Yngvild Sve Flikke: “Michel Gondry was one of Ninjababy’s major influences”

The Norwegian director distills animation with talent in this raw, puzzling and thrilling comedy about an unwanted pregnancy. Meet.

How did the idea of ninjababy ?

Yngvild Sve Flikke: From the outset, I envisaged and imagined this film as a journey. I wanted to talk about pregnancy, a state that I myself experienced twice, but through the prism of comedy. The way that seemed to me the most appropriate to tell the crazy moments, these successive ups and downs that we go through in this state. I found that nothing better than animation could allow me to represent it with precision. That’s when I remembered The Art of fallingInga Sætre’s graphic novel which directly tackled this subject and I contacted her so that we could build together ninjababy from his work. If she had told me no, I would have abandoned the project. Because only his punchy animation style was going to be able to translate into images with the tone that I wanted to use for this story. From there, a challenge still arose for me. I had already used animation in documentaries but I didn’t know if I was going to be able to create an animated character from scratch and integrate it into my plot.

How did you precisely construct this character of the future “baby” of your heroine, an animated figure who dialogues with her without jargon and which of course only she can see?

It took a long time to find it. We went through several really ugly, very ugly versions of fetuses… playing on our memories of mothers. (laughs) And, in the end, he’s got a lot more of a baby face than we originally envisioned. This character was in our eyes a pillar of the film: we were counting on him to bring humor, of course, but also emotion, so that the public could become attached to him. All this also played on the moments when we integrate our passages into the story, right up to the editing room, where we added scenes that Inga drew because there were gaps…

What evolved the most between the graphic novel and your film?

Its conclusion because the graphic novel ends just after childbirth when I wanted an end that would allow me to really get to the bottom of the different characters. But also and above all the age of the heroine. In the graphic novel, she is 16 years old. And that I immediately explained to Inga that I wanted her to be older. Because I didn’t want a film that deals with teenage pregnancy, but to be able to develop a more ambivalent character, certainly totally adolescent in her outward attitude – her daily life totally assumed, made of glands and one-night stands – but more mature inside so that this pregnancy has an impact on her and her way of envisaging her future. Like a particle accelerator. But none of this could have taken shape if we hadn’t come across Kristine Kujath Thorp who immediately understood this character, her moods, her behavior. She’s a very intuitive actress. I must have seen a hundred actresses before her and I was beginning to despair. This is his very first feature film. And since then, she has not stopped chaining the films. She deserves it: it’s raw talent.

What was the concrete contribution of your co-screenwriter Johan Fasting?

Huge in a very short time. I absolutely needed a co-screenwriter because I was working on a mini-series at the same time, Heimebane. Johan was incredibly efficient and he too immediately understood the film I had in mind, the idea that comedy was going to take precedence over drama, despite the delicate subject. He also made it possible to clarify the character of Ninjababy thanks to his fresh look. Without him, the end result would not have been the same.

By its way of playing with animation, your film evokes the work of a Michel Gondry. Did this reference accompany your creative process?

If this film is inspired above all by my experience of becoming a mother, Michel Gondry has indeed a major influence for all our work on animation. I am a great admirer of the playful side of his cinema. And that’s what I wanted to strive for ninjababy

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Yngvild Sve Flikke: “Michel Gondry was one of Ninjababy’s major influences”

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