|by:||Feb 5, 2007|
A meditation on fate has earned Montreal animator Torill Kove her second Academy Award nomination. The best animated short nom comes for her 15-minute The Danish Poet, inspired by her parents' own story of a chance encounter. The film is a copro between the National Film Board (Marcy Page) and Norway's Mikrofilm AS (Lise Fearnley).
"I don't want to sound pretentious," Kove says from NFB headquarters in Montreal, "but for me, the question hit me at one point: how did I get here? We all have our own personal narratives in life, and if you think about it, so many of the things that happen to us are coincidences through choices that we've made."
Her original story was drawn from her father's choice to go to architectural school instead of pursuing painting. If he hadn't made this decision, Kove points out, he never would have met her mother. But in order for Kove to make the film, she initially felt she needed her mother's permission.
"My mom, who lives in Norway, is a very private person," she explains. "I wasn't sure that she'd be comfortable with this. I eventually just decided to not even ask."
Kove chose instead to create a different narrative, about a Danish poet who suffers from writer's block and travels to Norway to meet a famous writer as a way of breaking through it.
"This is a film about the choices you make along the way, and the impact those choices can have on you," she says.
The result is a charming short, told very much in the same quirky, humorous vein as Kove's previous Oscar-nominated short, My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts, another NFB copro from 1999.
Another of the film's pleasures is its exceptional narration, provided by legendary Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann.
"We just asked," she says of landing Ingmar Bergman's frequent leading lady. "We sent her the script and she said 'yes' immediately. I was so happy the day we got that news."
Norwegian-born, Kove moved to Montreal in the '80s to complete a degree in urban studies at Concordia University. She was always fascinated by drawing, and wanted to pursue animation as a career. She returned to Concordia in 1993, this time for one year in the film program, where she studied with Oscar-nominated animators Chris Hinton and Wendy Tilby.
"They were both incredible," Kove says. "They showed me the basics of how to do an animated film."
Despite the level she has achieved in her craft, Kove is mostly at a loss to cite her main influences.
"Actually, I am quite unschooled in animated filmmaking. I haven't seen that much of it. I think that most of my influences are quite unconscious - not something I think about as I'm making the film. I do really love the work of Chris Hinton [Oscar-nominated for Blackfly in 1992 and Nibbles in 2004], Wendy Tilby [nom'd for Strings in 1992 and When the Day Breaks in 2000] and Paul Driessen [nom'd for 3 Misses in 2000]."
She believes the nomination should give her film some legs.
"Animated shorts only seem to have so much of a shelf life," she says. "They come and they go pretty quickly. An Oscar nomination means there is more interest, and that interest lasts quite a while. People are still asking and talking about My Grandmother Ironed the King's Shirts."