Meet Danish movie director Jonas Alexander Arnby, whose feature film debut premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews far and away.

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A life filled with music

Meet Danish movie director Jonas Alexander Arnby, whose feature film debut premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews far and away.

His film “When Animals Dream”, a stylish horror film with a touch of social realism has been sold to more than 35 countries – making it one of the most successful Danish film exports in years.

We caught up with the director between a commercial shoot in Southern Europe and a trip to Hollywood where he’s working on his next film project, something secret he can’t tell us about. Oh well.

"My life is filled with music" says Jonas while looking through his living room for a remote. “When I’m at home with my family, music is always playing. When I’m working I listen to music, when I’m driving or running I listen to music. Even when I read, be it manuscripts or literature, I will put on my headphones and start my playlists.”

“My life is filled with music”

Growing up Jonas’s childhood home was filled with jazz music. His father is, as Jonas puts it, a “jazz freak” – and they would hear anything from Miles Davis to Coleman Hawkins to big band jazz like Count Basie.As he grew older Jonas got into hip-hop and acts like Boogie Down Productions, A Tribe Called Quest, 

 Ice-T and Beastie Boys. “There’s nothing like Beastie Boys”, he laughs “if you’re in a bad mood and a Beastie track comes on you’ll instantly start feeling better!”

That trick is hereby recommended – and if you’re new to Beastie Boys, may we suggest you start with “Sabotage”, “Sure Shot”, “So What’Cha Want” or one of the immortal 80s party anthems “Fight For Your Right” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”.

“I still listen to a lot of hip-hop, but it’s mostly when I’m alone. I’m really into folk music these days. Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel, Nick Drake, Lou Reed, Neil Young – there are so many great names. But Nick Drake in particular, his stuff is perhaps some of the best music out there, really beautiful music,” says Jonas while flicking through one of his playlist on his laptop.

Jonas Arnby lives in an apartment on Østerbro with his wife and two young daughters. Their style is urban elegance with a heavy dose of artfulness. Loads of colour. Paintings, photographs and sculptures mixed with oldschool Bang & Olufsen and contemporary B&O PLAY. Everything from the classic BeoMaster 5500 system – and the BeoGram 5500 record player he uses to play his jazz and folk collections – to a BeoPlay V1 television placed on the floor between hundreds of scattered DVDs and a trusted pair of BeoPlay H6 headphones.

We start talking about streaming services as we hook up his latest addition to the B&O Collection, a BeoPlay S8.

Everything is scattered today

Everything is scattered today

“It seems as if we jump from one thing to another – and don’t take the time to really delve into things. I find that to be a shame. No one listens to entire albums anymore,” he says with intent.

“I love albums – and the fact that there is a longer narrative with different moods and perspectives. And also that someone decided what order the songs should be listened in.”

Advice hereby passed on: Take your time – whether it’s with CDs, tapes, records or streaming services – and listen to full albums from A to Z. The story might be longer than you think.

Jonas has spent his entire professional career in the film industry. Working his way up through the ranks, he’s held close to every conceivable position on a film crew – giving him

a unique knowledge of all aspects of film production.

I ask him about how he uses music – both in his feature “When Animals Dream” but also in the hundreds of commercials he’s directed. Hint: Jonas got his breakthrough by throwing a stick of dynamite in a Copenhagen lake and filming a guy surfing on the wave it created. It won him the prestigious Cannes Lions – and placed him among the worlds most sought after commercial directors. "50% of a movie is the music"…and the way it supports and enhances the narrative.

I use music as a filmic addition – I don’t let it dictate things. I think that is artificial,” he says. “Commercials on the other hand are a whole other ballgame. There music drives things. You have to be ready from the first beat to catch the attention of the viewers – and keep them interested.”

In his line of work a full grasp of the music landscape is imperative, so Jonas keeps thousands of songs in catalogues – physically and digitally – so he can always find what is needed for a given project.

In the next chapter we’ll hear about how Jonas used music in his film “When Animals Dream”. See a trailer here.

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Born: Denmark
Current city: Copenhagen
Occupation: Director


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