Götz Spielmann talks about ANTARES

«Antares is the largest star in the constellation of Scorpius, a red binary star. The name is from the Greek and means Anti-Mars. The film comprises three interconnected stories that are in a sense three 'Scorpio stories' with intense emotions, both positive and negative: sex, jealousy, violence, crisis and death. »

What does the film's title mean?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: Antares is the largest star in the constellation of Scorpius, a red binary star. The name is from the Greek and means "anti-Mars." The film comprises three interconnected stories that are in a sense three "Scorpio stories" with intense emotions, both positive and negative: sex, jealousy, violence, crisis and death.

What's the motivation behind this narrative concept of three sequential episodes?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: A long while ago I started thinking about the fact that we're all part of interrelationships which are far bigger than we realize. In other words, solitude and isolation are illusions of our consciousness. I'm fascinated by telling three stories playing out simultaneously which are related without the protagonists being of aware if it. I didn't want to use more or less coincidental parallel montage for that, so I chose a sequential structure. With each story these interrelationships and the fact that all living things belong to a much larger web are made increasingly clear. In addition it was important to me to alter and expand upon the dramatic possibilities which were available, thereby getting away from the classic style of narration. I love refracting the classic dramatic structure in such a way that a clear story's still produced which the audience can comprehend both emotionally and intellectually.

Which was probably made more difficult by the fact that the screenplay wasn't laid down to the last detail.

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: Yes and no. The screenplay wasn't as sketchy as it first seems, it was quite precise with regard to the dramatic structure, and the characters also. I merely reversed the process of working with the actors and writing the dialog. I worked with the actors first, on their characters, so that they could discover who they are, their conflicts and personalities. The dialogs were then created on that basis. It was more a matter of guided improvisation pointed in the direction I wanted to go. Working with actors represents another challenge I often think aboutæthe question of how to create living, vivid action in a film without sacrificing precise form and precision in the direction.

Did it take long to find the right people?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: Of course, it takes a lot of time when you don't always follow the set paths of casting. It requires more effort, but that's the only way to achieve superior results. We looked at theaters, acting schools and contacted people who had stood out in relatively small parts. Andreas Kiendl and Martina Zinner, Dennis Cubic and Susanne Wuest are for the most part unknown and have now appeared in leading roles. And Petra Morzé, although her stage work is well known, represents the discovery of a great film actress. I've wanted to work with Andreas Patton for quite a while, but it hasn't been possible until now because he's German and the authenticity of the language is important to me. Hary Prinz starred in The Stranger. A great ensemble, including the supporting actors.

The film is set in a housing development which conveys a certain uniformity and monotony, but individual stories are revealed behind the façades.

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: There's a great deal of struggle for individuality in the private dwellings of such huge housing developments. These places represent good reproductions of our present-day society. In spite of all the variety in the opportunities for consumption and information, we're constantly served up a monotonous, uniform view of life. It's almost propaganda. At the same time I think that a lot more people than you would assume are resisting it in some way, for their own spiritual survival. The housing development is for me a symbol of monotony on the outside and an internal struggle for what people considered necessary for their personal existence. In addition the development links the three stories. A wide variety of social groups and very different kinds of people live in this kind of development. I believe that the monotony conveyed by this kind of neighborhood is in human terms an illusion and at the same time a valid portrait of our society in which everything's becoming more and more monotonous.


A great deal of Antares is about the failure of relationships. Is your view of love between two people pessimistic?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: You could also say that Antares is about the ineradicable desire for love and the difficulty of satisfying this desire. What is pessimism, what is optimism? In my opinion kitschy portrayals of life are extremely pessimistic because no one's life works that way. To me, pessimism is when cowardice and timidity prevent you from facing up to a fact. Compared with mainstream kitsch, Antares is superficially pessimistic, but I would say that in a deeper sense it's much more optimistic than any prettified story. After all, the task of art is to tell things as they really are, energetically, with gusto and with imagination. After seeing Antares no one would think, relationships are all just stupid, forget it. On the contrary, a lot of people will become more conscious of their love and comprehend that the struggle's worth it. That makes you stronger. Kitsch weakens you.

Although the sex in Antares is very explicit, you consciously distance yourself from mainstream cinema when dealing with the topic.

