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“Using a Camera to Talk About Emotions That are Too Complex to Put into Words”: DP Jasper Spanning on Facing Sorrow During Lockdown

Jasper Spanning

Cinematographer Jasper Spanning’s debut feature, Den skyldige / The Guilty, won several awards during its international run. Directed and co-written by Gustav Möller, the movie followed one character, primarily on a single set, as he deals with a mounting crisis. Spanning spoke about it in a Filmmaker interview with Chris Doyle. He followed it with the May el-Toukhy’s controversial drama Queen of Hearts, about a charged relationship between a wife and her stepson. It was a World Cinema audience award-winner at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, with Director of Programming Kim Yutani called it the most provocative film she had seen that year.

Spanning wrote about the COVID-19 lockdown and its effect on his career from Copenhagen:

I think the Danish government is handling the situation very well. We have been on massive lockdown for over three weeks. They are talking about opening up slowly after Easter.

My family and I have spent the last three weeks in the countryside at my parents’ house. The city was making me claustrophobic and it was nice to be able to just be outside all day. It’s an old house in a forest on one of Denmark’s many islands. A very quiet, very peaceful place.

My father died two months ago so it has been a good place to reflect on that, a place he loved and spent so much time in. I have been working on a film about him for the last two years, so I brought a camera to try and capture the ambience of that place and the way he always talked about it. It became kind of a way to be with him. 

He felt very present everywhere I went. A document of all his favourite spots: the bench he built on the beach, the view from the road over the fields that he called the most beautiful view in the world, the lake in the forest. It became a meditative and creative way for me to face my sorrow. 

I am used to working very fast and with a lot of people and a lot of equipment. This process really reminded me of a simple essence that I love about film and photography, using a camera to talk about emotions that are too complex to put into words. 

Now I am back in Copenhagen, my wife is a nurse and has to work. I am at home with the kids, it’s great to be able to spend so much time with them. I miss being on set, I miss people!

My last feature was Queen of Hearts. I have been shooting commercials for some time and every job in the book has been cancelled or postponed. Hopefully my next feature will be with Gustav Möller later this year.

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