Moodysson’s sense of place, period and character is incredibly surefooted, and there’s boundless joy to be found in watching Bobo and Klara make their thunderously confident first steps towards punk superstardom. It’s hardly original material – much of the humour relies on our familiarity with high-school movie clichés – but the brisk script and effortless performances lend freshness.
How to make a feelgood movie
‘We Are the Best!’ director Lukas Moodysson reveals his formula for warm, fuzzy filmmaking
Lukas Moodysson has been to the dark side. The 45-year-old Swedish director charmed our socks off with coming-of-age tales ‘Show Me Love’ (1998) and ‘Together’ (2000). Then something snapped. Moodysson’s third feature, ‘Lilya 4-Ever’, was an unrelentingly bleak story about human trafficking. He followed that up with intense, experimental films that hardly anyone watched. But now he is back on heart-winning form with ‘We Are the Best!’, the story of three girls in a punk band. So how did the filmmaker get happy again?
‘Sometimes you need to focus on the great things in life. I worked as a professor at a film school in Helsinki, and set my students a task to make a short film about the idea that life is shit but can also be fantastic. A lot of movies say that everything is either terrible or great. But to find both, sadness and strength, vulnerability and energy, that’s what I’ve always tried to do.’
‘I said a few years ago that I was sick of filmmaking. Part of what brought me back was this script, and the idea of working with children. But also, teaching really inspired me. I had so many discussions with my students about how to make films and why to make them, and I started to get that happy fever back that you feel on a film set. You’re working out how to shoot a scene and it’s like a chess problem. You’re not sure you can solve it but you really want to try.’
‘I’m very affected by things around me: there is so much I’m interested in, things I get upset by, things that make me happy. I find it difficult to focus on one project and maintain one feeling. In the middle of making a film I always want to change it! I have to be blindfolded, like a horse with blinkers. If I had total freedom, my films would be chaos.’
‘Maybe it’s just laziness, but there are a lot of scenes in this film where I didn’t really know what was happening during the filming. I was confused, and those were the best days for me. I don’t want to control everything so precisely that my actors turn into robots.’
‘I look at people with an affectionate eye. With some filmmakers, you can feel they have a lot of intelligence but the film is like a surveillance camera, too remote. I like my characters, and I want good things to happen to them.’
‘We Are the Best!’ opens in UK cinemas on Fri Apr 18.