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ROLAND REBERS CABARET OF DEATH

a film by Roland Reber and Mira Gittner

Germany 2019, feature, media satire, 93 min, rated 12

  • “An exceptional and extravagant viewing experience with high entertainment value.” (DEADLINE magazine)

theatrical release: 23rd january 2020
DVD/BD/online: 27th march 2020

with: Eisi Gulp, Wolfram Kunkel, Mira Gittner, Marina Anna Eich, Antje Nikola Mönning,
Christian Buse, Wolfgang Seidenberg, Waltraut Borchmann, Ricci Hohlt,
Martin Bayer, Elisa Oberzig and many more.

director: Roland Reber
script: Roland Reber, Mira Gittner, Antje Nikola Mönning
music: Antje Nikola Mönning
art work: Mira Gittner (DoP and editing), Steffen Neder (light design)
production manager /line producer: Marina Anna Eich
producers: Patricia Koch, Marina Anna Eich, Antje Nikola Mönning
production, sales & distribution: wtp international

“Don’t fear death, fear an unlived life.”
The film is a satirical comedy about the the joy of life, the fear of ageing and the hunt for likes, followers and the most clicks.

“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Andy Warhol, 1968

What is life? Is it the yearning of a lover, the fear of growing old, the rebellious struggle for a dignified death or the hunt for the most clicks? Is it maybe just a show?

ROLAND REBER’S CABARET OF DEATH paints a multi-layered picture of existence and puts the taboo subject of death back in line into the circle of life.

In various storylines a ruined relationship crosses paths with an old man begging for euthanasia, a live show featuring candidates who are mercilessly sacrificed to the audience, a dancer who cannot escape ageing despite her self-optimization and a man with the mask who craves to be famous at all costs. And between all this, a corpse driver rolls his “clients” through a long corridor and shares his very personal and unaffected thoughts about life and death.

ROLAND REBERS CABARET OF DEATH, the 10th feature film of wtp, celebrated its world premiere at the 53rd International Hof film festival, Germany.  After 24/7 THE PASSION OF LIFE, (2005)  ANGELS WITH DIRTY WINGS (2009), THE TRUTH OF LIE (2011), ILLUSION (2013) and TASTE OF LIFE (2017) wtp international attended this renowned festival for the sixth time.

ROLAND REBERS CABARET OF DEAT is the biggest production of wtp international so far (with 130 participants in front and behind the camera). However wtp remained true to itself concerning the abandonment of any public film funding. With the creativity and commitment of everyone involved they realised again a feature film which will be theatrical released on 23rd January. In march 2020 it will be available on BluRay, DVD and on online platforms.

STATEMENT OF DIRECTOR ROLAND REBER

“The film is based on a stage play which I produced following my father’s death. It was in 1984. Many viewers thought there wasn’t anything like such an interactive entertainment show in which contestants would endure every humiliation for a few likes. Today these shows exist. ‘The dignity of men is unimpeachable’ – that is the central topic of the film for me, the respectful relation to yourself and to others. In life as well as in death. And it starts with language, inter alia. We treat words the same way we treat people. We are living in a social situation heated up by the media and it’s about time that we find our way back to a real discourse so we can act better toward each other.”

Teamwork – literally speaking.

What is so special about wtp international film production is their uncompromising dedication to film which is welding the film production team tightly together since 10 feature films. Additionally to this it’s wtp’s way of producing – including script, production, editing, sales, distribution, dvd-label, public relation all made by the same team – consequently refusing public funding money and co-production with TV stations to keep creative freedom.

To view filmmaking as a creative adventure is typical for Roland Reber and the wtp-team. Without film subsidies but with a small committed group with multiple tasks for each one of them the results is an integrated art work to which everyone involved has a creative relationship.

