Filmmaker Interview: “Dreams from the Woods”

One of the most visually creative shorts in tonight’s “Dark ‘Toons” program from Rooftop Films is Dreams from the Woods, directed by Swedish Filmmaker Johannes Nyholm. Instead of using digital filmmaking or animation techniques, Johannes tells his story with meticulously crafted shadow puppets. The result is a world whose beautiful fragility expresses the very core of what it means to be human.

Rooftop Films spoke to Johannes about analog filmmaking the fine line between dreams and reality.

Rooftop Films: Give a brief description of your film for those who haven’t seen it.

Johannes Nyholm: It’s a journey back to the film medium in its earliest trembling steps, thousands of years before the invention of the film camera, back to when it was just light and shadows. It´s a shadow puppet play about love and death.

RF: Describe the world of your film.

JN: It´s a fragile world. So fragile it could literally fall apart by the smallest breath of wind. It is built up by paper and thin layers of plastic foil. It´s also a dark and harsh world. The inhabitants are affected by the tremendous forces of nature, something that results in separation, death and grief. Only dreams can give hope back.

RF: The characters in your film are gorgeous, inviting, but incredibly simple. Who are the characters in your film? Do you think of them as metaphorical creatures in a fairy tale, or do you ascribe more specific personality traits to them?

JN: To me the characters are very personal and concrete, I don´t see them as abstractions or metaphors. But I can of course see that they in some sense represent different archetypal values.

RF: Is it fair to say that there’s a very fine line between dream and reality in your film?

JN: Yes, you don´t really know what is dream and reality, I guess. The characters journeys into the deep forest is also a journey into their own minds. So what is actual and what is fictional gets blurred. And the medium itself, shadow puppetry, is just made for projecting dreams, projecting the shadow part of the world, the fictive world.

RF: How did you make the film? What effects did you use?

JN: It´s analogue to the core – basically just a strong light, a large sheet of paper, and some cut-out figures casting shadows on that paper. Plus a camera filming all the good stuff from the other side of the projection paper.

RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker?

JN: Yes

RF: Describe your next project.

JN: I’ve been working on it for two weeks now. It´s a short film with my one year old daughter in the lead. She plays the role of an old lady on summer holiday to Las Palmas. It´s a quite sad but hopefully also funny story about loneliness and human behaviour.

RF: What excites you about having your film at Rooftop?

JN: They seem like great events with original and exciting programming. Which makes me a bit sad I can’t go there and share the fun.

See “Dreams from the Woods” and other “Dark ‘Toons” at TONIGHT’s Rooftop Films show on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Tickets and more information here.

Read more about Johannes Nyholm and his work here.