“Beware of Children” director Dag Johan Haugerud is ready to talk about “Sex” as the first part of his anticipated “Sex Dreams Love” trilogy is heading to Berlinale’s Panorama in February.
“Making a film called ‘Sex’ calls for all sorts of jokes and misunderstandings during production, everything from being summoned to a ‘sex-meeting’ to emails being censored because someone had written ‘sex-props’ in the subject field,” he tells Variety ahead of the trailer premiere.
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“As for the screenplay, there aren’t that many jokes about sex in it. Some awkward humor, yes. But the main point has been about trying to show the short span between ecstatic pleasure and shame. There are – and might always be – two sides of the same coin when it comes to sex, which also means that the uncomfortable and the funny sit quite tight.”
Norwegian drama will focus on two men in heterosexual marriages whose unexpected experiences challenge their perceptions of sexuality, gender and identity.
One has a sexual encounter with another man, without experiencing it either as an expression of homosexuality or infidelity. The other finds himself in nocturnal dreams where David Bowie sees him as a woman, stirring confusion and leading him to question how much his personality is shaped by the gaze of others.
Featuring Jan Gunnar Røise, Thorbjørn Harr, Siri Forberg and Birgitte Larsen, “Sex” is produced by Yngve Sæther and Hege Hauff Hvattum for Motlys.
“When it comes to the dialogue, I wasn’t trying to avoid anything. Quite the opposite,” admits Haugerud.
“If you try to talk about sex in a sincere, truthful and shameless way, like the main character does, it’s not that hard to avoid being vulgar. As for physical, graphic sex, that’s another matter.”
It felt more interesting to write dialogues that “give you an inner vision of sex” rather than actually showing it, he observes.
“Sex is so peculiar and personal that it’s almost impossible to ask actors to draw from their own experiences when acting out a sex scene. That’s why you almost always get what one recognizes as ‘movie sex,’ which isn’t really believable and therefore often feels unnecessary.”
While hoping to “entertain and spark meaningful dialogue among viewers,” talking about multiple characters could be challenging at times, he notes.
“You must try to write the characters as precisely as possible, give them just enough body and depth to make them interesting and meaningful for the actors. But not more than their screen time accounts for.”
Taking on his ambitious project, Haugerud was inspired by Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Three Colours” trilogy.
“He made three films [‘Blue,’ ‘White,’ ‘Red’] that are seen as independent, but still have an overall concept that connects them,” he explains.
“The aim was to make three films that deal with the same topics from different perspectives. They should look and feel very different, but give the impression that they are all part of the same conversation.”
The 74th edition of Berlin Film Festival will take place over Feb. 15-24, 2024.
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