Magnus von Horn is a director and screenwriter, born in 1983 in Göteborg, Sweden.
For his feature film debut, The Here After, he won the prizes for Best Screenwriter and Director at the 40th Gdynia Film Festival – the biggest honours in a country he'd only arrived in 12 years before. In 2003, aged 20, he started studying directing at the Łódź Film School. He'd already become known as a director, watching people in extreme situations, trespassing moral and social borders.
For his first student short, Radek (2006), a documentary miniature about a young man who tries to control his aggression after leaving prison, he won the Maciej Szumowski Award for Special Social Sensitivity at the Kraków Film Festival.
I spent a lot of time with my protagonist. I had no illusions with the morality of ‘chavs’. They steal, attack and beat people up, but they very rarely get a chance to change. After my documentary Radek felt his life had some value.
– said the director in an interview with Dominika Olszyna for Wysokie Obcasy.
In 2009, he won the Silver Lajkonik award at the same festival for his feature short Echo, in which he told a story of two teenagers who brutally killed their friend. When they take part in the inspection of the crimes scene together with a police psychologist, they realize the significance of their crime.
The theme of crime as a transgression of norms that can be committed by anyone has been present in the Swedish director’s work from the very beginning. It returned in von Horn’s other student production – Without Snow. In the film, which won awards in 2011 in Gdynia, Bilbao and Leuven, he told the story of a crime committed by the father of a persecuted boy, who attacks his bullies.
What’s important to me in making films is searching for humanity where there seems to be none. It’s easy to judge someone and put the blame on them. There is so much irrational violence. You read an article in the paper with facts only, while there’s a whole story there. There is always some cause. I am only interested in ‘normal’ people, not in psychopaths. I’m interested in people who face a situation that changes them. That’s what happens in this film. It’s also a true story, but in reality the father wasn’t imprisoned, he was declared temporarily insane. The punishment is not the most important aspect for me. As in Dostoyevsky’s books – you’re the biggest punishment to yourself, if you have a conscience, this conscience is going to punish you. Prison is one thing – one day you’ll be free again – but you can’t escape yourself.
– he said in an interview with Wysokie Obcasy.
The subject of crime and punishment returned in his feature debut – The Here After (2015). In this cold, precise film, von Horn told the story of a teenager who goes back to his family town after leaving a prison for young offenders. He becomes the victim of social ostracism, bullied by his brutal classmates. Free from emotion and full of suspense – The Here After is a story about evil hidden under the cover of social norms. When the film was presented in Cannes (in the Quinzaine des réalisateurs section), the critics praised his mature style and understanding of cinematic form, which allows him to avoid showing off.
When nominating von Horn for a Paszport Polityki in 2015, Professor Tadeusz Lubelski wrote that The Here After:
is a display of profound observation and of an attempt to understand the problem of difficulties of mutual communication between young people even in a society that seems as well-organized as Sweden.