GÖTZ SPIELMANN:  Sex is an extremely important subject in life, because it expresses so much about our existence, has a lot to do with chance and a lot with need also. In my opinion, it's essential that the stories I tell have an existential aspect, and that's rarely the case with films in which sex is portrayed, although so many things are outrageously sexualized. We're constantly bombarded with sexual signals, either in the form of pornography or something which is completely devoid of emotion and portrays a thing which is purely physical, mechanical, or in the form of kitsch as a happy, lighthearted source of endless joy when it's done right and a few rules are obeyed. I've always been fascinated by the fact that sex is still a big taboo, not nudity, but in the neglect of its existential side.

It's still a fundamental decision, whether to portray sex or not when telling a story about it, and that also demands a lot of the actors and the director if something unique is to be created.

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: We, the actors and I, and the core crew also, went through a lot of mental preparation beforehand and dealt with this very seriously. As a result we were able to work precisely and without inhibitions. I didn't want to leave it out because a film is determined by what it doesn't show rather than what it does show. When a sexual relationship is involved and I don't show the sex, it takes on much greater significance than if it were shown. And by portraying the physical aspect, I can say something about what's behind it and make a meta-level visible or perceptible. Omitting it would have meant making sex more important than it really is. That's precisely what we didn't want to do, instead of dealing with it matter-of-factly, showing it so that the actual issue's made visible.

What's more important when you direct, dealing with the actors on a psychological level or the formal, visual challenge?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: Personally, I give a great deal more thought to working on form, rhythm, the style, and therefore it occupies a more important place in my filmmaking. Working with actors means on the one hand creating what you need to tell a story, but on the other it's more importantly a kind of communication, extremely sensual and exciting. I put a lot of energy into it and get a lot back in return. But I don't worry about working with actors a lot, I just do it, though I put a lot of thought into form and content. My style, which I work on in a formal way, aims at a simplicity and precision which doesn't seem so spectacular at first glance, and doesn't demonstrate any artistic pretensions, it's concealed and invisible, but for that reason it has an effect which is stronger because it's concealed, a secret power which provides each of my films with most of their energy.


Since the screenplay was to an extent an outline, what was planning the individual images with the cinematographer like?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: My films are all always planned out before shooting starts. The rhythm, the images, the set-up of the scenes, ideas about where I want the actors to go, are all clearly defined and available for later use. When I direct, spontaneity is also extremely important and I compare the idea I already have with what actually happens and what my colleagues themselves add. The collaboration with my cinematographer Martin Gschlacht is nearly ideal. This is our second film after Daybreak, and he's more than just a cameraman to me, he's really an ally on many different levels. During the preparation phase we spoke about concrete matters rarely or not at all, and discussed principles instead. It was a matter of what telling a story in pictures actually means, what kind of images we want to create and why. We rarely worked on setting up scenes or concrete images which then only needed to be realized while shooting: we worked out a common approach. Then a decision was made on location and in the moment concerning how we would shoot something and what we're doing, though on the basis of a great deal of knowledge about our dramatic structure and our style. It was a combination of an extremely precise concept and, up until the last moment, an openness to expansion and inspiration through experience.

A handheld camera was used in certain scenes. How was this realized technically?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN:  We rarely worked with artificial lighting, used highspeed stock and got all we could out of it. That created an extremely pure, authentic character, it doesn't look expensive and makes good use of what's available to us. It also permits extremely flexible, light-footed work because the lighting doesn't require a lot of set-up time. Despite the use of a handheld we worked on the images and the narrative style with a great deal of precision and rigidity. The handheld's used throughout the film for a total of about one quarter of it. Whenever the handheld's used, the choreography with the camerawork and the acting's extremely precise. This was the first time I've worked with a handheld camera, it represents a step forward or a transfer of my style to the possibilities it offers. Martin Gschlacht is brilliant with that also.

After The Stranger there was a TV movie, Daybreak. What interests you most, and what's different about working in the two genres?

GÖTZ SPIELMANN: There isn't that much difference, because I can use my way of telling stories to good advantage in both styles. Cinema's the non plus ultra, the full orchestra, and television's chamber music. Television's more like a kind of popular theater and the popular theater of the 19th century which, although it has such a wonderful reputation, in reality consists mainly of trivialities, not unlike today's television. On the other hand there were also Raimund and Nestroy, who planted something honest in this swamp and managed to reach their audience. I like that about television, the fact that I reach a large number of people. It's a challenge, doing something in the wasteland of TV that creates some productive unrest. I like that, and that's why I want to continue doing it. What makes TV interesting is the tempo. You write the screenplay in January and the finished film is broadcast in December. When you're working in cinema, maintaining the excitement, the passion for a story long enough until financing's obtained is difficult. In the case of Antares I can't complain, everything went surprisingly fast.


Interview: Karin Schiefer (2004)