The Innocents as seen by Eskil Vogt

Picture of the movie The innocents © Mer Films


Eskil Vogt may not yet be a well-known face at the Festival de Cannes, but his name has already appeared on screen here. An associate of the director Joachim Trier, he co-authored the screenplays for Louder Than Bombs, In Competition in 2015, and Oslo, 31 August acclaimed at Un Certain Regard in 2011. Now it's his turn to present his own film at the Festival: The Innocents, a supernatural thriller about childhood.

What inspired you to begin work on this film?

Looking back on it I think it was having children of my own. Observing them I was reminded that their world is so radically different from mine. For me, the limits of what is possible has been mapped out and fixed long ago, but their world is limitless, expanding with every new thing they learn and see, everything is possible, there is a sense of wonder and magic. I think I wanted to re-enter that world and film it, but not with a rosy nostalgic filter – it is also terrifying to live in a limitless world. I’ve never felt fear as intensely as I did as a child. 

Please describe your working method and the atmosphere on set.

On The Innocents we knew we had to have a calm set to get our child actors to relax and focus on the work. Kids are easily distracted so we told the crew to keep their phones in their pockets, to avoid yawning or talking unnecessarily around the camera. The crew understood immediately and stayed gentle and focused. We also had a (pardon my French) “no assholes” policy when hiring to make sure no so-called “strong personalities” would create unnecessary tension on set. It was a great way to work – I’ll do the same on my next film even without children on set. 

Please share a few words about your actors.

I am so grateful to have found my four leading actors. They were between 7 and 11 while we were filming and they worked like seasoned professionals. They are the film’s secret weapon. I am biased, but I think they are a revelation, I can’t wait for people to see them on screen. 

What did you learn during the course of making this film?

They say you shouldn’t work with children and animals. It isn’t true. I was afraid going in having written a movie where there weren’t any scene without children in them. On top of that I had a cat in a crucial role. And the fears were unfounded, it was great. Well, at least the kids were, the cat was a little primadonna.

What inspired you to become a filmmaker? What were the sources of your inspiration?

My desire for movie making comes out of my love for cinema. Growing up movies always seemed a more desirable place than what I observed around me. The characters in films even had more interesting problems than me. I wanted to have those problems. 

What are your views on the state of the film industry in your country?

We are lucky to have a good support system for cinema to fund movies that could never survive in such a small marketplace as Norway. That said the support is always in jeopardy and the idea of cinema as an art form has never found a lot of traction in Norway. There are quite a few interesting filmmakers in Norway at the moment, but it is getting harder and harder to get to make feature films. The risk is that all the talent disappear to television to make less personal stuff.