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The Charmer – feature film

The Charmer

The Charmer is a feature film released in the cinemas 2017 and received wide critical acclaim. The feature, with original Danish title “Charmøren”, is directed by Milad Alami and assist directed by Misagh Alami.

The film premiered at the San Sebastian FF and is a suspenseful psychological drama about Esmail (played by Ardalan Esmaili), a young Iranian man who is desperately looking to meet women who can secure his stay in Denmark. As time runs out, he falls in love and his past catches up with him.

The Charmer has won countless awards and is highly praised by the critics for its subtle yet tense realism, and how it provides a layered insight into the socially relevant topic it dives into.

Misagh Alami on the set of The Charmer
Misagh Alami on the set of The Charmer. Photo by Jason Idris.

In the perspective of the Asst. Director, some of the principal challenges of shooting The Charmer was solving scenarios where there were a lack of extras to set the scenery.

Looking at the Iranian party scene as an example.

Esmail enters the room.

The music we heard outside is louder now. There’s a stage set up at one end of the room, but right now the stage is empty. Persian pop music pours out of the speakers.

There’s a dance floor in front of the stage and a few people are already dancing in the changing, colored light.

The Charmer party scene

In the script by Milad Alami and Ingeborg Topsøe, we are in the middle of a lively Iranian party with music pumping and people dancing.

Sophia Olsson, helming the cinematography, planned on shooting a longer take panning through the big party room, following Esmail into the space, then around him to capture Esmail exploring the environment, and then finally landing at where Esmail grabs some food from the buffet.

The Charmer shooting sketch
Rough illustration of the shooting plan.

The challenge here is to set the vibe of a crowded party with a major lack of extras filling the scenery. Going with the approach of changing the script to Esmail entering a party that is just starting off solves the lack of movement.

The Charmer Party Scene

However, the long shot still captures the entire venue in one take, and with a minimal amount of people available for direction, some complex and somewhat unnatural direction is needed.

To fill the entire depth of the moving backdrop, each extra gets a careful direction to cover one specific area, and aims to appear at least twice – once in a close shot and once in the depth. Giving a convincing illusion that there are considerably more people at the venue than there actually are.

The Charmer shooting sketch
Each person appears at least twice.

Having a limited budget and many locations, shooting The Charmer was expected to be a bit of a rollercoaster to piece together. Challenges such as the above were common throughout the production.

It is the type of healthy chaos that made the film so very vibrant.

The Charmer (Charmøren) (2017) | Trailer | Ardalan Esmaili | Soho Rezanejad | Lars Brygmann
The Charmer is available for streaming on various platforms.

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