Christian Frosch about SILENT RESIDENT


«I think it’s interesting to play with outer form. Silent Resident is only peripherally science fiction, more “social fiction"». Christian Frosch about his new film Silent Resident which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival 07.

Was the Alt Erlaa apartment complex a source of inspiration for the Silent Resident screenplay for a long time?
Christian Frosch: Alt Erlaa was the first thing that occurred to me. But at the same time it was almost too obvious, and I also considered a digital solution. I looked at a few large buildings around Europe and then decided that Alt Erlaa together with some digital post-processing would be ideal. I needed a place with the aura of a self-contained city which almost resembles a city-state. The fact that classically modern ideas – that of the machine for living in – played a role in its design interested me. In other words concepts for living life. Architecture always operates with the idea of designing the way life should be lived. It fulfills and creates needs. It’s no coincidence that many architects have totalitarian leanings.

What’s behind the concept of a “machine for living in”?
Christian Frosch: It was originally conceived by Le Corbusier and refers to living in masses in standardized units in a high-rise building. But part of it is also the idea of a “new man” who has new needs and makes a break with the old ones. It’s a place where the lives of modern individuals who live in masses are spent in a rational manner. Many of these buildings are now completely neglected, and in Paris and New York a number have been torn down or are now part of slums. This isn’t the case with Alt Erlaa. Surveys have shown that the residents’ satisfaction with life there is higher than average, though at the same time the suicide rate is too – a nice contradiction.

Silent Resident contains elements of science fiction, a psychothriller, and horror. What is it about genre that fascinates you?
Christian Frosch: I think I’m interested in genre in general, the fact that the audience has certain expectations that are then satisfied, disappointed or guided in a different direction. I think it’s interesting to play with outer form. It’s only peripherally science fiction, more “social fiction,” because the technology shown in the film already exists.

Paranoia, manipulation during therapy and the irrational are themes that already came up in Die totale Therapie. Is there some kind of arc of content between the two films?
Christian Frosch: In my opinion the difference compared to Die totale Therapie is that it has a pure view from the outside which looks at how a group develops. In Silent Resident there’s no difference between inside and outside. However the implosion of systems or sociological phenomena still interests me. In this sense it’s a kind of sequel, though formally and in its tone it plays out on a completely different level. If anything, Silent Resident is the antithesis to Die totale Therapie.


Does cameraman Busso von Müller have something to do with this completely new formal grammar? What was working with him like?
Christian Frosch: Busso von Müller put his heart and soul into the project. For months before production started we talked about the screenplay alone, not even touching upon the solution. He was as familiar with the screenplay as I was when we started discussing esthetic matters. It was an extremely intense collaboration; he’s a perfectionist with extremely high expectations, and he also has an unbelievable ability to work with focus and space. It was a special kind of collaboration which I learned to love. I consider him a pretty brilliant cameraman.

When I visited the set I had the impression that preparations for shooting were extremely meticulous, though on the other hand that you give your actors a great deal of freedom.
Christian Frosch: I conduct extremely detailed preliminary discussions about the roles, rehearse before shooting, and even during shooting. My intention is making sure the first take works, because the acting’s usually the best in that one. You have to keep rehearsing until you have the sense that the time is right, otherwise you end up shooting the rehearsals. I think that now I have a good sense of when everything’s ready. In addition the actors were extremely well prepared. They had a good idea of how they were going to approach their character in the film, the only thing left for me to do was the fine-tuning.

Did the authentic atmosphere at Alt Erlaa affect production?
Christian Frosch: Yes, I feel a little bit at home there now, even if I have extremely ambivalent feelings about it. I can understand what the people there like about it, though on the other hand it still overwhelms me in a way, just like at the beginning. Everything seems completely artificial to me because of the large size. There’s an extreme contradiction between the inside and outside, these gigantic structures on the one hand and the extremely low ceilings in the apartments, which are somewhat oppressive, on the other. The contradiction between the claustrophobic atmosphere inside and the huge dimensions outside is made tangible in the film.

The film plays with the psychothriller genre, were there any models for it?
Christian Frosch: There’s the subgenre of the paranoid thriller, where I really like a few films by Polanski. We also looked at some completely different things, such as a lot of Bergmann, even though I’ve never been much of a Bergmann fan, Persona was an extremely important film for the schizoid thing. Antonioni, Polanski, Nicholas Roeg, Hitchcock. We just looked at a lot of different things, and asked ourselves questions. We didn’t want to copy trends, but tried to cut contemporary film out and look at what can be used from the vocabulary of a century of film.

Does the film have a certain timelessness?
Christian Frosch: That was intentional. Stylistically the set design was inspired by the seventies, which constantly broke away from earlier eras. We thought this futurism of the past was extremely attractive. It now has a certain kind of patina and a contradictory aspect because it refers to a future that never came about in quite that way, and which is now historical. Giovanni Scribano contributed an extremely unusual set design, not with the seventies elements which are currently hip, but more gloomy, “unattractive” ones.


Interview: Karin Schiefer
© 10/2006 Austrian Film Commission