Jo Nesbo’sJackpot is black comedy about a supervisor and former inmates who succumb to greed and brutality after a syndicate win.A FILM’S director has the majority of creative power, but that control doesn’t always translate to a public profile. In the case of a new Norwegian movie, writer-director Magnus Martens might have penned the script and filmed the material, but it’s the author who gets credit for Jo Nesbo’s Jackpot.
Martens’ black comedy is about a group of former prison inmates, and their supervisor, who succumb to murderous greed when their betting syndicate wins about 1.8 million Norwegian kroner ($2.83 million) – and begins to shed members. Released in Norway last December as Arme Riddere, it was retitled Jackpot for international film festivals this year, and is now Jo Nesbo’s Jackpot for tomorrow’s Australian release.
“I’m perfectly happy with that,” says 39-year-old Martens. “If it hadn’t been for Jo Nesbo, the film wouldn’t have happened, to be brutally honest. He’s got a very familiar name that can help get financing and then people into cinemas.”
Aside from Stephen King, few authors get their names attached to adaptations of their work, but Nesbo has garnered strong sales over the past few years. His crime novels have sold more than 9 million copies worldwide, but he has rarely granted screen rights to his works, and held onto his signature character, flawed Oslo police detective Harry Hole, until Martin Scorsese agreed to direct the screen version of his 2007 novel The Snowman.
“I’m happy to set things up for Martin Scorsese,” jokes Martens, who took on Jackpot after spending a decade concentrating on television and commercials following his first feature, 2003’s United. Another stand-alone Nesbo novel Headhunters, was adapted and released this year, earning more than $600,000 at the Australian box-office, an impressive amount for a Norwegian-language release.
Martens says the author was hardly dictatorial. “His comments were always suggestions,” Martens says, and over the writing process he kept the premise but reworked the plot and introduced a new structure. The film opens in the aftermath of a strip club shootout where the lone survivor is Oscar (Kyrre Hellum), a factory supervisor and sole syndicate member without a history of incarceration.
As Oscar recounts the course of events, which play out in flashback, to an idiosyncratic police detective named Solor (Henrik Mestad), Jackpot reveals a mordant sense of humour. Each time the protagonists try to improve their share of the take they worsen their situation, which acquires an avalanche-like momentum as body parts and poor alibis accumulate.
“It’s the kind of film where a lot of comedy comes from the characters and their problems, and how people react after they make a wrong decision,” Martens explains.
”There’s a lot of comedy in trying to fix something that doesn’t really have a solution.”
When the picture screened outside Scandinavia, Martens was fearful that cultural specifics wouldn’t be clear to international audiences. But in retrospect, he concedes, there was little to worry about. “Translation and subtitling is really difficult to get right – it’s an artform in itself,” Martens says, “but now it appears that audiences abroad really enjoy the film and understand it. There’s something universal about it.”
Part of that narrative ease stems from the film’s cinematic lineage.
“You have a generation of European filmmakers who are born and bred with American movies and their genres, and now we’re adding to them,” says Martens. “The Americans really like the film because the genre is very familiar to them, but at the same time there’s a polite craziness on top of that which is Norwegian.”
Jo Nesbo’s Jackpot opens on Thursday at Cinema Nova, Sun Theatre, Palace Como, and Palace Brighton Bay.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.