Markus Goller • Director
Friendship, freedom, and independence
by Bénédicte Prot
Markus Goller began his career in 1990 as an assistant editor, and quickly moved up to editor. From 1992-99, he worked on features and documentaries as well as music videos and commercials. Increasingly tempted to try his hand at directing, in 1999 he made his first commercials, followed in 2000 by a documentary about the Raid Gauloise races, shot in Tibet and Nepal, which was presented at Telluride.
His debut feature, the low-budget Mortal Beauty, came in 2001. From 2001 to 2009, Goller lived in Los Angeles, where he shot about 300 commercials and videos whilst developing Friendship!, about the crazy trip of two young East Germans through the US. The film has been chosen by European Film Promotion and Variety amongst the ten titles in Karlovy Vary’s Variety Critics' Choice: Europe Now! section.
Cineuropa: How did you become a director?
M.G.: I love editing. It is my roots, but sitting in a dark room most of the day editing pieces shot by other people, I started to really want to try this myself. My editing background helps me a lot in developing a script, a style and the knowledge of what I need to shoot in order to create certain feelings, atmospheres and storytelling.
After a horror romance, you are presenting a youthful, feel-good road movie. What made you take that leap?
Mortal Beauty was just a first try at directing a feature film. The story came from Tom Zickler, a former East German producer. The concept was to revive the B-movie genre with fantastic and bigger-than-life stories but with a very low budget, and I loved the Shakespearean as well as the Terry Gilliam-esque aspects of the script. Due to the crisis, the film got a very small release in Germany, but the DVD is now hitting stores.
In 2004, I heard about a crazy trip that took Tom and his friend Veit from New York to San Francisco. I immediately loved the story, but it took us until 2007 to find the right angle for the script, after which Oliver Ziegenbalg took over as writer and shaped Friendship! into what it is now.
My fascination towards the story comes from the fact that its allows us to present our divided German history, the people, the feelings and the drama behind it, but in the most contrasting setting. Not the repressed setting of the GDR but the former arch-enemy of these [characters] – the colourful, all-is-possible USA. I had two guys in the story that were imprisoned their whole lives behind a wall that surrounded their country and suddenly could break free and travel the world and smell the spirit of freedom and independence and self-being. The humour in the film comes from its characters, the situations they find themselves in and the unique creativity they use to move on, but it was also very important for me to find the right balance between the humour and the emotional background of my characters. I wanted to create a film that would be entertaining and soulful at the same time, a film that celebrates life, love, laughter, and friendship!
Have some films or directors influenced your approach?
When I started Friendship!, I put together a “moodfilm” to describe the atmosphere I had in mind, which included scenes from Into the Wild, Almost Famous, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Goodbye Lenin [+see also:
interview: Wolfgang Becker
film profile], In America, Delirious, Thelma & Louise and the original documentary Tom and Veit shot on their trip.
Generally speaking, I am not really influenced by anyone, but I admire Baz Luhrman, Lasse Hallström, Sean Penn, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Cameron Crowe, to name a few. The movies I like best are true, emotional, uplifting portraits of life like A Straight Story, Yes Man, Amelie or La Vita è Bella.
Your work, especially Friendship !, has international elements and appeal. What public do you have in mind when you make a film?
I do not really think of a specific audience. I am interested in the story and the feelings it triggers in people. For me, it is important to entertain the audience, make them part of what they experience, make them think and feel, give them identification and make them feel and realise that they actually are in charge when it comes to what happens in their lives.
What does your selection for Karlovy Vary mean to you?
We are very grateful, honoured and excited to have been chosen. After winning the Salerno Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 12th German Film Festival in Madrid and, a few days ago, the Audience Award in Taormina, we are very much looking forward to screening the movie for the legendary audiences of Karlovy Vary. It will be my first time at the Karlovy Vary Festival, but I have heard only great things about it.
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