novel is very rich and I felt at home in the landscape as I grew up in a farm, more remote than the place shown in the film. I was familiar with what people do, for example in terms of the practicalities of logging etc. I had that in my spine.

It was a nice way to revisit things that are important to me, memories linked to my upbringing that perhaps helped shape my life. One of my heroes as a child was a logger who could stand on the logs being dragged behind the horse, balancing while the horse was taking the logs up and down the hills. That was the first circus artist I ever saw. I was 7-8 at the time.

How did you deal with translating cinematically the book’s strong narrative, poetry, rhythm and unusual structure?
HPM:
It’s an organic process, the balancing act of being in love with the material that you have in front of you and not being so overly respectful that you shoot yourself in the foot. There are moments when you have to use filmmaking tools instead of literature. Literature can convey complex thoughts much better than film, which is an emotional medium. But film can also be a poetic language. The novel freely jumps between different time settings - 1999 and 1948, and just like in cinema, what’s left out is what’s most interesting.

After several crime thrillers, comedy dramas in Denmark, Norway and in the US, is this the closest film to Beautiful Country in terms of the characters’ spiritual journey?
HPM: I don’t analyse my films that closely. I move on to new projects every time. But this is a good question. Of course, I did several crime movies, but even In Order of Disappearance - which can be viewed as entertainment - had more serious undertones. It’s a cautionary tale about the futility of revenge.

Is Out Stealing Horses ultimately about one’s own destiny and choices that one takes in life?
HPM:
It’s about the choice that other people make that affect your life. Here, it’s a father who exits the main character’s life when he’s 15. It was a puzzle then and it still is, when we meet him at 67.

Stellan Skarsgård is your most truthful collaborator. What makes him the perfect Trond?
HMP: He carries a soulfulness that he doesn’t flaunt. He can play a reserved character and remain very interesting. That’s his gift as a human being and as an actor. He doesn’t rely on dialogue. Then, when we work, we enjoy making ourselves as brave as we can to make the movie as good as possible. He’s a generous and fine human being, wonderful with his colleagues and crew. It makes the working part easier. Stellan hasn’t much in common with his character Trond, as he’s a city slicker and the only times he gets close to nature is perhaps when he works with me! But he’s keenly interested in portraying people who are different than himself and does that with great skills.

How was your collaboration with Bjørn Floberg and Danica Curcic?
HPM: Bjørn who plays Trond’s neighbour is stunning in this film. It’s a pleasure to see somebody who does a better work now in his late 60s than 10-20 years ago. He’s just getting better with age. Regarding Danica, this was our first collaboration. The story pivots around her. Just like the other characters, she was asked to express herself through her physicality, drawing from her inner emotions, as there is little dialogue. She was fantastic, and I hope I will get to work with her again.

You've been promoting your other film Cold Pursuit in the US. How was the experience of doing your own US remake of In Order of Disappearance? 
HPM: It was fun to reinterpret a story in a different cultural context, for a different audience. It became a separate process. It’s called a remake, but for me it didn’t feel like a remake. It felt like a new project and people seem to like it.

Any attraction to long form fiction?
HPM:
Why not? Especially with mini-series where you can tell expanded stories. It would be interesting to do.