For Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen, it was always an ambition of his to shoot a film on a train as well as a film in Russia. So, when he first read the 2011 novel Compartment No. 6 by Rosa Liksom, he was immediately compelled to take it to the big screen.
“I read this book when it came out and I felt in this book that there were lots of cinematic qualities like the train where most of the story takes place and the fact that it happens in Russia, where there are lots of cinematic locations to be found,” Kuosmanen said during the film’s panel at Contenders Film: International. “That was one of my dreams – to make a film in Russia. I felt that this book would be leading me to a film where I can actually make my dream come true and make a film in a train in Russia.”
The film, which was Cannes Grand Prix co-winner this year, follows a young Finnish woman (Seidi Haarla) as she escapes an enigmatic love affair in Moscow by boarding a train to the arctic port of Murmansk. Forced to share the long ride and a tiny sleeping car with a larger-than-life Russian miner (Yuriy Borisov), the unexpected encounter leads the occupants of Compartment No. 6 to face major truths about human connection.
Andris Feldmanis, Livia Ulman and Kuosmanen adapted the script for the pic, which Sony Pictures Classics is releasing domestically.
Kuosmanen admits that shooting in this confined space on a train, where much of the film takes place, had its own set of challenges and was, at times “really slow.”
“When something needed to be adjusted in the compartment, we had to take everybody out,” he said. “It was a slow and that was the biggest difficulty. The other thing was I couldn’t really be in the same space as the actors, so I had to be on the monitor and I actually don’t like to be on the monitor when I’m directing. I’ll check the takes on the monitor but I prefer to be in the same space as the actors and watching them with my own eyes and to actually feel the atmosphere.”
But, he quipped, “it was my own idea to shoot it on a moving train.”
Check out the panel video above.