Götz Spielmann about REVANCHE


«What interests me most is telling a thriller at an extremely slow pace. I don’t 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 doesn’t interest me so much, I work intuitively rather than according to a concept. While the story definitely contains some elements of suspense, I’ve tended to disguise them in this production through my directing rather than elaborate on them. The suspense doesn’t occupy the foreground for me.

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 doesn’t sound like it conforms with the Zeitgeist, is the secret behind life. That’s 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 I’m doing right now. This focus was probably a part of the story from the beginning, but concealed, and now I’m starting to discover it by working with it. There’s 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.” That’s the surface. Deeper down, I hope, the film tells us about a kind of stillness behind things. It’s difficult to express that in words, because it refers to a realization, knowledge or experience which begins beyond conscious thought and language.

The story’s constructed in such a way that the question of guilt can be interpreted in an extremely relative and subjective way.
Götz Spielmann: That’s right. In that sense the film’s 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 it’s 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, it’s all about making money, some amount of profit, and an incredible number of things are subordinate to that. That’s also what makes up today’s society, and it’s 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 who’s 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 I’m 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 isn’t really influenced by it. At the same time however, everything has some kind of influence, so that’s true, I suppose. But I’m not aware of precisely how, I don’t 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 isn’t 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 I’ve felt for a long time that there’s 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. She’s 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 isn’t 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 doesn’t do it justice, it’s more than that. Our third film together and our collaboration has become extremely intuitive, extremely precise without a great deal of talking. We’ve 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 film’s basic formal concept, rhythm and style. We mostly work with natural light and go to the limits of what’s 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. That’s what we look for during shooting, and then we don’t have to do much talking about what we want, it has become natural. A director couldn’t ask for anything more.

This is the first film you’ve 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. We’re 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. That’s why I always see my work as taking place on two different levels. The story you’re telling is a means to this end, but it isn’t the purpose or the destination.  Everything needs a surface, a superficial level in the film which must fit and which requires suspense, though that isn’t 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 that’s the deception in filmmaking. Revanche is a very precisely written story, but the focus when it was being made wasn’t 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 that’s the exciting thing and the risky aspect of the film. What interests me most is telling a thriller at an extremely slow pace. I don’t 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. That’s when you can truly overcome it.


Interview: Karin Schiefer
Juli 2007