‘Together 99’ Director Lukas Moodysson on Revisiting Characters and the Passage of Time

Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodysson is much beloved internationally for films such as “Show Me Love” (1998), “Together” (2000) and “Lilya 4-Ever” (2002). His filmography also includes the mostly English-language drama “Mammoth” (2009) with Michelle Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal, and “We Are the Best!,” (2013), a delightful adaptation of his wife’s graphic novel. His new film, “Together 99,” marks a sequel to his second feature.

Why did you want to revisit the characters of “Together” 24 years on from the original film?

I wanted to make a movie about the passage of time, but also about the feeling of time standing still. A movie about people’s dreams that die while they also continue to live on.

I don’t know, probably a stupid idea but it turned into a wonderful film. I love it. Many great things start with stupid ideas. In the film they have the stupid idea to have a reunion. It is a disaster but a good disaster. Some good things come out of it.

Would you ever want to revisit characters from some of your other titles such as “Show Me Love” or “We Are the Best!”?

Maybe “A Hole in My Heart.” Or maybe “We Are the Best!” when they are 60-70-80 years old.

Speaking of revisiting the past, would you ever want to direct another English-language film?

Probably not. Doesn’t really interest me. But maybe in Danish or Norwegian.

Writers and philosophers have noted the difficulties of revisiting the past. What kind of problems, if any, did you encounter in returning to your past characters?

It was fun and chaotic to go back. I never knew where my shoes were. I couldn’t sleep. I listened to a lot of black metal. Drank a lot of Coke Zero, forgot where I put the can, had to get a new one. We [Moodysson and cinematographer Ellinor Hallin] revived the past by using vintage still photography lenses. Modern lenses are rubbish, they are clean and sharp and violent. I wanted the movie to be soft and I wanted it to skip and bounce in different directions. Perfectly polished movies are boring; they need some flaws and imperfections.

How did you persuade the various actors to get back in character?

No persuasion needed.

You introduce some new characters, too. I particularly like David Dencik as the man no one remembers. What is the function of his character? He is oblivion maybe?

The man who reminds us that one day we will forget everything and we too shall be forgotten. But he is also one of the funniest characters.

Did memories of the late Michael Nyqvist hover over the production?

It was really sad that Michael passed and it felt a bit strange to make the new film without him but I think he would have liked or actually I think he does like it because he is somewhere around.

For your fans, it seems like a long time between films, but you’ve been at work in a lot of other mediums.

Yes, too long time between them. I want to be faster in the future. But it feels like it’s getting more and more difficult to finance films. So maybe a book or some theater before the next film. I wanted to teach, but the Swedish film schools were never really interested so I gave up. If I don’t do this, I will do that. I am both a wolf and a foal.

How did the experience of creating your long-form HBO TV series “Gösta” (2019) compare with directing a film?

I can imagine doing both. But what feels difficult about a series is that since I write everything myself, it’s hard and tiring work because it has to be so long. When I write films, I follow David Lynch’s recipe: write 70 good scenes and the script is ready.

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