When Rebecca Dinerstein set out on a solo journey to the Arctic, she intended only to write a book of poems. Living “completely alone, on an island in the Norwegian Sea,” she soon found that she needed to fill her time, so she turned to prose, writing the book that became The Sunlit Night.
A Sundance drama from director David Wnendt, the film follows Frances (Jenny Slate), an American painter who heads to Norway, to escape various troubles in her life. During an art residency, she meets a Russian émigré (Alex Sharp), finding a new path in life under a sun that never sets.
For Slate—a frequent presence in Park City—the pic presented “an interesting pairing of things.” Stunningly odd and tender, it subverted an indie tendency to go “quirky or cute,” or “adorkable” in its tone. “In the novel, I first noticed a real dearness for the colors and shapes of objects, just being where they are,” the actress told Deadline at the festival, “this strange simplicity that really makes you feel tender, in a place that would never apologize for how intense it is.” Spending ample time in Lofoten—a Norwegian archipelago—she found “an incredibly intense landscape” juxtaposed with these “sweet little pancake houses,” a place of unique contrasts that lent itself to cinema.
In The Sunlit Night, Zach Galifianakis appears as a fellow expat, who believes he can will himself into becoming a Viking chieftain. And while this arch, heightened type is reminiscent of characters he’s played before—as in FX series Baskets—it was a different quality to the project that drew him in. Naturally, the actor says, because Dinerstein is a poet, a sense of poetry manifests within the film. “Rebecca’s writing is sweet and layered, and I like that,” Galifianakis shared. “I think David picked up on some of that poetry in the words, and the visual poetry there.”
To take a look at our conversation with the team behind this Sundance indie, click above.