INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR ROLAND REBER (Director, writer, camera)
How did the initial idea to the film come?
RR: It was during the Film Festival in Cannes. I had an appointment for lunch with an American producer and director. On the table, there were paper place mats, with the notice of a “24/7 office service in Cannes”. Then I said to the American, look, do you have 24/7 too – which is an expression from
the S&M scene in Europe. He said yes, we have restaurants opened 24 hours too. Then we started to discuss, about moral concepts and clichés, because he knew only clichés. There I said, well, I am not an SMer, I do not belong to any scene, but I can not imagine that dominatrixes are the way they are shown on RTL. And so the discussion became more and more profound and that’s when we said, wouldn’t that be a subject – the subject of hidden sexuality: hidden not only from the eyes of our neighbours but above all hidden to ourselves. And then we started a long research in striptease bars, in swingers clubs, in all the places which are pretended not to exist, but which everybody knows. And so the idea to the film slowly developed. In the film the subject of sexuality is also a metaphor for the search for identity. It is one way to get to know one’s self, to approach one’s self a little bit through self-definition. And it was important to me, not to make a film which says: do S&M and you are free, go to a swingers club and everything will be fine, no. Also the subject of loneliness, with which we face life, was important to me
What does the title 24 / 7 mean?
RR: 24 hours a day, seven days a week – another expression for “always”.
The film tells about a “journey to the world of sexuality” and also plays with the to us “alien” like the dominatrix Studio. Did the research mean stepping into alien worlds too?
RR: It was immerging into a world which is not our everyday world. But we looked for the dialogue with the people from each scene and tried to depict the atmosphere authentically. That was the point, how can we manage, as not being part of the S&M nor swingers scene, to make it credible.
How far is the film fiction and how much of it is based on research?
RR: The film is fiction, but is based on research, i.e. really existing fantasies, persons, stories – out of the common milieu for example the character of the
father, as well as out of the respective scene, like the character of Elfriede, which was then integrated into the story.
Was it difficult to produce the sometimes very explicit sex scenes with the actors?
RR: No. It was up to the actor to define his own limits and to realize them. This kind of work has been my principle for over 20 years. For me actors are not henchmen of the director or the author, but creative artists who develop their roles. I’m not suited to the work of a tamer. Instead I see myself as a conductor who coordinates the work of the soloists.
Your actors are not only actors but often also involved in other parts of the filmmaking – for example the editing, cinematography, script, production etc. Yourself are not only the director of the film, but also wrote the script and take care of the distribution. What are the advantages of this working method?
RR: In the film industry there has been an ongoing specialisation – a fragmentation of the creativity. Many colleagues think there should be a division between the artistic, technical and administrating positions. I do not think so. Creativity is not divisible – not to be understood separately – but is always a holistic process. We are not a company that produces films, we are filmmakers. Filmmakers make films. And this is an integral process – and one to enjoy. Mira Gittner for example, not only played one of the main parts, but was also the director of photography and the editor of the movie and wrote the script together with Marina Anna Eich, also one of the main parts, is responsible for the international sales, the distribution and the public relations. Like this we represent “our” film, and not a product from other people. I would never talk of “my movie”, but always “our” – it is teamwork. Many actors often see themselves in a fulfilling position. They say: “I took part in a movie”. They distance themselves with the argument that they are only actors. With us nobody is “only”. The film industry is dominated by bankers and businessmen. They rob the film’s soul. If I see these puffed-up would-be film representatives, I know that it is time to give back the films to those, who do not consider a film as an investment, but as a statement – the filmmaker.
You shot at original sites, amongst others in an S&M-Studio and in a swingers club. How did that influence the working on the movie?
RR: A film studio is always scenery that lacks life. It remains an artificial place. We wanted to shoot at places which made it possible to everyone participating, to feel the authenticity.
The surrounding is not very common – was there any reluctance (in dealing with the “real” persons involved)?
RR: The set of a swingers club or an S&M-Studio is not common, but the people frequenting them are. If one looks behind the “scenery” or the “costumes” of these areas, one meets ordinary people who perhaps try to take off their ordinariness for a little while. I would define it as a Disneyland for adults. And fear and repulsion do only emerge because we do not know something, because it is alien. And I think it is alarming that in the 21st century, it really happened, when we told that we were going to shoot a film that is located among other places in an S&M Studio, well educated and intelligent people seriously asked us, how we were going to protect ourselves when frequenting “these” people. I thought the question was amusing, because many people whom I met in the S&M Studio were so harmlessly normal, that they would have been very disappointed, if they had come with us.
Was there an experience during the shooting that particularly impressed you?
