Six years ago, pop artist Uje Brandelius released the album “Spring, Uje, spring” with ten songs about “life, love and daycare pick-ups”.
– Those songs I then created a performance of with a kind of 40-plus thoughts, a “in the middle of life” monologue. But while I was writing the script, I got my Parkinson’s diagnosis and the show was instead about me when I got that message, says Uje Brandelius.
The show “Run, Uje, run” was a success and he played it for several years.
– Then I got the opportunity to make a film of the show and I took that chance.
Uje Brandelius was acquainted with the debut film director Henrik Schyffert, but they had never hung out.
– I asked if he wanted to direct the film and I knew he would say yes because he wrote on Instagram that he loved my show. I needed someone who could lift the project one level and he was the right man for the job. Henrik has been very important for the film and we have really done it together.
The film depicts how the insidious disease changes your person and your relationship to yourself and your loved ones. Was it obvious to you to tell about something so personal?
– It was obvious to me. I have always made art of my own life. It would have been very strange for me to stand on the stage and sing songs about myself that were not about the biggest elephant in the room. It has happened step by step, first a record, then a performance and then radio theater. With the film, a new situation has partly arisen. There were 20,000 people who saw the show and now almost a million who have seen the film, it is a completely different five. So I probably have not quite fully understood yet what it means to disclose oneself to so many people.
The film also stars his partner Therese Hörnqvist himself as well as his daughters Bixi and Vega Brandelius.
– It was not as obvious for the family at first, but they decided to join.
Wasn’t it hard for them to play themselves?
– As for the four-year-old Vega, we just had to keep up, she could not direct but we only had to respond to what she said and did. Bixi, who was 13 years old then, is simply a natural talent. And Therese has worked in theater before, so we knew she would be fine.
Have they got more taste and want to make more films?
– Bixi thought it was very fun and Therese I know I want to participate in more films. It’s probably me who is least eager to toil in front of the camera again. I like to write scripts, but I do not know if I want to act more. If I get to play myself again, it’s probably going well, or if they call and ask me if I want to be the same in any Beckfilm in the future, but that’s probably the limit, I think.
The portrayal of Parkinson’s disease “Spring Uje spring” has received a mixed response among those directly or indirectly affected by it.
– Most people think that it is good that a film is made about a disease that is not on the ballot papers every day. But I have also received a really bad review from a guy with Parkinson’s who thought we were cowardly and did not tell about the darkest sides of the disease, that we reduced it to shaking hands. But it was not such a film we wanted to make, we wanted to do something for everyone and is not a shitty information film about Parkinson’s disease.
It took six weeks to shoot the film, which cost ten million kroner to make. “Spring Uje spring” is Uje Brandelius’ debut in a film context and the response has been incredible. At the Guldbagge Gala in January, he was awarded the prize for both best screenplay and best male lead.
– Both the filming time and the budget are minimum for feature films and that was probably also where it was. We had imagined that it would be a narrow film that was shown in small cinemas in big cities, that it would be such a “snack ice cream” I had never imagined, it came as a total surprise. But I think that if you make a narrow film that you like yourself, the chances are greater of success than if you make a wide film for everyone else to like it.
– From the beginning, I thought it was scary, that film was something very difficult to write. But then I realized that it’s actually reminiscent of writing songs, because each scene is about as long as a song. And I have written songs all my life. Then it became difficult to write 70-80 “songs” instead of ten and tie them together in a film where the audience does not lose interest. I got a lot of help from Henrik Schyffert with the dramaturgy, but “Spring Uje spring” is not a film where a lot happens, but where the artistic takes place in the dialogue and the scenographic.
Uje Brandelius is a stage personality and also a familiar radio voice, but acting in his own film presented him with new challenges.
– All my previous experiences I have benefited from during the filming, but the big difference is that you have to do the same thing over and over again 20 times from different camera angles and to have a director who is never satisfied because he always thinks you can do “a little, a little better”. Playing pop music or theater on stage and speaking on the radio are instantaneous art forms, movies are just the opposite, it should feel spontaneous, but is as far from spontaneous as you can get.
How did you think about getting the Golden Bug for best male lead?
– At first I thought “but god how embarrassing”, then I thought that the context we created in the film was the best possible for me to play myself in. I know myself and know when I’m funny and so on, it has I of course embedded in the script. If I had played another role in another film, I would have been catastrophic, but in the role of myself, I’m probably the best imaginable.
“Spring Uje spring” was shown for the first time at the Gothenburg Film Festival in January last year, shortly afterwards most of Sweden’s cinemas began to close due to the pandemic. The Swedish premiere was supposed to have taken place in the spring, but was postponed until December 18 when it was rumored that the cinemas would reopen for Christmas. Some cinemas, including Elektra in Västerås, showed the film to a very limited audience.
– In November, we thought we could not hold on to the film anymore, it was in the “pantry” and started to “mold”. We could show it to eight people at a time in a few open cinemas in Sweden, but we could take comfort in the fact that every single screening was full. We lay on the biotope and beat all the other movies that were shown. It is clear that it would have been fun to see what potential it really had in terms of audience, but the important thing for me is that as many as possible get to see the film and they can do so now that it is shown on SVT Play. Now everyone who wants to see it has seen it.
Will there be more movies for you in the future?
– I actually do not know, right now I am sitting and writing songs for a new record because that is what my core business is. I’m focusing on music for a while now so we can see what happens in the future. “Spring Uje spring” was a very pleasurable experience, both to be able to create the film and receive backpacks for it, so I would think that I will do something more in the way of film in the future. I’m not closing the door on a sequel, but I’m not opening it either.