CAST

CORPS DRIVER      Eisi Gulp
MASK                         Mira Gittner
BILLIE                      Marina Anna Eich
PATSY                      Antje Nikola Mönning
FRANK                     Christian Buse
TALKMASTER          Wolfgang Seidenberg
MR NAUMANN        Wolfram Kunkel
LOLA                         Waltraut Borchmann
HILDE                       Ricci Hohlt

LISA                           Elisa Oberzig
HALLO                      Andreas Pegler
DJ LOL                      Martin Bayer

THREE GRACES     Eva Körber, Edeltraud Klein, Ilse Weber
The KITTIES           Sophie Röhrmoser, Viktoria Jenne, Conny Hohneschläger, Carina Fritsch
MISS APPLE           Bettie Berlin
MEN BALLET        Carsten Conrad, Daniel Kustermann, Thomas Willmann, Florian Kottmair
PETER                     Thomas Bastkowski
UTE                          Ute Meisenheimer
WERNER                  Patrick Grimm
RICHIE                      Bernd Fuchs
MONIQUE                Claire Plaut
STEFFEN                   Steffen Neder
CATCHER                  John „Massive“ Drake
FRIEND                      Angelika Zoller
CITIZEN OF ANGER Holger Menzel
PERSON                       Norbert E. Lex
HERBERT                   Herbert Studtrucker

CREW

director                          Roland Reber
script                              Roland Reber, Mira Gittner, Antje Nikola Mönning
producers                     Patricia Koch, Marina Anna Eich, Antje Nikola Mönning
line producer /
production manager   Marina Anna Eich
assistand of director   Antje Nikola Mönning
editing                            Mira Gittner
music                             Antje Nikola Mönning
art work                        Mira Gittner (DoP), Steffen Neder (light design)
camera assistants        Michi Krauss, Tom Holderried, Thomas Wozny
grip /
light assistants              Andrej Prescher, Zeljko Hajdinjak
set assistants                   Elisa Oberzig, Sophie Krause, Nicki Albrecht

production/sales/distribution    wtp international
Produktionsjahr                          2019
shooting time                              June – July 2019
post production                           August – October 2019
locations                                      Fürstenfeldbruck, Augsburg, München, Landsberg/Lech, Schongau

German Premiere at INTERNATIONAL HOF FILM FESTIVAL, Germany 2019

  • „A movie about death which feels alive and brings big cinema to you without the need of a million budget.“ (3sat KinoKino, German-TV)
  • „…as mad as it sounds…“ (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
  • “An exceptional and extravagant viewing experience with high entertainment value.” (DEADLINE Filmmagazine)

INTERVIEWS

INTERVIEW WITH ROLAND REBER (script and direction)

 How did the idea for this film emerge?

The film is based on a stage play which I produced following my father’s death. It was in 1984. Many viewers thought there wasn’t anything like such an interactive entertainment show in which contestants would endure every humiliation for a few likes. Today these shows exist. A new addition is the great finale, the face of death, the next level of entertainment formats, so to speak.

Dealing with the subject of death

At a young age I worked as an ambulance driver and in the pathology department. I learned a very neutral way of dealing with death there. My father was a carpenter and the graveyard administrator, so I grew up with death. “My death is like a butterfly, constantly flying towards me.” – that’s the way life is. And that’s what you should use and enjoy, in good times and in bad, because all of this constitutes life. I used to enumerate a few things of which I thought my life would not be worth living without. Among them were walking, reading, talking, complete independence. I have lost all of that since my stroke. And I realized that, despite many limitations, my life still is very much worth living and I enjoy it to the fullest every day.

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

“The dignity of men is unimpeachable” – that is the central topic of the film for me, the respectful relation to yourself and to others. In life as well as in death. And it starts with language, inter alia. We treat words the same way we treat people. It has been a key subject for all my life, the careful use of words, that words can be used as a weapon, that we often use them thoughtlessly without considering the consequences. An this goes along with tolerance. To accept yourself the way you are and others the way they are. You don’t need to be in complete agreement, but you should pay respect to different views and not step on them.

You make your films without public funding. What is your mode of production?

The way we produce the films is independent. And for that the best way in my opinion is the individual one. Every filmmaker should follow his own path. We are creating films with low budget so we may produce them on our own and always maintain full authority over every aspect of our work. We use our own equipment and make everything ourselves, from production to post production right up to marketing. This way nobody can interfere and that is what gives us the freedom to be creative.

What will be your next project?

ROLAND REBER’S HOTEL OF LOST DREAMS

What do you want to tell the viewer?

What does the film say? I think, something different to everyone. Film has always been a personal opinion and a dialog with the viewer. And he is what is missing more and more in this age of communication. The dialogue is missing. You talk and talk, but you don’t say anything. We are living in a social situation heated up by the media and it’s about time that we find our way back to a real discourse so we can act better toward each other.

What about the shooting?

