(Old Norse: Starkaðr. Latin: Starcaterus; modern Danish: Stærkodder)
was either an eight-armed giant or the human grandson of the aforementioned giant in Norse mythology.
SUMMARY STARKAD is a transgressive, serio-comedic documentary film that follows Anders Bramsen, a restless Danish-American filmmaker who depicts his own personal struggles with self, father, and the randomness of life.
Told in an essayist style, through an extensive family archive of over 90 film reels spanning from the 1920s through the 80s and woven together by interviews with colleagues and friends and includes Anders’ 20+ years of personal video diaries. The film is narrated and plays on a journalistic and philosophical approach which creates an expose like feeling.
Co-participants include John Savage (Actor, Deer Hunter), Casper Van Dien (Actor, Starship Troopers), Lewis Teague (Director, Jewel of the Nile) and Jack Grisham (Vocalist, T.S.O.L.).
LOG LINE Suppression leads to rebellion and liberation.
SYNOPSIS Anders begins a journey of self-examination that takes him back to his origins through his interviews, about the past and the present. A major component in the film is an interview between Anders and his seemingly unsupportive father, Mikael.
Anders Interviews his father, Mikael (2015)
He learns that the lack of support or validation from his father may be the key source of his melancholy nature. Anders’ father Mikael is a classic patriarch, a retired foreign TV correspondent and a former executive at the European Parliament, who believes in "tough love" and calls his son out as a disappointment.
A verbally abusive confrontation between the two unfolds on screen. "Your extreme self-centeredness worries me" says Mikael, when Anders explains that he is trying to understand things better. "You're wasting your life" he repeats. But this life is exactly what Anders is trying to better comprehend. This existential expedition delves into his social heritage. An upbringing with stated opinions of what a successful boy/man is.
Enduring a family environment of high expectations and alcohol consumption, that goes back several generations. Rising from a society that paints the ideal of the successful person - but fails to recognize the negative impact of the individual's roots and the culture that shapes the person one will become.
STARKAD takes us on a trip exploring a modern being in pursuit of a new awareness. It is a film about reconciliation and love, turmoil, anxiety, and anger, and how we all make mistakes in a messy world. It is both a journey of liberation and forgiveness, made possible only by the willingness to try and overcome one’s own inner conflicts.
Anders meets with his father who refuses to support him. This forces Anders to look back at his chaotic childhood and descent into teenage drug addiction until finding recovery at age 26. His journey towards self-discovery continues as he finds himself balancing between a terrified and neurotic state of mind vs. being happy and content. Realizing that many of his problems are self-created, he explores the capricious nature of life while trying to take more responsibility for his behavior as he begins responding to life rather than reacting to it. It dawns on him that he is not a complete victim, but a thriving and productive person who has gained a toehold on humility through slow and steady ego deflation.
Mikael and Anders during an interview (2020)
DIRECTOR'S MISSION STATEMENT
So why am I doing STARKAD?
Why should I offer the world my self-indulgent movie and my nakedness?
Ingmar Bergman once said: "Making a movie is like undressing slowly in the town square". It may sound weird, but I simply can’t help it. I have the calling and the passion to make this film and I don’t know why that is, it just is.
The basic idea for STARKAD initially came from recognizing my lack of understanding of why I am here and why there is no known reason for human intelligence.
My original plan was to make a movie where a personal approach to the story would be the focal point, studying how far the auteur filmmaker could afford to go, publicly exploring his own ego.
But all that changed dramatically when I interviewed my father about my birth and early childhood. After that, the project was immersed in a new light of universality.
Raised conservatively in Copenhagen, I was a troublemaker and was shamed by my father, and other adults. At 12 I started drinking, smoking hash, and taking LSD and I became addicted. As my friend, Jeffrey says it in STARKAD: "Alcoholism does not discriminate - from Park Avenue to park bench - brain surgeons are alcoholics."
Anders smokes hash (1988)
I think at times my embarrassingly honest portrayal of my troubled existence can be a mirror for others living complicated lives, especially for those who struggle with addiction. To me STARKAD is about inner conflicts, mental illness, and family dynamics; about detachment, the relationship between fathers and sons (masculinity), genetic dependence through alcoholism, and at last, forgiveness. My task is to try and better understand the undercurrents of the neurotic and manic issues that alcoholism and drug addiction often spring from - that overall feeling of discontentment that so many people live with - regardless of being rich or poor, healthy, or sick, loved or hated. It’s also important to try and understand the cultural and psychological environment of the perpetrator and the victim, in this case the same person.
I characterize my style as psychological realism, created through associative montage editing.
