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Thomas Vinterberg

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The Scene talks to Danish film director Thomas Vinterberg about growing up in a hippy commune and the influence of Copenhagen on his work.

The Scene: Which places in Copenhagen were important to you when you were growing up here.

Thomas Vinterberg: There is the Deer Garden. This is a place that was built in 1669 for the king to go hunting in. It's now become a public park. It's a place that is beautiful, quiet and lovely just outside Copenhagen and I've been coming here since I was a child. I grew up in hippy commune and we always used to come her to celebrate birthdays. I've been running round here naked as a hippy kid, putting up kites. This is a place I've been coming back to since I was born, when I went here with all the nice and happy hippies from the commune. They smoked and drank various things. It always started as a children's birthday party as an excuse for a party to continue until night. Back in the 70s you could be naked. You can't anymore -- I think the deer got disturbed by the naked people.

TS: Where else?

TV: Christiania, a commune that the authorities have been trying to shut down for 35 years. It started in 1969 with a bunch of squatters who wanted a playground for their kids. There tore down a fence around a military area... then quietly moved in. I think in 1972, they decided that this was no longer a part of Denmark and they weren't going to pay taxes. They said, "'this is our own territory, with out own rules, we don't want to pay taxes." No police were allowed in and no cameras. A whole culture of squatters and hippies developed, with a lot of cultural events growing in the 1970s. It became this amazing colorful hippy town full of ideologies, full of theatre groups and full of happy people. My first cultural experiences were out here. They did a lot of theatre and shows. I saw my first play at the Great Hall of Christiania -- a lot of wild stuff I can't go into.

TS: How did this upbringing affect your work?

TV: My whole life has been a very communal experience, growing up in a house full of happy hippies, having dinner parties three days a week and going to Christiania, I was constantly surrounded by people celebrating community. If you look at the films I've done, they all share that theme. These places have been a major influence on my work.

TS: A lot of your work centers around the radical Dogme filmmaking principles you helped draw up with Lars von Trier. How did that come about?

TV: It was written in a small office back in Copenhagen. I met Lars because our companies were close together. It took about 35 minutes and was a great laugh -- but still serious. The laugh was more in relief, and the game of it. How can we make a completely irresponsible project? We thought that it felt liberating because all the things we usually did and all the conventions of filmmaking had become a trap for us and for other people. We were using up a lot of time with makeup, light and music so we just prohibited it. It's not allowed anymore. It felt good. It felt a little dangerous, almost suicidal in a way, which I think is a good starting point, because you start exploring, you have to keep your eyes open, you have to be aware if you're on thin ice. It was a great project.

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