The open road, in the North American consciousness, has always represented freedom. Freedom to escape and reinvent oneself. The promise of something dierent and new, just beyond the horizon. This mythology has been propagated throughout decades of culture and art, from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, to Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider. “Go West, young man, and grow up with the country”.
Somehow, the first time I got on the road in my adopted country of Sweden, the road represented something radically dierent to me. Here, being on the road meant looking inward, seeking to come to terms with what you are, rather than escape from it. The astonishing landscape of Southern & Eastern Sweden, and the irrevocable bond it shares with its inhabitants evoked a soul searching and sparked what eventually became The Philosopher King.
The road films I had always admired were the likes of Two-Lane Blacktop, Five Easy Pieces, or The Vanishing Point: tortured anti-heroes on a quest to find themselves, to unravel the threads that connected them to the rest of the world. I set the destination of my road trip as Fårö. For truly, if you can’t find God there, at the end of the world, then you can never find him. I had always thought about following the structure of a romance, to chronicle a platonic relationship. One every bit as complex and ambiguous, if not more, than a romantic one. And so, instead of star-crossed lovers, The Philosopher King became about the trials, tribulations, and the unshakeable love of two brothers.
Lastly, in The Philosopher King, I wanted to chart the tragedy of a man who possesses boundless ambition, not enough talent to realize it, but enough intelligence to know the absurdity of his doomed ambitions.
Is The Philosopher King autobiographical? I have a brother who is a celebrated musician. I have had the privilege to call Sweden my home for the past two years. There is not a moment in the film that does not have a shade of ‘truth’ to it. Yet, to call The Philosopher King an autobiographical work implies a singular voice in the film. Whereas it is not one voice, but many, that you hear in the final product. That of the immensely talented, endlessly dedicated team of artists and artisans I had the pleasure of working with in the making of this film. The truth is, The Philosopher King is our autobiographical work. ‘Truth’, that very ambiguous word. “As for you old man, go East and grow young with the country”, said Dutton Peabody in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And we did.
Rouzbeh Noori, Malmö, Sweden