It is my belief that what we normally experience as cinematic realism is far from the perceived reality - that is, the reality we actually experience …
Dad with Anders after a head trauma accident (Brussels 1978)
Inspiration of associative montage editing from, Simon Pummell’s, Bodysong, 2003
.. a place where time and space do not exist. From a background of real-life events, the imagination spins, and weaves new patterns. A blend of memories, experiences, pure inventions, absurdities, and improvisations.
So, I strive to describe my perception of “reality" as experienced subjectively. Like a flashback catalyst to childhood memories and dream scenarios - inspired by “Wild Strawberries” by Ingmar Bergman.
Wild Strawberries, (Smultronstället) 1957
STARKAD exists somewhere between what I know and what I don’t know. And I think it is important to take good care of one's memories because they cannot be re-lived. Some documentaries can expand and contract our sense of time and take us to a place that’s off-limits, either because the place belongs to the past or is inaccessible for other reasons.
By the end of this filmmaking journey, I hope to ride into the sunset with a little more peace of mind and perhaps greater acceptance of my own limits as they are presented to me day by day.
TIME SPEED & SOCIAL MEDIA
The film also examines time and how time seemingly expands and contracts depending on states of mind, activity, and various perceptions of what we call reality.
Anders’ video diary (NYC 2005) Anders’ video diary (NYC 2008)
Is the ever-growing obsession with self, through social media, merely an extension of self-portraits painted by artists for centuries?
THE DIFFERENT LAYERS
Anders' neuroses are at first the driving force of the conversations with his male friends. Here a rare masculine vulnerability occurs, where men talk openly about their life experiences and relationships to their fathers. A variety of friends and family members - providing both a personal, humors and professional perspective - giving some hard truths about Anders.
FRIEND #8 Lewis Teague film director
FRIEND #29 Sophie Staerk fine arts
FRIEND# 13 Jack Grisham vocalist
Anders’ mother, Elisabeth
FRIEND# 37 John Savage actor
FRIEND# 100 Bianca Rodriquez family & addiction therapist
- THE PHILOSOPHICAL LAYER - CRUISING WITH CAMUS
In which Anders questions the big mystery (why we are here to begin with) and tries to embrace “The Absurd”. He asks: What is the meaning of life in this immediate random world?
In philosophy, The Absurd refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a chaotic and irrational universe. The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the conflicting nature of the two that coexist.
Sisyphus, symbolizes the absurd about human existence
FRIEND #0 Dr. Joel Silbert (former deputy director at Manhattan psychiatric center) and Anders talks about, Leonardo da Vinci’s theory, that there’s direct link between the function of the body and the way the universe functions. And how the navel in, da Vinci’s: Vitruvian Man is placed in the middle of the drawing as a symbol of the creation of the universe. Anders wonders while, Mr. Silbert exclaims “He (da Vinci) was also out of his mind."
Crop of da Vinci’s: Vitruvian Man
In which Anders interviews and confronts his father, or maybe the other way around?
Mikael tells Anders about his forgotten childhood and his later disappointment that he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Along the way, he states that he would not be interested in him unless, Anders was his son and that he no longer feels love between them. Anders is shocked and later shows him the scenes. The confrontation causes more damage than good.
Over time, there is a shift in their relationship. The scenes between them undergo a considerable development and a new and humorous language evolves allowing, Anders to move further on from the past.
Anders Interviews his father, Mikael (2015)
Anders Interviews his father, Mikael (2016)
A PRODUCER’S REFLECTION - Peggy Eghbalian
STARKAD is a film made by an audacious talent who looks at the self in a completely exorbitant and flagrant way. It’s a window into the psyche of a modern person in today’s society.
When I first heard about the project, I thought here we go another middle-aged man’s story about his childhood trauma. However, when I saw the film, I loved it. It had heart. Anders’ way of side-stepping linear storytelling and being real to his emotional truth worked. There’s a great sentiment in what he chose to explore and with his many strong life experiences, Anders has developed an affection for truth seeking, which makes the film pure in tone. He is incredibly good at listening, which for me is one of the most important things for a director to attain. Additionally, Anders is sharp when it comes to understanding his role as a filmmaker and likes implementing a path for perspective, a prerequisite for being able to create a complex film about oneself.
As a producer, I’m always looking for filmmakers that surprise me and stand apart from others. Films that mean something to the storyteller, films that come from the heart and films that can challenge our perception and spark new insights. It’s through recognizing the complexity of life, about oneself and one another, in which STARKAD is thought provoking and humorous with opportunities to reach an international audience.
Anders shoots 16 mm for STARKAD with an Arriflex 16BL (NYC 2005)