INTERVIEW WITH ROLAND REBER (director / writer / camera)
You were wildly acclaimed in the theatre world. You wrote many plays in the past, acted and directed. What lead you to change into film?
Yes, I wrote theatre plays, was director, actor and teacher for acting in Germany and other countries. Amongst others I founded the Theatre Institute in Hamburg in 1981 and the World Theatre Project in 1989. An essential part of my former activities was to develop intercultural aspects and innovative techniques for actors and directors. If I wanted to say something about a specific theme, I wrote a play and realised it. However I realized at a certain point, that the stage had limiting boundaries, that should be crossed. Like this, I came to filmmaking, because cinema gives me more creative freedom. For me filmmaking is like talking, it is closer to myself. But like I do not understand myself entirely, neither do I understand my films entirely. Even if the films I make have a discernible handwriting, my style and the handling of the filmmaking depends on the respective theme and this can differ from one film to the other. That’s why the “dogma-films” originated in Denmark , with their fixed rules can never be my kind of filmmaking.
You have a totally new way of making and producing films. What does your working method look like?
The films are produced in team work. At the beginning there is an idea, which then is developed through all participants. The ideas come from everywhere – from the actors, the assistants, the technical crew or the producers, which most of the time are the same few persons, fulfilling several functions at the same time. Mira Gittner for example not only performed the main part in all three movies but was also personally responsible for the editing, sofor the composition of the film and shared the camera with me. Marina Anna Eich is not only performing main parts in front of the camera and co-producing, but is also responsible for the press and public relation work as well as for the sales and distribution of the films, etc…
At the beginning of the shootings, there are a few pages of script, based on an idea, a concept. It could begin with a monologue, a dialogue or just a part of text, which is later enlarged, changed, and of which I then write the final version. However this thin script is developed together with the actors during the ongoing shooting. For example The Dark Side of the inner Space: in this case the location was the idea – an abandoned military base. During six weeks the actors, who were the crew at the same time, and I met every day in this barrack and through many discussions about all kind of things, the film developed day by day. I do not believe in telling stories in a narrative style, because our life is not wrote like a story with a preconceived structure and order. “Life is without text” is said in the room. It rather is multidimensional with abrupt transitions and all my films contain in some way the search for life, identity and the self.
You like to work again with the same actors i.e team and they seem to get involved in a very special way , which differs from the conventional acting.
The core of the crew consists more or less of the same people in front and behind the camera, similar to an ensemble theatre. My relationship to the actors is not the one of a tamer in a circus. I ask them to approach the role with their own definition. The actors try to link themselves to the roles of the film, by reflecting themselves and realizing the difference between role and person. For me acting starts to be moving as soon as it is personal and authentic and that works better, when the actors analyse their roles and are not mere henchmen of a tamer. Actors are individual artists for me and if I had an exact conception of the role at the beginning of the shooting I would not need actors, but marionettes who just fulfil my instructions. Everybody is taking part in the creative process.
Your films are a criticism of the German society. How is this accepted by your compatriots?
In general the German became decadent. They are far more interested in money and career than in questioning the values of life. My films are an insight into the contemporary German culture. I touch the raw nerves of society by asking questions, and therefore my films can also be uncomfortable. Even if I can not give answers in the films, I make people aware of the issue.
Which is in your opinion the best way to become an independent filmmaker without the habitual pressure of the market?
The best way is the individual one. Each filmmaker should go his own way. We realise the films with a low budget, so that we can produce them ourselves and like this we always have the authority of what we are doing. We also use our own equipment and do the editing by ourselves. In brief we are a totally independent unity. And this gives us the freedom to be creative. If we have an idea, all we need is a camera, light and sound. We shoot digitally and then blow up on 35mm later. This gives us the freedom to try out things. Meanwhile most filmmakers in Germany are more like bankers – without any philosophical or aesthetical motivation. They make trimmed films, which are mainly decided by the financiers, who are depending on the demand of the market constraints. If we continue to let ourselves be dominated by the agents of the financiers, there will only be ready-made films. The filmmakers should take over the responsibility for their films again. With our films I hope to encourage to see creative adventures as a way again. Encourage to develop films which are not designed in an office but emerge out of the creativity of filmmakers. Cinema should become a voice again. A voice for those who do not have one. A voice which asks the society questions. Answers are not as important. Answers should be the result of reflections which develop individually within the heads of the viewers. Each viewer should be willing to think and to find his own interpretation… or at least to look for it. It is about dealing with oneself. The films are only the initiation. I consider my cinema as an adventure of the own mind, that provokes thinking. Should we accept everything without questioning?
You won many awards with the room. Did that change anything for you?
It was great, because many people did not believe in us at the beginning.
How did this come?
Mira Gittner sent video copies to festivals all over the world. When I became aware of it I made fun of her and told her it was senseless and that nobody would answer. But all of a sudden invitations came and everybody called us the “surprising filmmakers”. We travelled from Hungary to Spain and had a lot of fun.
When did it turn serious?
When we needed someone to do the public relations. We already had an invitation to the film Festival in Mexico and needed someone who likes public appearances: Marina Anna Eich. She liked that. Mira Gittner is very creative, but shy to public. So we were at the Film Festival in Mexico and watched the Award ceremony relaxed, we never expected an award. And then they announced “The President’s award for the best feature film : the room”. We took some time to realize we were meant.
Do you have idols?
No. There are many I like, but no one who influenced my work in any kind. This is a problem with many directors, they try to imitate Hollywood or whoever and will never be more than a copy. I always prefer the original.
You refer to the three Films also as a trilogy. What is the common core?
All three films have the subject of the SEARCH in common, questions like: who are we or where do we come from? The first realised as a psycho-thriller, the second as a black comedy and the third as a drama.
Where lies the difference?
In the story which is respectively told. Each film stands on its own.
How did you get the idea to the room?
RR: the room dues its realisation to a packing case. Many years ago, approximately in 1985, I wrote a short manuscript because of a bet, with the basic story of the locked room. A friend editor told me it was impossible to write a story including suspense and eroticism in a very short time. This incited me and I wrote the manuscript in one night. I won that bet. Many years later this manuscript reappeared while archiving my texts and the film was made.
Why did you chose an English title for The Dark Side of our Inner Space?
In march 2003 the director of the Calcutta Film Festival told me that he wanted to make a Roland Reber Films section at his Festival in November. This special section of one director always includes three films though. Until then only the room and Pentamagica existed. “OK”, I said “you will be able to show three films in November, I promise.” Then he wanted to know the title and the plot of the third film. “It is about the hidden sides in us, about the Dark sides of our soul” I improvised spontaneously. And as this took place in English, the English title came out The Dark Side of our Inner Space. Now that the promise was made , we only had to develop, shoot and edit a film. We had a half year because in October the 35mm copy had to be in Calcutta. We did it. The dark Side of our Inner Space had its world premiere in November 2003 at the Calcutta International Film Festival.