Very nice. This film really is an ensemble performance and I am very happy about that. Also positively exhausting. I always want to have the film ready for the Hof International Film Festival, so time is usually getting short. But I enjoyed the time very much and want to say thanks to everyone for taking an active part and for their willingness to communicate with me without the need for many words. And as I have never seen direction as a command headquarter but as a creation of atmospheres, all of it can be done without using many words. For me acting starts to get emotionally moving if it is personal and genuine, and an actor can manage it better if he puts his mind to the part he is playing in contrast to just being a vicarious agent of some godlike commander.

INTERVIEW WITH MIRA GITTNER (part: MASK│cinematography and editing)

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

Dignity, respect, tolerance. It is a pity that intolerance predominates in media and social networks who rather want to express diversity and tolerance. And that everything is overrated so hysterically. Immediately a high momentum with similarities to mass hysteria evolves, which is then stirred up even more when dramatized by the media. Man as an individual is quite a jovial being, but in large groups he can become quite frightening. And then it frequently only needs a spark to turn a reasonably discussing group into a mob. In ancient times there was the polis, the Romans had bread and circuses, in medieval times it was the pillory and today the media. We also hardly find time for each other. A conversation, I mean a real conversation, takes time, friendship takes time, a relationship takes time. For me it is a key statement in the film when the corpse driver says: they’ve got time. Yes, in death you’ve got time, you are timeless, but it would make more sense to take your time to live.

What was the major challenge while making this film?

To coordinate so many people and not lose the thread. To select filming locations which are accessible and allow Roland to visit them in his wheelchair. But we were a great team and that made the shooting period very relaxed and gave us a good time. Thanks to everyone.

The man with the mask

In my view, the man with the mask is a symbolic figure. The masks we wear in order to get through life, the desire and addiction for appreciation, to me all of this is just a huge cry for love. And in need you can be satisfied with a couple of likes. At the same time this character is an appreciation of all the artists who put their hearts and souls into their work while nobody really takes notice of their efforts. They play on backyard stages, in pedestrian areas with all their heart, but hardly anyone pays attention. And then some pimply youngster who can be easily marketed arrives and the media rush to him and boost his public perception – in the film it is the Mask’s suicide – and suddenly there are myriads of hysterical fans. Meanwhile somebody is playing his guts out on a stairwell in front of a toilet bowl – an allegory for every backyard club – and no one cares.

Screenplay

Roland developed the original text and most of the new parts. My primary task was to assemble and try to organize and connect all the puzzle pieces. Similar to cutting. I admire people who can fill an empty sheet of paper with their words. My contribution is more dramaturgical.

Toccata and Fugue

The story behind our interpretation of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, which I call RockToc, starts with my finger osteoarthritis. I did not just inherit my father’s creativity but also his finger osteoarthritis, which arose about a year ago. To get my fingers more supple I started playing the flute again. So I came up with Toccata and Fugue, unequalled lovely – and a perfect finger exercise. Then I suggested we could create a rock version of Toccata and Fugue for our next film. This piece symbolizes life for me. With all its ups and downs, harmonies and dissonances and it runs and runs on and on, always the same theme in different variations and inexorably moving forward with no time to take a breath, like the metronome which unstoppably sets the pace and will not stop before the last bar has been played. During filming I made a bit too much of a show, so I accidentally dropped the flute one storey lower. My horror about it is unscripted, “real life”, so to speak, and after I made sure the flute only had suffered some minor damages I thought we could integrate it into the film, so we modified the end of this scene accordingly. And my fingers actually have become much more supple.

INTERVIEW WITH MARINA ANNA EICH (producer / role: BILLIE / marketing / press)

Main topic of the film

There is often a lack of respect for life itself. Instead of enjoying it, one makes himself dependent on other people’s opinion. What a pity if drawing public attention to one’s life is paramount instead of the life that could be enjoyed. Mostly it goes that far that you put yourself and others in danger only to get as many likes as possible. First you should think, then you should act or comment. How do I let health apps and tips dictate my life? Here a healthy mediocrity would be appropriate, or else you get trapped in the vicious circle of self-optimization. Likewise, it is important to find a healthy balance regarding the use of digital/social media. The world and life are much too precious to constantly spend your time chatting on your phone or in front of your computer.

