It’s an old school, black and white love story set in modern day Copenhagen, but the man of the hour (er, 20 minutes) has never been on a date in his life. Actually, he still lives at home with his mom. The beautiful young woman he finds sitting at a table alone, waiting for her companion, isn’t his date. Actually, she’s married. The story that unfolds from there is a charming, goofy take on romantic comedies of the 20th century, set to the tune of sparkling Bill Evans-esque jazz tunes.
Winner of the “Best Comedy Short” prize at the renowned Palm Springs ShortFest in 2020, this week’s Staff Pick Premiere is “Viktor on the Moon,” a sweet tale of opposite characters who may not get exactly what they want out of their short-lived relationship, but surely get what they need. The set-up is reminiscent of Tom Hanks in “Big,” where a wide-eyed man-child has a whirlwind experience with a woman who has been through the ringer with love. It’s a treat to observe their spontaneous relationship as a fly on the wall, with highlights including an experimental dance number from Viktor, a bunch of full-frontal nudity, the gorgeous city of Copenhagen almost acting as a character itself, and, of course, a trip to the moon.
Director Christian Arhoff was kind enough to answer our many questions about this mega charming award-winning film. Read on to learn more about the Vimeo curation team’s favorite romantic comedy of the year, “Viktor on the Moon.”
“I had been making very serious short films for a while, and I took a long hard look at myself, and realized that that wasn’t for me. I wanted to have fun again, and I love old comedies, like Tati stuff or Peter Sellers in ‘The Pink Panther,’ but I had always tried to run from it. So I wanted to make an old school comedy, that wasn’t afraid of being silly and fun, and to trust that it would still be artistic because of who I am as an artist.”
On framing the film in black and white:
“What’s great about black and white is that when you see it, it’s not like looking out the window. It’s something else. So it already creates another world, without you having to do anything. When people watch black and white, they don’t expect the real world. They think ‘ah okay, it’s not real life.’ And then they kind of go with you. So that was the idea. I think it’s harder with color, you have to work more, to make people understand that it’s not a ‘slice of everyday life’ kind of film.”
On the jazzy, romantic soundtrack:
“We actually had a little group of jazz musicians we gathered, who played the music live to a screening of the film. They improvised on my composer’s ideas, so that it fit the film. We did it all in one day, and it was very nerve racking, because it was one of the last things we did on the film, and we had no back-up plan. So if it didn’t work, we would be screwed. But it was so fun to do it like that, one of the best days I’ve ever had on a film.”
On the role of nudity in the film:
“We didn’t define the different types of nudity, but the idea was that there are two halves of the film. The first half, big wide shots, silly comedy, and fun. It’s Viktor getting thrown off the deep end, into art and adult relationships. Everything is foreign and impossible to understand for him, including a man taking off his clothes in an attempt to reach his girlfriend. Then when they get to the hotel, we wanted to shift gear, and that’s the second part of the film.
Where it’s handheld, there’s less jokes, there’s intimacy and the jazz becomes less big band and more Bill Evans. I think we tried to find intimacy more than nudity. The nudity is not very sexual, and it’s more about the two characters being honest with each other: Viktor, who’s never had a sexual experience, and Rebekka, who gets to have kind of a safe space for a night. And they just go with it.”
On challenges faced:
“The moon was very tough to conceive and build. Actually, it took so long to figure out that we shot the whole film, and a month later, shot the moon, with the actors getting pulled up by wires and everything. And afterwards we had to get the special effects done, so that the wires were removed. We got all of it done at the very last second. The moon was one big headache. Don’t do moons.”
The director’s take on what happens after the film ends:
“The most important thing for me was that she acknowledged Viktor at the end. And didn’t pretend that he wasn’t there, or dismissed him. This is basically his first foray into the adult world, so the main thing for me was that it ended on a good note. I don’t think they will spend more time together, but at the end the experience has given Viktor confidence to build on, so the ending is to me like a ‘bring it on’ moment. He’s ready to experience more of the world.”
His advice to aspiring filmmakers:
“Think about what type of films you really like, when you’re not trying to sound cool, or impress anyone. And make something that’s more like that. You will find that you lose none of your artistic voice and that actually it will be enhanced, and more unique because it will be more honest.”
On what’s next:
“We are actually turning the short into a feature film called ‘Viktor vs. the World,’ in collaboration with The Danish Film Institute’s New Danish Screen. We’re gonna shoot next year, and we’re so looking forward to it. There’s gonna be more Viktor for everyone to see.”