«What interests me most is telling a thriller at an extremely slow pace. I dont want viewers to just forget time for
ninety minutes. I want them to become conscious of it.» Götz Spielmann about Revanche.
The title Revanche clearly reflects the theme of your new film. Should we expect a classic story of revenge?
Götz Spielmann: Possibly classic, but not in the sense of genre cinema. That doesnt interest me so much, I work intuitively
rather than according to a concept. While the story definitely contains some elements of suspense, Ive tended to disguise
them in this production through my directing rather than elaborate on them. The suspense doesnt occupy the foreground
So is the theme of guilt more important?
Götz Spielmann: The question of guilt was certainly the main theme at the beginning, the initial intellectual impetus, though
that shifted gradually. What the film explores more deeply now, and that doesnt sound like it conforms with the Zeitgeist,
is the secret behind life. Thats where my focus turned, to the secret, the riddle that life represents to me. Life,
and I believe in its beauty. To put it in banal terms, I believe that despite all the terrible things that happen, despite
all the problems and misunderstandings, despite all the loneliness and conflicts, life is the way it should be. Exploring
that more deeply is what Im doing right now. This focus was probably a part of the story from the beginning, but concealed,
and now Im starting to discover it by working with it. Theres an uppermost level, a story of revenge which is
told in an extremely clear and relatively stringent way, with a story of guilt and an obvious main character, a hero.
Thats the surface. Deeper down, I hope, the film tells us about a kind of stillness behind things. Its difficult
to express that in words, because it refers to a realization, knowledge or experience which begins beyond conscious thought
The storys constructed in such a way that the question of guilt can be interpreted in an extremely relative and subjective
Götz Spielmann: Thats right. In that sense the films obviously a sequel to Antares. It should be clear that the
characters see, and are able to see, nothing more than portions of reality. In addition it involves a search for identity
and the fact that an inner feeling is connected to an external reality?in a truly tense situation or positive harmony, so
that the inside and outside are not in grotesque contradiction to one another.
Two worlds meet, that of prostitutes and pimps and the conventionality of rural life. You once said something about the former,
the setting of your last play, Imperium, that its in a sense a condensed outline of society as a whole. In what way?
Götz Spielmann: For two reasons: Firstly because when you look behind the scenes, its all about making money, some amount
of profit, and an incredible number of things are subordinate to that. Thats also what makes up todays society,
and its also one of our fundamental problems. Secondly people constantly try to conceal the banality of this, give it
more false significance, and hide the primitive greed driving it, the need that creates it. I see in this a more intense,
simpler and therefore extremely obvious analogy to the current state our society.
You directed two stage plays between Antares and Revanche one by Schnitzler and one of your own, Imperium. Is Revanche a further development of the material from Imperium?
Götz Spielmann: No, these two projects were in fact created completely parallel to one another. The idea behind Revanche is older than the play. The play revolves around a medium-size brothel owner whos ruined by his plan for life, which
is too narrow and too superficial. In the case of Revanche the brothel owner is a secondary figure whose main function is to represent the milieu which Im now quite familiar
with from research.
Did these last two works cast a new light on your films and alter your approach?
Götz Spielmann: No, not really. My theatrical work enriches my other work through different experiences, stimulates my thinking
through working closely with great plays. But my film work isnt really influenced by it. At the same time however, everything
has some kind of influence, so thats true, I suppose. But Im not aware of precisely how, I dont notice it.
Working with actors is known to be an important part of your work as a director. Compared to Antares there are some new faces, how was the cast chosen for Revanche?
Götz Spielmann: When you avoid the beaten paths with well-known celebrities you can discover great new actors. Discovering
new faces isnt really my intention, that just happens because I look for the best possible cast without any preconceived
notions and do a lot of looking around and auditions beforehand. In the case of Johannes Krisch Ive felt for a long
time that theres a movie actor with a great deal of potential. This is his first leading role in a theatrical film.