About the role BILLIE

In younger years I wanted to become a ballet dancer myself. I followed this dream until I was 18 years old and had to cancel my studies due to physical limitations. Thus, I know about focusing, giving all you’ve got, having no backup plan. Dancing was the most important thing. So, I could empathize with Billie very well. Unlike myself, Billie’s desperate optimization mania causes her to lose the ability to enjoy life. She does not show any respect for her own personality and forces herself into a corset. Hence, from my point of view she represents the ever-growing group of people who get themselves stuck in a youth and optimization craze. Besides, BILLIE rhymes with PILLIE. Given the fact I personally own a large medicine chest with many pillies the name came about. So to speak: If you need a pill for whatever the reason, you go to Marina (laugh). Firstly, I had to acquaint myself with the Apple Watch. I tested different apps including the sleep rhythm app, where your phone detects the suitable sleeping phase to wake you up by measuring your breath. Conclusion: I had not slept so bad for a long time, and besides I felt observed (which actually was the fact). It’s gross how many people voluntarily bring surveillance devices into their homes.

About growing older

Gerascophobia! The fear of ageing. Self-optimization will never come to an end. As if you are revolving in a circle and chasing your own tail. Due to the fear of getting old and the energy you put into it you waste a major part of your life. It is of utmost importance to find a healthy balance: As a matter of course, it is good to do something for your health: nutrition, exercise, keeping your body and mind in good shape. But without overdoing it or letting it dominate you, but with fun and pleasure. It should relieve tensions and not build up any new ones. Becoming older is about becoming wiser, too, open up new perspectives, going on a tremendous life journey. And that’s what I personally consider to be something really wonderful and rewarding. But maybe you don’t see it like this until you get older yourself and not in younger years… Moreover, I deal with myself and life in a more relaxed way.

And why be afraid of it? You can’t change it anyway.

About the preparations

It was a true challenge to organize so many people for the audience besides cast and crew. By means of newspaper and internet as well as many phone calls I finally found 90 people who loved to participate as an extra. Some of them came from several hundred kilometres away. I had personally contacted every single one of them beforehand, which was my way of carrying out a casting. For many, many hours I was on my mobile and on WhatsApp… matching the film. We decided upstream to cast the roles of the Strangler as well as Werner’s antagonist with professional wrestlers instead of using actors, because otherwise the risk of injuries would have been too high. In collaboration with the wrestling school ProWrestling in Nuremberg I found who I was looking for. The idea of falling on the table came from the falling guy himself. “Should look like something!” were his words. As several wrestlers wanted to be part of the film, I came up with the idea to cast two more of them as paramedics, because they knew each other. They had already sent each other to hospital in real life. I simply thought it to be a funny in-joke.

About the shootings

We had gained very much because of our meticulous preparation. That’s why I could enjoy every single day of shooting in this calm and relaxed atmosphere. But I was incredibly nervous when we shot the first crowd scene, the INTRO of the show. Will it work? Will everyone who agreed to come be there? Will everything work according to schedule? Do we have enough catering? Won’t it become too hectic with 50 people and two dogs on set? So many participants were a new challenge for us, too. But how does the saying go: one grows through his tasks J. In the end everything worked flawlessly, thanks to the closely knit team and the easy-going extras who became totally immersed in the scenes. Judging from the quantity of thank-you-messages and WhatsApp gratitude, not just I got this opinion. Everyone felt in good hands and would love to join us time and time again. I was delighted to hear that. And now we have got a wide choice of extras, too. Most important was the great fun we had. It was an exceptionally wonderful and deep experience, from the preparation till the end of the shooting time. I am already looking forward to our next work: ROLAND REBER’S HOTEL OF LOST DREAMS.

INTERVIEW WITH EISI GULP (Role: corpse driver)

How did the cooperation with wtp come about?

The cooperation came about because I once had a film shooting with one of their teammates, Antje Nikola Mönning. She had obviously perceived me then and approached me now and asked if I’d like to join them. Antje had a part in the television series FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE and that was where we met.

What did you think of the shooting?

That is such a matter… everything’s a little bit different, isn’t it? There is no makeup department, what deeply disappoints me. How do I come off then? That’s what I ask myself… To get serious: Very easy people, three wonderful ladies with a very interesting gent I haven’t known before. I enjoyed it very much and I especially loved my texts. The best thing is, it was understood that if you give me freedom it will lead to the best outcome.

What is your personal view on the matter of death?

Death comes or not. And if it comes, you don’t know anything anymore whichever way you look at it.

A topic of the film is social media. What is your personal opinion about it?

