«Somebody who is in a state of conflict with his body and his illness represents a theme that interests me a lot.»

Peter Brunner talks about Those Who Fall Have Wings, selected for the Chrystal Globe competition at Karlovy Vary.

The film begins with dream images accompanying a poem by Heinrich Heine set to music by Robert Schuman. To what extent did lyricism shape the screenplay of Those Who Fall Have Wings?
PETER BRUNNER:  The "screenplay" itself was a collage of drafts from concrete situations, still photographs of locations and sketches illustrating the main themes. It was an attempt to liberate myself from the obligations and delays inherent in the subsidy system, and also to escape from the process of classic scriptwriting. Not that I want to demonize scriptwriting: I worked for three and a half years on the script for the feature film To The Night, which I hope to shoot in Vienna with FreibeuterFilm and American co-producers in 2016. I hope we'll get subsidies for the project. But for Those Who Fall Have Wings a different process was necessary, comparable to the first, intuitive recording of a song. I developed the basis in a short period of time and then started weaving cobwebs around it. The Heinrich Heine poem set to music by Robert Schumann was part of this, and it was recorded before we started shooting, but then we decided to leave out the piano in order to make the voice appear more solitary and vulnerable. From the very beginning the song was a barometer of the mood. The title of the film is borrowed from a line in Ingeborg Bachmann's poem The Game is Over. The poem was one of the basic inspirations for the film. 
Following My Blind Heart, you are also attempting in this film to capture in images a person's mental world, with all its different layers. Would it be correct to describe this as the core of your efforts as a filmmaker?
Internal and external reality does constitute a crucial motif for me. For a long time I've been interested in other people’s phantasmatic states, and in my own, and in the attempt to find translations, stories and characters for them. My next film will also deal with a person who is, like me, searching with the artistic means at his disposal to find a language for states which exist beyond words. 
Does this also give rise to a fundamental search for the limitations of cinematic language?
PETER BRUNNER: The more something remains indefinite and imprecise, the more it appeals to me. Imprecise doesn't mean that everything is random but instead that some ideas can transport more as sketches, and that the essence of the issue being dealt with can flow in a different way if it is not limited and not named. I'm interested in the abstract as a point of departure. Naturally it's a risk to make a film with such a slow pulse – with not much action and with texts off. This film is a small production which is not intended for a large audience. That's why we were able to try out so much. 
The freedom of Jonas Mekas’ As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty changed my life when I was 17. The borders keep on shifting. As far as I'm concerned, searching for the limitations of cinematic language has something to do with the search for limitations in general, which I have enjoyed ever since the days of the sandpit – much to the dismay of my playmates. 

Grief, loss, farewell and the associated pain are the central themes of your new work. The film is dedicated to your grandmother. Was the loss of your grandmother what prompted you personally to make this film?
PETER BRUNNER: For the last years of her life my grandma was looked after in a residential care situation. Dementia – to be completely unromantic about it – turned her into a shadow of her former self. On the other hand, she would scan the features of the person facing her as if she were experiencing poignant memories of a distant but familiar odor that she couldn't put into words. It's never clear how much of your own ideas you are interpreting in the behavior of somebody who is ill in this way, and how much is actually there. The sense of uncertainty was one thing that prompted me to make the film. Somebody who is in a state of conflict with his body and his illness represents a theme that interests me a lot. I'm very pleased that the actors in the film were so open in their engagement with such a difficult subject, and also that they discovered the contrast that a light, free approach can create to that difficulty. 

The questions explored by the film are questions which are anchored firmly in childhood experience. They are posed by a 15-year-old protagonist and her 4-year-old sister. What role does a child's perspective have in this film?
PETER BRUNNER: Touching and experimenting. Exploring borders. Unspectacular, dramatically unsatisfying moments where, on the other hand, so much happens: when you're a child you have time for that, although not everything you do must have a deeper meaning, or ought to. I still remember the first time I discovered my shadow when I was a little boy. Some parents don't even notice that sort of thing, and other parents enjoy it with the child. The perspective of a child is what shapes my memories of my grandmother's house, where the film is located. That perspective automatically guided the film. I automatically allowed myself to be guided by the perspective of Jana and Pia. The phase when you discover that you will die one day can't have been pleasant for anybody. But at the same time I think that as a person who makes films you're reliant on the child's perspective, and you have to be careful you don't let it slip out of your grasp.
Jana McKinnon is a very young actress you have already worked with on My Blind Heart. Was that experience what made you want her to play the protagonist in your next film?
PETER BRUNNER: Absolutely. After My Blind Heart I really wanted to film To the Night, and I have written a leading role for Jana.  But unfortunately we are still working on financing it, so it was important that we should do something else. The way we worked on Those Who Fall Have Wings was different than in the past. We developed the character and then fine-tuned her universe instead of rehearsing scenes to death. Jana is a real spiritual warrior! A creative collaborator. And she makes films herself, too. I'm really curious to see what else she'll get up to!
I wasn't able to find anything about Renate Hild as a professional actress during my research; how did you choose her for the part of the grandmother?
PETER BRUNNER: That’s because she's my mother and has never appeared in front of a film camera before. It's incredible, the risk she took. But our team was always welcoming and supportive. We were working with a very limited budget and a very tight shooting schedule. Without that team a film of this sort would never be possible. I was only able to create this film because I knew that the bond I was looking for between Jana and Renate would be visible. 
The pain of loss is placed in the context of beautiful memories from the fine times spent together with the grandmother, thus underlining the importance of such communication. How important for you was this aspect of passing on experiences, which he is conveyed by the grandmother while the parents are virtually absent?
PETER BRUNNER: Unfortunately it isn’t possible to pass on personal experiences, which is why we all have to make the same stupid mistakes. At the same time, there’s nothing more important than making the effort to pass on your own experience. Who do you make films for? Who do you write songs for? I wouldn't call myself an optimist, but I am optimistic that somebody will see the film and agree with our perspective. We deliberately left Kati’s backstory open. There are references to her parents, but nothing is resolved. When one generation is missing the bridge that is built between the previous generation takes on a very special significance. That's also connected with individual freedom and establishing borders, which you experience in a different way with grandparents than with parents. At least, that's how it was with me.

Interview: Karin Schiefer
June 2015
«The more something remains indefinite and imprecise, the more it appeals to me.»