Lukas Valenta Rinner • Director
"It's an Austrian thing to focus on social issues or have quite radical points of view"
by Thomas Humphrey
- Cineuropa spoke to Lukas Valenta Rinner about his debut, Parabellum, a film shot in real survival camps in Argentina and presented at Rotterdam
Lukas Valenta Rinner's first feature, Parabellum [+see also:
interview: Lukas Valenta Rinner
film profile], presented at the 44th International Film Festival Rotterdam, plays out fears in modern-day Argentina by imagining an apocalyptic world. The film shows his fascination with documenting physical actions and, like his Austrian counterparts, also his interest in putting ordinary people in extraordinary situations. It makes for fascinating viewing.
Cineuropa: It seems like an exciting time for Austrian cinema; would you agree?
Lukas Valenta Rinner: Yes, there have been some amazing directors emerging and getting recognition on the festival scene recently. I think that's due to the Austrian Film Fund. They put a lot of emphasis on commercial production for the national market, and on pushing directors with an auteur's point of view, too.
Austrian cinema is sometimes referred to as a "feel bad" kind of cinema; do you think Parabellum fits that description?
I think that's a general Austrian tradition that starts, for me, in Austrian literature. You have people like Thomas Bernhard or Arthur Schnitzler who already established that. I think it's an Austrian thing to focus on social issues or have quite radical points of view.
So are you trying to challenge viewers? And if so, how are you achieving this?
I hope I accomplished that with my film. I didn't want to explain the characters' psychology. Instead, I'm fascinated with physical movements and actions; like work routines or preparations. But I was also committed to being ambiguous. I think that's achieved through the very fragmented narration. I tried to maintain ruptures between scenes, so we don't really know what's happening in between.
There's also lots of humour in Parabellum. Was this humour often achieved through editing?
I think it's more through the framing. But in the editing room we really had to measure or dose the humour, for the sake of progression. The film starts with lots of humour, but I wanted it to get increasingly serious. So we had to be careful not to make our characters ridiculous.
Parabellum has lots of static shots, too; are you interested in the relationship between film and photography?
In preparation for the film, we actually had, as reference points, a lot of photographers. And I think you start thinking in terms of photography frames, or tableaux. We had a number of tableaux paintings as inspirations for the photographic style, too. But it works well when you have defined spaces and then see how people interact with, or are influenced by, them. The further we went into the jungle, though, the harder it was to find symmetrical frames. So we had to be dynamic. In the second half, we have more handheld shots because it was impossible to maintain our rigorous framing.
Do you think Austrian cinema often symmetrically accentuates reality (in a mannerist way), in order to achieve something new?
I think we have a double movement going on. I get really inspired by naturalistic spaces, so I don't accentuate them. We don't often use art directors to create a set, either. Instead, we try to frame the places we find in a way that gives them a sense of distance. But that's really arduous. Each location has to be perfect in order to achieve that effect. So we have a documentary movement against a fictional movement. You have a sort of documentary style, but the framing achieves an almost fictionalised mise-en-scène.
What Argentinian elements have you introduced into your filmmaking?
I do try to play with forms that are not so common in Argentinian cinema. Although I'm definitely inspired by Argentinian filmmakers. I've drawn on a common ground between the European middle class and, well, the Argentinian upper middle class that I portray. It's something I'd like to explore more. I've also drawn on Argentinian politics, too, by talking about the current state of Argentina or particular upper-middle-class fears. Things like insecurity about the poor carrying out home invasions. Many people live in gated communities outside Buenos Aires. They're like sub-towns with their own schools and nightclubs. It's like they're closed off from the rest of the world, and protecting themselves from the possible invasion of another.
Do you plan to keep on working in Argentina?
I'm really inspired by Argentina. It gives me a certain freedom, perhaps because I'm more detached. My next project is going to be there; but I'm also interested in filming in Austria. I don't know what yet, but I'm very interested in current political issues in Europe.
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