RR: Every day of the shooting impressed me. Surely there were some experiences that will be one of my anecdotes now. To tell all of them would take too long for this interview. Already the research for the movie often brought us into situations which are worth to remember. For example as we looked for the location for the scenes in the swingers club, the owner of the swingers club nearly slammed the door in our face, thinking neighbours sent us to spy out his guests. Also the casting of the “real swingers” was somehow appealing. Especially because we had to make clear, that we were not shooting the 160th part of “Liebe Sünde” or an erotic show for RTL. If you use the term “impress”, I can tell you from my experience, that something which we do not know leaves an impression. As soon as the unknown gets part of our experiences, it loses it’s emphasised position and becomes ordinary. In our production notes, you can find many occurrences, which demonstrate this.
What was your motivation to deal with the subject of sexual obsession/perversion? What do you want to show the viewer?
RR: Sexuality is an universal subject, that unfortunately is often only dealt with, to rise the viewing figures. A serious analysis – also with what we do not know – is not taking place most of the time. Perverted comes from the Latin word “perversus” (twisted) – nothing negative at first. In our society, pervert is mostly used in a pejorative way. For me, terms of our politics and social moral are perverted. For me, a person who prostitutes herself every day in work, family and society is more perverted than a person that lives up to her sexual inclination. Evidently only if he respects the self-determination and the freedom of the opposite. In every city these places (Swingers club, striptease bar, S&M-Studio, whorehouse) exist, which the society hides with shame and still visits. Many even hide their sexual fantasies from themselves. They try to fit the predominant opinion, not to stand out. But like this, they do not make the fantasy undone. They prefer to wait for the next vacation, carnival, or the Oktoberfest… All this was motivation enough for us to deal with this subject.
How do you see the subject of sexuality in relation with society?
RR: In the mid 70ies I thought, the times of sexual repression, and that this should be a subject at all, were over and that it was finally liberal. But I observe, especially since the 90ies, a strong conservative tendency, only that the appearances are deceptive and the surface seems liberal. We see naked people in magazines, the people dress in a sexy way, but there is nothing behind it. There is a sexual denial which probably is politically intended. Society defines some rooms to move and as long as you move inside of them – that’s what I mean by surface – it appears liberal. But as soon as you move outside, you will quickly experience the boundaries. I think we should quickly achieve a tolerance inside society, where the sexual inclination is no longer the base of a professional or social judging, but really private.
The film also plays with a certain religious symbolism. Where do you see the relation to religion?
RR: In this society we are all formed by a Christian conception of the world since 2000 years, whether we want or not, whether we belong to a religious community or not. And therefore also by a 2000 year old sexual moral, which is the achievement of the roman-catholic church and influences our world unquestioned – where does this moral concept come from, is it constructed, who constructed it, why was it constructed. I am not hostile to religion, all the opposite, I think everyone should believe in what he wants. This is the first relation to religion. The second one is, that sexuality is also a search for identity, for surmounting the loneliness, a search for the own self and an origin, however we want to call it. Religion and Sexuality have a great relation, if one accepts it.
Besides the main actresses Marina Anna Eich and Mira Gittner one can also see amateur actors in 24/7 – The Passion of Life. How was the casting for this movie?
RR: Besides many professional actors, also some people from the scene have participated in the movie. For the minor roles in the swingers club we wanted to take “non-swingers” at first. But I think this would have become embarrassing. One who is not used to sit on bar stools in underwear or tiger-tanga and should appear natural, will fail in this task. So we asked the owner of the swingers club to ask in between his guests, who is interested in participating in a movie. After that we had many conversations and then made the choice. The shootings were very agreeable, because every one involved was having fun. At the S&M-Studio the guests soon noticed that there were shootings going on. One or the other approached us and we chose two of them.
How did you come to filmmaking?
RR: I worked at theatre as an actor, author and director for twenty years in Germany and internationally. If I wanted to say something, I wrote a play and produced it. At a time, there was the point where I noticed that the stage has restricted borders which should be exceeded. That’s how I came to filmmaking, because cinema gives me the creative freedom and is nearer to the spectator than theatre is. For me, filmmaking is like talking and it is nearer to myself. But as I do not understand myself entirely, I do not understand my films entirely. Even if the films I make have a particular handwriting, the stile and the handling of each movie depends on the subject, which is different from one to another.
What is your next project?
RR: At the moment I do research, together with Mira Gittner, to the subject of mind control. It is an exciting subject, that is again treating a hot, even if not sexual, subject. It is about manipulation, secret research and politics. The question about “perversion” would be more adequate there.