Frelle Petersen’s film ‘Uncle’, portraits a loving relationship between a young woman and her uncle, in the Danish countryside, that is vulnerable to change when love gets in the niece’s way.
How was “Uncle” conceived and what inspired you to make the film?
I wanted to explore the small farmer’s life in South Jutland before these farms cease to exist. Also, I wanted to tell a story from the region where I grew up and was interested in exploring a moral dilemma of choosing between taking care of a family member in need of help or moving away from the region to follow one’s own dreams.
In the making of "Uncle", you had to immerse yourself in the world of farming and life in the countryside in order to portray it authentically. Could you tell us more about your researching phase?
I decided to move into the farm used in the film while researching and writing the screenplay. It gave me all the necessary tools to create an authentic story. I helped out on the farm by taking care of the life stock as well as helping out during harvesting. By doing this I experienced important details in the everyday life of a farmer and could use this throughout the making of the film. I also started filming as part of the research and realized that the footage was so good that a lot of it ended up in the final film. That’s when I also decided to shoot the film myself.
Your feature debut “Where Have All the Good Men Gone” also takes place in the region of southern Denmark where you grew up. What is it that makes you return to this setting?
I grew up in this region and I have a lot of stories to tell from this place. I’ve never seen a film from this part of the country, in this agricultural setting, where the actors speak the authentic well-known dialect. I wanted to create a film never before seen in Danish cinema and with my specific point of view. It’s important that we tell stories from every corner of Denmark, this is my corner. That’s why I feel obligated to share my stories with the rest of the world.
“I wanted to create a film never before seen in Danish cinema and with my specific point of view. It’s important that we tell stories from every corner of Denmark, this is my corner.”
“Uncle” portrays a relatable dilemma for the main character, who contemplates whether she should stay on the farm or follow her dreams. How would you like the audience to reflect on this?
What is right and wrong in this dilemma? Everyone should follow their dreams, but not everyone can do so. In this case, she must find out what’s important for her. Is it to stay behind or should she go? But there are many other factors to consider. Can she live with the guilt of leaving her uncle? Will she stay because she doesn’t want to lose her uncle who have become like a father to her? I’d like the audience to think about the complex character, her situation and the difficult choices she’s facing. Meeting audiences from around the world that have seen this film, I’m glad to experience that the ending makes them think hard about the characters, their relationships and the different themes of this movie.
The relationship between Kris and her uncle comprises the core of the story. What are your thoughts behind their relationship?
For me relationships are always the most important part of a good story. It was important for me to tell the story of these two specific people and their relationship. I’ve never seen a film about an uncle and a niece, so it was exciting to explore this particular relationship, because you have to think differently as a writer and director. It’s not a father/daughter relationship, it’s something very different.
I use a lot of silence in the film. I want to invite the audience into this home and let them explore the relationship between uncle and niece. There are a lot of daily routines. Breakfast, milking of the cows, laundry, grocery shopping, mucking out etc. Being a fly on the wall will give you a unique glimpse into the silent yet loving relationship between these two characters and it’ll help you understand why the young woman faces a moral dilemma as the story unfolds.
Apart from directing, you also edited the film yourself. Why did you decide to take this responsibility upon yourself and what did you learn in the process?
I also wrote and shot the film myself. I wanted to force myself to take responsibility for every frame of this movie. I’m happy I decided to do all these things on my own. You learn a lot by having to make every minor decision, so it has made me become a better storyteller. I’d love to work with a cinematographer and editor again, because it’s definitely very hard to do it all by yourself, but the learning process of this project is priceless to me. I would do it all over again.
“I wanted to force myself to take responsibility for every frame of this movie. […] You learn a lot by having to make every minor decision, so it has made me become a better storyteller.”
What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
Yes. I will hopefully go back to the south to tell some more stories that only I can tell. The next film will have some similar themes like in “Uncle” but I flip everything around, so it will be a very different take. It will also be a character-driven story and the most important thing will, of course, be the relationship between the people portrait in this coming film.