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An Interview with Viktor Johansson, Director of Under Gottsunda

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2014

Films directed by Viktor Johansson on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Under Gottsunda - what inspired you to make a movie about Gottsunda in the first place, and what are your personal relations to Gottsunda?


At the time I would bike to nearby Gottsunda everyday to leave my daughter in kindergarten. Once we rode past a burned-out car and my daughter asked, well, if it had crashed. We took a peek inside and there were burned books in the wreck, trying to see what they said. Too see what lies beneath, to actually read the burned book.


You have chosen a very poetic approach to your story (or rather stories) at hand - care to elaborate?


I wanted limbo, I wanted the poetic feeling of floating and sinking through the ground. It's all about underground movements in Gottsunda, literally with kids hiding in the sewer system and so on. So I worked a lot with slow motion, you would get the feeling that the cast were trapped in mud or quicksand. On the audio side, Fredrik Hedlund recorded and added dripping sewers, he was down in some hospitals basement recording water and echo. But also ocean waves and bubbling underwater currents. All things under the surface.

You can do so much with film, image and sound, you just have to dive into your particular world. Stay true to your diegesis. Hardcore.


Under Gottsunda seems to wander a blurred line between documentary and fiction - do describe this approach for a bit?


I shot bits and pieces first, in the beginning it was more documentary style, capturing the true essence of hanging around, wasting your youth I was about to say, but that's what youth is for, floating around in this limbo, to invent and form your identity you have to be set on part self-destruct, part self-create. I tried not to interfere and just capture this.

Then as the summer was coming to an end I realized I needed some dramatic development, and I wrote these heightened continuations to their lives, making their subcultures into extreme sports with rules and manifestos. Some of the stories were written by the kids themselves, for example the longboarder who's force-fed his mother's karma. That's Sergej's own novella that he wrote on the Gottsunda Stories workshop. His entire narration is freestyled, it comes from his own inner world, just not his biographical circumstances.


What can you tell us about all the people appearing in your movie, and how did you find them?


Both the dancehall group Attitude Dance Crew and the Russian martial artists in Systema I had seen showcases of in Gottsunda. Longboarder Sergej and Palestinian Kerim both attended the creative writing workshop Gottsunda Stories I was teaching. They went acted out their own short stories and poems. When I was street casting, the kids explained that they weren't involved in the arsons. Every kid I met felt that they had to defend themselves against that image. Arsonists, this was secondary school children.

The prejudices of the suburb will even get internalized by those who live there. Media uses them only for reporting about car fires and honor crimes. It really hit me, I realized that the media image must have gotten jammed in their heads. Walking around with the burning cars in their psyche.


Do talk about the shoot as such for a bit!


The best thing about shooting a movie is when everything goes out of hand in front of the camera. My favorite mistakes are:

When Vanco in one long rant brings up the high standards of Sweden, how everyone is a fucking Rockefeller. Then I laughed so much behind the camera that I had to stabilize the image in post. Completely out of the blue, from Vancos mind.

When Kerim and Ibbe craft slingshots for the first time in their lives, and they're the worst at it, they want to be like the children in Palestine, but then they test shoot a pebble that drops right at their feet. "It works, it almost works". Such a good reaction.
When the Systema guy almost breaks his neck, how scared we got.

Things that break through our defenses.


The $64-question of course, where can one see Under Gottsunda?


VOD - International VOD-premiere December 1st:



A few words about audience and critical reception of your movie?


"It's shot in a fluid Christopher Doyle kind of way ... brings in mind Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park and Elephant ..." - Jojjenito

"Right in the middle of a seductive beauty and ugliness, where Bo Widerberg's sense of light meets the flow of Falkenberg Farewell ..." - Expressen

"Under Gottsunda reminds you of Harmony Korines trashy fiction, or the mood of David Gordon Green's George Washington. " - FLM

"Viktor Johanssons suggestive mix of a political-realism documentary and dreamy fiction bears some thematical resemblance to Clio Barnards The Selfish Giant." - Nöjesguiden


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Last summer I shot my upcoming feature Flogsta Heaven.

The summer before I rode my bike to Gottsunda few nights a week, this summer I rode in the other direction, with my camera backpack, to the student neighborhood Flogsta.

A bunch of students are studying to become idiots. A different kind of student riot, with drops-outs who give up all things education, and instead they return to being savages, walking backwards, they spend three years to perform a perfect moonwalk instead of becoming a bright future for this country. The motto is daft punk instead of being so accomplished. Those who remain in the Flogsta apartment blocks, those who stay behind. During the summer they start a cult. They stay in “the Flogsta roar”.

There's Arman who skips school to go down in the same depression and paranoia that Michael Jackson had when he invented the Moonwalk. A father walking around in Flogsta as a guard, to make sure that no one kills themselves, as his son did. A bunch of girls dumpster-diving for food, which they then have food fights with.


What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


I went to a folk university, maybe you call it community college, in rural Fellingsbro. And learn from the local masters who only had bee movies on their resume, haha. The teacher had filmed an instructional video for bee keeping, so he was teaching the next generation of film makers. But we lived like in a reality show couped up with all the cameras and editing suites. It was great. Then I've been writing novels, and with every book I've tried to adapt it into a movie, but fallen on the finish line. After 8 years I realized I had to film it myself. So my latest novel The Dark Sport is partly the basis of Under Gottsunda, but things mutated, came to life with the real stories of Gottsunda.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Under Gottsunda?


In Fellingsbro I made the short film Cotton Candy. A girl crouching under heaven, not to get caught up in the cotton candy, the clouds that is. Before I found my mix between grit and poetry, I went all in beautiful poetry narration with piano soundtrack, it was too much.

The girl is played by my little sister Linnea, and the best scenes are when she was just playing around, looking into a black cat's eyes, studying it. I have noticed that the best scenes occur when the actors get to examine something, build something, like the slingshots from Under Gottsunda, or get tangled into their own theories and argue amongst themselves, spacing out high on wild blueberries, and just forget the director. Actors think that I'm looking for something special, they want to be good and do the script justice, but I am looking for mistakes and true discovery. That's special.

This authenticity is what I've been struggling with in my previous short films, The Tennis Boy (basis for my novel The Dark Sport) and Webcam Girls (basis for my novel Wrestlers). All of a sudden, in Gottsunda, the film was alive, and we all were alive that summer.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


The world of Harmony Korine, Andrea Arnold, Terrence Malick, where actors actually have a breath and trash is blowing around in the wind, and Werner Herzog's ecstatic truth.


Your favourite movies?


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x-rated  find Viktor Johansson at

For Under Gottsunda these films really meant a lot: Tim Sutton's Pavilion. David Gordon Green's George Washington, James Clauer's Aluminium Fowl, Lance Hammer's Ballast and Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Not deplore, but there are blockbusters with so much lost potential, amazing worlds and mutant identities just lost. For example, one day I will make a Ninja Turtles magic hour skater film. Let's reclaim these blockbusters. Let's make a Transformers movie where poor Detroit kids pimp left-over cars into robot drones.I want to make fan films called Werner Herzog's Bane, or Harmony Korine's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Official site:



Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD