(BLICKPUNKT FILM) A film about Fassbinder needs to rock!
Oskar Roeher’s Cannes Selection title, Rainer-Werner-Fassbinder-Biopic, will be opening the Filmfest Hamburg tomorrow. It is a very personal project for the filmmaker, and already has a long story behind it.
Your film tells the story of one of the most renowned, German filmmakers, also internationally. How did you approach this icon?
O.R.: I associate Rainer Werner Fassbinder with my experiences with his work at a very young age. In the home theater of my boarding school, I saw films like "Händler der vier Jahreszeiten", "Angst essen seele auf" or "Mutter Küster's Fahrt zum Himmel" during the 70s, which burned into my brain with their socio-political content. "In einem jahr mit 13 Monden" is personally my favorite film, I also love his bizarre comedies like "Satansbraten" clip or "Warnung vor einer heiligen Nutte". Fassbinder was, and is a hero to me, for my generation of artists, an outsider who, in his films, critically dealt with the establishment and put his finger in the wound. So I felt the need to erect a memorial to what I considered to be the most important German filmmaker of the post-war period. Especially in view of today's society, in which freedoms are limited, and a German film industry that is not flexible as it was in Fassbinder’s time, but in which safe thinking and self-censorship prevail. It goes so far that you have to incorporate a gay couple into your story, hire a black actor, or let a character not say things that could offend someone. To put it even more bluntly, it feels like 99 percent work as command takers for this overdeveloped industry and there is only one percent freedom. "Enfant terrible" shows that filmmaking can be done differently, with enthusiasm, with a passion for experimentation and for social reflection!
How did you and screenwriter, Klaus Richter, develop the script?
O.R.: Klaus Richter and I went to a retreat seven years ago and came up with the concept of telling the rise and fall of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who enjoyed the status of genius, created a huge, multi-layered work in a short time and ruined himself. We wanted to tell an artist drama that tends towards melodrama - enriched with the black humour that I have acquired over the course of over 20 years in the film industry. It's about power, about passion, like Fassbinder's guilt when dealing with others. He has transferred his own experiences with interpersonal power structures into a broader context in his films. We wanted to describe all of these and the aforementioned aspects of his artistic work.
Klaus Richter worked his way through the extensive Fassbinder literature and we were particularly inspired by the biographical writings of his employees about him, which I would describe as loving accounts. Of course, we also watched all of his appearances that have been preserved for posterity.
What caused the realisation of “Enfant Terrible” to take so long?
O.R.: The project was partly on hold and the shooting was delayed for years. I am particularly sorry that Klaus Richter, who died two years ago, was no longer able to see the film because of this. The originally planned budget of seven million euros turned into three million. Barbara Buhl and Gebhard Henke from the WDR and the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW remained loyal to me for a long time. It was also important that Weltkino joined. Without producer Markus Zimmer from Bavaria Film and my agent Mechthild Holter, the film would not exist. At some point I was so frustrated that I wanted to quit, Mechthild Holter convinced me to hold on.
It was worth it! For example, the idea of having the film played in a theater setting works extremely well.
O.R.: I developed my talent as a former underground filmmaker and decided, instead of shooting expensively at original locations in Morocco, Spain, Italy and France, to do everything in the studio in Germany with simple backdrops. I took over the set design at the same time, had sprayers design the scenery according to my instructions. We also deliberately limited ourselves and only used a single bar setting, one street instead of the several originally planned - like in classic B-Pictures. When my brilliant cameraman Carl-Friedrich Koschnick showed me the lighting concept, I thought, wow! We have succeeded in creating an artificial, also artistic, cosmos of our own, similar to the one in which Fassbinder moved. Due to a lack of time and money, I shot almost like Fassbinder, very quickly and economically. We only had 25 days of shooting. As in the theatre, we rehearsed every day, sometimes three to four hours for a scene, in order to ensure the necessary concentration, so that usually one take was enough.
You also have an incredible Ensemble.
O.R.: Yes, shooting with the ensemble was great fun. In fact, it was first said of the cast I proposed that it was too old. But I really wanted to have Oliver Masucci, I needed a theatre animal, an attention seeker like him to rock the film. A film about Fassbinder has to rock! I chose the other cast to suit him, such as Katja Riemann or less well-known faces such as the Austrian actors Hary Prinz or Anton Rattinger. I argued that my favorites were better than actors from a much younger generation could be. They know a lot more, know the time and the protagonists partly from their own experience. That's why it was important to me that people who worked with Fassbinder, like Eva Mattes or Isolde Barth, play along. Incidentally, after a very short time the audience does not even notice that the actors are too old for their roles.
You like surrounding yourself with long-known crew members, such as Carl-Friedrich Koschnick. How was working with Editor Hansjörg Weißbrich for the first time?
O.R.: It was a great experience. He cut the film perfectly on his own, so that when I came to him in the editing room, I actually only had to fine-tune some small details. When you deal with professionals, you will be rewarded. This applies to the crew as well as to the ensemble. He also made great suggestions for the music. The music from Fassbinder's “Querelle", which is the main melodramatic motif, is based on his idea. Klaus Richter proposed" Goldener Reiter "and all the other songs in the film. As the son of a Reeperbahn pub-owner, he was an expert on post-war hits, including Italian ones.
Your film convinced the organisers of Festival de Cannes. How did you feel when you first heard “Enfant Terrible” was selected?
O.R.: Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux congratulated Markus Zimmer and later wrote to us that "Enfant terrible" got to their hearts like none of the other titles they had chosen. They gave us a warm welcome to the club and encouraged me to carry on, I should make an effort so that they can invite my next film again. That was good, of course. And I made new friends. Frémaux offered to support me if I wanted to do a co-production with France. Maybe I should to try somewhere else.
Now “Enfant Terrible” will open the Filmfest Hamburg.
O.R.: We were of course very happy about this invitation, precisely because the film festival is paid special attention as one of the first festivals to be held in-person, in the cinema with an audience, as a "real" festival. With the opening of the film festival the cinema story of "Enfant terrible" only begins and launches with the premieres in Essen, Munich and Berlin to the nationwide release on October 1st.