In an attempt to mediate an argument, a young and sprightly couple take the first of many turns for the worse in this week’s Staff Pick Premiere. From Matias and Mathias, “2002 (YEAR OF THE HORSE)” is a dysfunctional family affair, and it all starts with a disgruntled father.

From quiet to dramatic, we’re all familiar with ranging depictions of nuclear family split-ups. But Matias and Mathias’ version of events is bizarrely surreal, and it’s all done within a continuous 9 minutes of meandering conflict.

The film’s timely and enduring strangeness is what really sets it apart from its conflict-ridden counterparts. The set up – kids, on the precipice of discovering first love, finding themselves entwined in a father’s heartbroken grandstand in a matter of seconds – is downright hilarious. As are the characters’ impulsive actions, their reactions, and, of course, the utterly hysterical ending. Even in the year of 2022, “2002” stands out as an instant Staff Pick comedy classic, all thanks to Matias, Mathias, and their collaborators.

We caught up with Matias and Mathias to talk inspiration, approach to scenes, and advice to aspiring filmmakers:

On inspiration:

“It probably started with the father character who is very much inspired by a dear friend and mentor of ours. We had been talking about how meeting someone like him as an insecure teenager could be a strange and complex experience. The thought of entering his house as a potential ‘son in law’ intrigued us and just really made us laugh. We also had an urge to make something simple and innocent. Closer to an anecdote from childhood you might share with someone you trust than a neatly structured film. Placing it twenty years back in time helped us approach it as a little memory-piece and freed us from overthinking things.”

On challenges:

“This was filmed during lockdown, so getting the young actors to meet and be comfortable with what we were making proved tricky. They had to sit six feet apart pretending to kiss and be in love. But they quickly bonded over a shared frustration of feeling like they had missed out on two important years of their teens, having been constricted to staying at home with their families and not being able to have the kind of experience we were portraying. We always intended for the kissing to feel a bit awkward and go on for a little too long, so hopefully the circumstances worked to our advantage.”

On editing:

“Everything that takes place inside the house was shot in one day, so even though we went in with a plan, it was quite chaotic. The shoot became a bit of a blur. We didn’t really know whether we had captured what we would need for that scene to make sense, but we knew that Henrik Mestad – who plays the father – had caused us to ruin the sound on a lot of takes because we kept cracking up at his perceptive take on the character. We were also aware that we wouldn’t have a framework that would allow enough time to perfect every little thing. Since the ambition was for the story to resemble this memory of a distant teenage experience, we tried to let that guide us in the edit as well. Allowing for scruffiness and imperfections to create a rhythm that hopefully feels distinctive, and maybe a little uncomfortable.”

On scene choices:

“The girl pulling on the boy’s t-shirt on her way downstairs so that he would be shirtless when meeting her parents might stem from a repressed memory somewhere. And then we liked the idea of a composition where seeing the teenagers side by side would create a single outfit. Like a little puzzle that would be very easy for a parent to solve. The script was written in the summer, so the shirtless hug in the car didn’t feel as strange originally, just slightly more intimate and awkward than if they were fully dressed. But then Henrik wasn’t available for a while and suddenly it was winter in Oslo. We did discuss if it seemed a little absurd to be shirtless in the snow and everyone sort of agreed that it did, but maybe in a good way. So we just went with it.”

On advice to aspiring filmmakers:

“To be clear, we also see ourselves as aspiring filmmakers. But something we talk about a lot is the importance of having fun and to push ourselves to be shooting and making stuff as often as possible. Being disciplined with writing and tuning out distractions is really important, of course, but we try to apply the same principle there. How can we write this in a way that will make it enjoyable and surprising when we’re actually shooting it? And then we try to shape that in a way that makes it somewhat realistic to produce. It can be hard and it’s very basic, but helpful.”

On upcoming projects: 

“We’re writing a feature length comedy about trauma and addiction, which has been about as hard as that sounds, but hopefully it will be a lot funnier and more engaging than you might fear. We’re very excited about it and would love to go and make it in the near future.”

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