Tobias Lindholm (A HIJACKING, AFI FEST 2012) returns to the festival with his latest, A WAR, which centers on a company commander (Pilou Asbæk) who must make an impossible decision to save his men when a routine mission turns deadly. AFI spoke to Lindholm about the film, which is Denmark’s official 2016 Oscar® entry.
AFI: Both A WAR and A HIJACKING are action films set in real-world circumstances. What draws you to tell these kinds of stories?
Tobias Lindholm: I am not a fan of my own imagination. It bores me. But I am a huge fan of the world around me and all the love and hate and conflict and chaos that it contains. This is where I live, so this is what I tell. A WAR started when I read an article in which an officer said that he was not afraid of getting killed in war. He was afraid he’d have to face legal action upon returning home. Reading about such an extreme dilemma immediately piqued my interest. A man is sent into a high-pressure situation, and what he’s really afraid of is whether or not his country’s laws are too restrictive for him to be able to do his job properly. That would make a really good movie, I thought.
This film explores the moral complexities of split-second decisions made in battle, and the aftermath of those decisions. What interests you about this subject?
In the specific dilemma in the film, some have to die so others can live. How the hell do you make a decision like that when bullets are whizzing around your head? I’m interested in what being in that kind of situation and having that kind of responsibility does to people. Who are these people when they are sent off to war, who are they over there and who have they become when they return home? How do we look at this as objectively as possible without condemning their actions? How do we humanize the inhuman? How can we ever understand their situation?
Again you’re working with actor Pilou Asbæk, star of A HIJACKING. Did you write his role in A WAR with him in mind? Do you now have a shorthand when working together?
Pilou was the first person I called when I got the idea for A WAR. If it was up to me, I’d never have anyone but Pilou playing the lead in my films. I am sure that it could be interesting to work with other actors, and maybe I will. But until now I have not even thought of the option. There are so many things that do not work, so why change the things that work perfectly? Doing three films and a TV show together has brought us very close. We don’t have to talk to understand each other.
A WAR screens at AFI FEST 2015 on November 8 and 11.