As with everything in life it has its good and its bad, sunny sides and shadow sides. If you followed social media in recent years, you could think the negative impacts are stronger because every dork can churn out something. Unfortunately, people tend to focus on the negative things in life. This is especially emphasized there. As a result it produces an artificial fear and panic. This simply is not healthy for our society. It’s about time people start to use social media in a conscious, intelligent and notably, means in a clean way. With clean I mean that if I read a post I may not – quick, quick – submit an outraged reaction and share it, but I must rather verify the accuracy of the posting. It’s not hard to do some research. But it brings forth the truth and it leads to more and more genuine truth instead of spreading half-truths and lies.

INTERVIEW WITH WOLFRAM KUNKEL (Role: Mr. Naumann)

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

Yet living in an indifferent, greedy, reckless society is a ridiculously floundering death. Of course, dealing with the actual miserable demise of humans is just the logical consequence. Lots of material for comedy and grief – the rapid nothingness.

Would you tell us something about the part you are playing?

Hermann is the part everyone will be playing some day. Full of timid attempts to defend himself, to come to terms and to take stock. Just not everybody has such beautiful last words prior to the great nothing or the everything.

What did you think of the shooting?

One gets older: After an odyssey through the clinics of Thalkirchen (most of them seem to have changed their names) gladly found the right one – ended up in the right bed and treated lovingly and proficiently till the end by the nicest film team in the world.

INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTIAN BUSE (Role: Frank)

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

The individual torn between failure and the obsession for self-optimization.

Would you tell us something about the part you are playing?

Frank is a failing figure all down the line, professionally and personally. But he has absolutely no one but himself to blame for this, his self-pity, his narcissism and thus his failure as an author.

What did you think of the shooting?

The shooting was pleasantly relaxed. It should be noted that it is quite difficult to make a hanged man look genuine and I am not sure if we have succeeded, because I did not yet have a chance to see the result.

INTERVIEW WITH WOLFGANG SEIDENBERG (Role: Talkmaster)

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

The dignity of men – in living just like in dying.

Would you tell us something about the part you are playing?

The show’s host is so entangled in his task as maître de plaisir of a degenerated entertainment industry that the question may arise if he really exists. Probably he once lost himself in service of a sensation seeking audience. A cynic who cannot even find pleasure in cynicism anymore. A sad survivor, an undead of the media landscape.

What did you think of the shooting?

The fun part was to always protrude into the picture like a moray eel just to provide irritating comments. After the first day I had muscle soreness from all these sidesteps to the camera. The serene atmosphere on set while you were collectively coping with topics like humiliation, ageing and death was remarkable and comforting.

INTERVIEW WITH RICCI HOHLT (Role: Hilde)

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

For me the central topic is: what will I do with my life, what are my desires and dreams and how much time do I have here on earth to fulfil them, do I have to worry about getting older and all the subsequent transformations, do I have to worry about dying? Which meaning can I give to my life and how much strength do I have to resist hostility and distraction from my environment, do I have to join into every nonsense in social networks, do I have to expose myself to the juggernaut of media and be humiliated, or what does it take to maintain, to appreciate and to protect my own personality.

Would you tell us something about the part you are playing?

Hilde Lutz from Bochum is a practical, cheerful woman at an advanced age who has good memories of her youth and hippie time. She has certainly lived through several ups and downs and for this reason she has a broad understanding and compassion for her fellow humans. And there’s one thing she has learnt: you will have to create the joy you want to have in life on your own. So, for the fun of it she applied as a guest in a television show, and she won.

What did you think of the shooting? Any stories to tell?

The shooting was exceptionally harmonic, I want to say quite affectionate! Marked by mutual respect and goodwill and the conviction that only positive collaboration can spawn something really worthwhile.

INTERVIEW WITH WALTRAUT BORCHMANN (Role: LOLA)

What do you see as the main topic of the film?

Game shows in which the participants are humiliated are referenced in a satirical way, as well as the Facebook mania which is solely about likes, where people are insulted and abused by anonymous users, and also about hopeless dreams.

Can you tell us something about the part you are playing?

Lola is an ageing revue star. In private she is a great sport. She is happy, easy-going and all about fun.

What did you think of the shooting?

The shooting days were very positive. The whole staff was friendly to everyone. Once we had gathered in a beer garden to discuss the shooting. I was handed the bunny costume for trial fitting. It was great fun not only for the film crew but for the other guests in the beer garden, too, when I suddenly hopped around as a big fat pink rabbit.