Movie magic, inspired by ScandinaviaJanuary 6, 2016
Minneapolis-based True Norse Films explores human relationships
To understand the Scandinavian influence on Kjell and Per Kvanbeck’s company, True Norse Films, look no further than its logo. The stick-like symbol actually is a combination of the Runic alphabet letters for “T” and “N,” both symbols that would be found on a Viking Age-era runestone.
Kjell, 30, serves as writer and director, while Per, 27, handles cinematography. To help fund their passion projects, True Norse also provides companies, organizations and even families with video productions.
“It allows me to do something that pays the bills and that I also enjoy,” Kjell said.
Their independent films explore, as Kjell explained, “the intricacies of human emotion and relationships and interaction…in my films you are not going to find a lot of explosions or things of the nature, but you’ll find reflection and observations on a subject.”
Take Golden, for example, which won Best Minnesota Made Short at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival in 2013. In the film, an elderly Scandinavian man arrives home to find that his wife has passed away, but instead of coming to terms with the reality, opts to go into his normal routines: mowing the lawn, raking, taking out the garbage, hoping that if he goes about his day, life will go back to normal. The powerful nine-minute short was influenced by his own grandparents’ relationship.
Painting in a different way
Growing up, Kjell had an interest in painting, “but I could never make my hand do what my mind saw,” he said. “My parents brought home my first video camera and I was like, ‘Wow, I can paint, it’s just in a completely different way.’”
At age 10, he was hooked. His first films were little action movies using G.I. Joe figurines. He shot skateboard videos in high school before touring with his band for a few years.
“But my heart was calling to go back to film and storytelling, and I was dying to get back to expressing myself,” he says.
Kjell and his brother (who works as a web developer in Vancouver when they aren’t filming) teamed up in 2008. They officially formed True Norse in 2012.
Much of the inspiration behind Minneapolis-based brothers’ films stems from growing up in a family with deep Scandinavian ties. Even the look of their productions, Kjell said, has a simple, clean style favored by Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish filmmakers.
The late 1800s saw a massive immigration to the U.S. from Scandinavia, and many families settled in the Midwest. Minnesota, in particular, was heavily favored by immigrants – among them, both sets of the Kvanbeck’s great-grandparents.
Growing up, Kjell Kvanbeck loved hearing stories from his family about their ancestors settling and surviving on the snowy, wind-whipped plains of Minnesota. From this fascination and his love of family (“I have 35 cousins and I love every one of them”), True Norse also has moved into the “family documentary” space, creating quality half-hour productions to families so that they, too, can share stories with future generations.
“Hearing the stories that were passed down from generation to generation really instilled an interest from me and my brother in the art of storytelling and looking at how my family, in particular, had preserved their history in an oral tradition of telling these stories,” Kjell said.
“We are connected and exposed to our family. Not a lot of people are. We hear about all these communal things and all of those people picking up and leaving home to go and live thousands of miles away and settling in this extremely harsh environment and helping each other coexist…it makes me proud to have that background.”