“How must it feel to abort an almost complete human being?”
by Vladan Petkovic
- BERLIN 2016: German writer-director Anne Zohra Berrached, whose 24 Weeks screened in the Berlinale competition, spoke to the international press at the gathering
German writer-director Anne Zohra Berrached, whose second film, 24 Weeks [+see also:
Q&A: Anne Zohra Berrached
film profile], screened in the Berlinale competition, spoke to the media at a press conference and round-table interviews at the gathering.
How did you work on the script with the actors?
Anne Zohra Berrached: We knew that we wanted reality and fiction to become blurred. Quite often, we rehearsed the scenes as they were written in the script, and then we'd do it again but leave it open. Everything was always allowed. What was important for me was to have a non-prefabricated approach, to have nothing laid down, but to remain fresh and let surprises happen.
How did you research the movie? Did you talk to many parents, especially women?
Certainly. At the beginning, I noticed that it was hard to find people willing to talk about it openly. It was easier to find doctors, midwives and carers, and all sorts of specialists because they are confronted with this subject and they deal with it a lot. Obviously, it doesn't wash over them without leaving a trace, and they have a lot to talk about.
It was tremendously difficult to find such a couple, but finally we did. The woman was pregnant, and they were going to have a baby, so it made it possible for them to talk about their earlier situation. These were very intense discussions; we spent hours in Berlin cafés, crying. We just cried our eyes out and talked about it. In the end, I talked to two couples and one woman.
In the film, it is the husband who is vehemently in favour of the child being allowed to live. Did you find in your research that this was more often the case?
Honestly, I never read anything about this particular issue, so I can't tell you. In this case, it was clear that it had to be the man. In the beginning, he is not entirely sure either, but as more and more difficulties arise, the more sure of himself he becomes, and his convictions firm up in the process. But in the end, he says he is not sure whether it was right or wrong for him to want this child.
I probably wanted to make this film because I aborted a child once, before the third month. This is why this subject was interesting for me from the beginning. I know exactly how it feels, so I wondered what would happen if a woman aborted a child at a later stage. That's almost when it’s a complete human being; what sort of feeling must that be?
The issue of abortion and right to life is frequently connected to religion.
If you belong to a certain religion, and you really believe in it, you have rules – and if you follow them, it’s much easier to decide. But my characters are not religious, and they have to come up with their own moral, ethical rules. In the scene where she goes to church, for me, this is where she decides. She wonders whether she can do this, going against her husband and against her own desire to keep the child. God doesn't say no. She looks into the camera, and there is the decision.