Interview: Rúnar Rúnarsson on Echo

In our latest On The Clock exclusive, we talked to Icelandic director Rúnar Rúnarsson about his influences, unique vignette narrative structure, and personal experiences and inspirations on his latest film Echo! Moderated by David Cuevas, this interview is our closing article for this year’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema coverage.

David: I really enjoyed Echo quite a bit! The film really captured the nostalgic feeling of the Christmas season; especially with it’s minimalist 56 story format. Were any of the vignettes featured in the film based on some sort of family memory, personal recollection, or even vivid image that you’ve experienced?

Rúnar: All my films, this one and my previous work, have always had a connection to my own life; whether it’s an observation, something that has happened directly to me, or to a person that I know and love. It’s a vital part of my film-making to deal with elements that I have some sort of prior relation towards. 

David: To add on, there’s a lot of political statements and moments of satire featured in the film, including some discourse on western and modern ideologies. For those specific sequences, were those scenarios based on any sort of reference point, or were they just absurd situations that you personally came up with? 

Rúnar: Although I would like to keep the majority of the film up to interpretation and self-reflection, including whether or not the sequences were inspired by anything; there was one scene in particular which involved live streaming, that specifically comments my own perspective on how strong we are to judge, when we only see the output of a situation. The sequence is essentially about how we witness and feel about a certain prologue to a drastically escalated situation, that is not being transmitted by a certain live-streamer or media source. There is always a spark before someone goes berserk on social media. There is always at least two sides of any story; but people tend to judge automatically when they only hear one side of a situation. 

David: Your film reminded me of the structural format of Roy Andersson’s later works, and some other famed existential Scandinavian films. Were these by any chance influences for your film, or was there something completely different that personally inspired you to make Echo

Rúnar: Roy Andersson style is more absurdist in comparison with Echo’s approach. However, within the realm of documentary film-making, there have been films that are more in line of Echo’s structural form. Jørgen Leth for example, who is a Danish documentarian and experimenter, has made films such as 66 Scenes from America, which was a big influence for me. If you search “Andy Warhol eating a burger” on YouTube, you should be able to find his film! Although I’ve seen a lot of content, and there’s always influences surrounding all of my films; there was nothing from the get-go that I directly wanted repeat or replicate. 

David: Was there ever a specific vignette in the film that you would have liked to extend more on?

Rúnar: No, not really. During the editing phase, there were a lot of sequences that were dear to me, that needed to be cut. These scenes still exist on our team’s hard-drives, but it has to be said that Echo is a fragile little film. I’m happy with the finalized balance with the film as it is now. If it were to be longer, than I probably would have bored myself. I always want to be sincere, and if I’m boring myself, than I’m definitely boring the audience. This sweet little film is what it is, and shouldn’t ever be extended.  

Director Rúnar Rúnarsson at this year’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema

Echo screened at this year’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinema. The film is currently seeking North American Distribution

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