How a film is born – Part 2

Interview with the filmmaker Rüdiger Sünner, Berlin (for LOGON: Angela Paap)

How a film is born – Part 2

To part 1


A.: When you make a film, intensive preparations concerning the people involved, be it Rilke, Hammarskjöld or someone else, are necessary. They involve journeys, endless conversations, research and in the end you have to intuitively put the puzzle pieces together, so that something new comes of it, out of which there will be a complete film. Would you like to tell us something about this process?

R.: There is always something new that develops. It is adventurous. I have a story board; I know more or less what there should be in the film. But what surprises me every time is the rhythm. The rhythm: what follows when and how. I know my scenes that I filmed, I know my texts that I recorded etc., I know the musical pieces that I might use. Sometimes I wait for the financing for a long time – it sometimes takes half a year to get all the money. In that phase, I always have a lot of time and that is often when the film music emerges. I try lots of sounds, variations, sometimes there are single tones, small melodies, motives or there is just an expanse and I think: this might be it, this might fit, I might use it here or there. This happens even before I film, in the phase between writing the screenplay and when the financing process is complete. Filming usually occurs afterwards.

And then I have dozens, hundreds of motives, expanses, atmospheres on the musical level. Usually I don’t know exactly when I will use what, but they very often call for each other. Sometimes a picture needs a tone and sometimes a tone needs a picture. This is a correspondence that you could almost call magical. It can be that I finish a scene with a certain sound and this sound conjures up the next image. It is the same with the texts.

Texts, sounds, images, these are the three elements that can conjure up each other.

I feel more and more like an assistant, it is basically a joyful kind of slavery because the film has become the master. Usually this starts after a few minutes of the film are done. In the beginning I am completely free, I set a start, this can be anything, but after 10 or 20 or 30 minutes – it gets worse and worse – the living organism, which is the film, tells me: This doesn’t work at all, forget it, go in another direction. It shows a tendency, possibilities. Yes, I think, this is true, now I find it much more plausible. Then I play with the possibilities and by doing so, it becomes clear that only one of the five possibilities can be the one.

The film accepts this gratefully, it allows me, so to speak, to continue with it. OK, you have chosen the right thing, it tells me. These are real dialogues.

After 60 minutes, it gets overwhelming, but it is also beautiful because the film is already there, something has been done and the film has a majestic authority, it has become a living being.

There is a great feeling of happiness when I feel that I have done many things right, that the film is alive. There is something that is strong, now I mustn’t make any mistakes because if you now make a mistake, you can forget the whole thing. This happens very quickly: a wrong tone, a wrong text, a wrong picture, a wrong rhythm and each viewer – I am convinced about this – will feel it. He will think: Ah, this was strange, this wasn’t good. You cannot do this because then the viewer will fall out of the film and he is no longer in the flow. And therefore, it takes more and more responsibility the further the film progresses. You are facing a being, with which you are in a constant dialogue.

A.: This is actually nice because it proves the liveliness of a work of art – no matter what kind of work of art it is about. I would like to ask you one last question:Do you experience through what art does to you – no matter whether it is your own art or someone else’s – that it drives you on personally or that it inspires you or that it would like to take shape in some other way in your life?

Art which nourishes the soul

R.: Yes, sure. I think I can say that art is the greatest treasure of my life. Dealing with art, music, literature, painting has been an indispensable part of my life for as long as I can remember. I cannot imagine life without art. Therefore, it worries me that our society does not attach a high importance to art. If I watch the cultural programmes on television, whether it is modern theatre, modern literature or films – there is so little that nourishes my soul, there is so much sensationalism, so much ingratiation to the zeitgeist, productions that want to have a political effect, that are not ambiguous like real art, but which are unambiguous, which have a purpose, which want to be politically correct, so that it sometimes makes me really sad.

However, there is still a great treasure of art from the last centuries, it is so gigantic and I have not even started to open it up. Yesterday evening I found such a treasure on Youtube. It was a wonderful series called “Discovering Beethoven”. There was a talk between Joachim Kaiser, the great music critic and the conductor Christian Thielemann, one of the most exciting conductors of our time. They talked about Beethoven’s symphonies, about the Pastorale and the Eroica. This was incredibly liberating and stimulating and it gave me so much power that I thought: We need a lot of energy at the moment. Where should it come from? Actually there should be lots of these programmes, but this is not the case in the public media. Art has an alibi function there and it always has to stick to the zeitgeist in order to remain relevant. But all of a sudden this Beethoven symphony was so relevant – at that moment in which these two great musicians talked about it, it was so up to date and relevant and so important that the 200 years since then are completely unimportant. This music is a reservoir of consolation and inspiration for me, particularly in times like these.

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Date: June 10, 2020
Author: Angela Paap (Germany)
Photo: AndreasN auf Pixabay CCO

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