A real discovery for Austrian cinema, in my opinion. I hope that others will see it that way too. For the role of Tamara we
looked for a young Russian actress, did auditions in Moscow, Kiev, and finally in Bucharest. Then we found Irina Potapenko
in Berlin. Shes originally from Ukraine, then moved to Berlin at the age of eight and grew up there. She plays a prostitute
and prepared by spending a few nights with the women at a brothel in Vienna, observing the clients and getting to know the
life. A part that takes a great deal out of her emotionally, which she put a great deal of dedication into. I considered Andreas
Lust for a part in Antares, and he really convinced me, even though I decided on someone else in the end. He plays a policeman
who accidentally shoots and kills a young woman and has psychological problems as a result. He spent some time with the police
in Gföhl to better slip into the character and the milieu. I think Ursula Strauss is one of the most interesting actresses
of her generation, and it was high time for us to work together. I was thinking about her when I wrote the screenplay. It
was the same with Hannes Thanheiser, who plays the old farmer. He had small parts in Erwin und Julia and Antares. The farmer
was written for him. But choosing the cast isnt the only important thing, rehearsals are too. I spend a few weeks working
with the actors before shooting starts, and we condense the figures and scenes, filling them out and setting them free.
Your work with Martin Gschlacht has turned out well for some time now.
Götz Spielmann: Turned out well doesnt do it justice, its more than that. Our third film together and our collaboration
has become extremely intuitive, extremely precise without a great deal of talking. Weve also become friends over the
years, which is a beautiful thing, working together with friends. Beforehand we talk about the resolution, specific images,
technique, etc., and a great deal about the story, its hidden meaning, the films basic formal concept, rhythm and style.
We mostly work with natural light and go to the limits of whats possible with the 35mm stock. At the same time it should
look good, and not be an attempt to simulate documentary authenticity à la Dogma. Extremely few cuts, long shots.
Of course that involves the danger that there are many fewer possibilities to make corrections during editing. Everything
must be precisely planned for shooting. Thats what we look for during shooting, and then we dont have to do much
talking about what we want, it has become natural. A director couldnt ask for anything more.
This is the first film youve produced with your own company. What was behind this decision?
Götz Spielmann: Simply because I never really felt that with any of my previous films I never found a producer who made me
feel I was in good hands. I run my company together with my wife, Sandra Bohle. Were producing the film together with
Prisma-Film, and the combination of individuals and our work together has turned out extremely well so far. I expected shooting
would be more difficult, as I had to think and act as both the director and producer. But the opposite was the case. A lot
of things are much easier. I have the sense that I can plan and make decisions in a much better way for the good of the film
and the great crew. We work hard, all of us together, but we enjoy working in this way. At least I hope the majority saw it
like that. As producers we tried our best to make this atmosphere possible.
What role does time play in this story?
Götz Spielmann: In my opinion the best films are the ones where time is transformed into a space for experience. Like a river
you watch flow by, where all the water eventually comes together in a sea at the end. On the one hand story-telling in film
is bound to time like any other dramatic art. But the most important experiences in life happen in a place where time is suspended,
and play a role. Thats why I always see my work as taking place on two different levels. The story youre telling
is a means to this end, but it isnt the purpose or the destination. Everything needs a surface, a superficial
level in the film which must fit and which requires suspense, though that isnt the most important thing. Sometimes not
making use of this suspense might be the right thing to do, if that would go too deep or interfere with something behind the
story too much. You could say thats the deception in filmmaking. Revanche is a very precisely written story, but the focus when it was being made wasnt producing as much suspense or breathlessness
as possible. Telling the story of Revanche in a way which creates a maximum amount of suspense would be easy to do. The important thing for me was a formal and esthetic
slowness. In my opinion thats the exciting thing and the risky aspect of the film. What interests me most is telling
a thriller at an extremely slow pace. I dont want viewers to just forget time for ninety minutes thanks to cinematic
mechanisms and its methods of manipulation. I want them to become conscious of it. Thats when you can truly overcome
Interview: Karin Schiefer