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“Film should provoke anything but boredom”

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Karl Markovics • Director


- Cineuropa interviewed Austrian actor-turned-filmmaker Karl Markovics, who won the Cineuropa Prize at Sarajevo for his second feature, Superworld

Karl Markovics  • Director

Gabi is a very ordinary woman, a middle-aged suburban wife and mother who one day starts to enter a psychological tailspin – or to have encounters with… God? When Gabi’s world collides with that of what she believes is God, it triggers a crisis. How to adapt her newly discovered, celestial point of view to real life? How to distinguish what is true from what might not be true? How to decide what is important after all? This the premise of Superworld [+see also:
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interview: Karl Markovics
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, the second feature film by Austrian actor-turned-filmmaker Karl Markovics, which introduces us to a very ordinary setting, only to toss it – and the viewer with it – into a more divine dimension.

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Markovics manages to approach this cinematic dimension in his works as a director – it is one similar to the ordinary world, yet peppered with elements inherent to the universe of fables and fantasies. The actor, who broke through to the broader public by appearing in the TV series Inspector Rex, has played roles in films such as The Counterfeiters [+see also:
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and, more recently, The Grand Budapest Hotel [+see also:
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. But it was his first film as a director, Breathing [+see also:
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, that earned him prestige in European cinema: after being premiered in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, it went on to win six trophies at the Austrian Film Awards, to be nominated for the European Film Awards’ Discovery Prize and to sweep the Sarajevo Film Festival, taking home the Heart of Sarajevo. As it happens, it was at that same gathering where he screened Superworld this year – after having premiered it at the Berlinale Forum – and where he received the Cineuropa Prize. We interviewed him to discuss his latest work.

Cineuropa: Superworld is a drama tinged with surrealism, comedy, fantasy and even a touch of the psychological thriller. Was this a deliberate take on genre film, or rather an attempt to escape from it?
Karl Markovics: I love to play with genres. Playing around means literally everything to me. What I don’t like is following just one single path; I like the in-betweens. I need long distances and several choices. When I like something (like Hitchcock or the colour yellow or a spider), then I want to have it in my film – that’s it. 

The movie has a very interesting outlook on life in the suburbs and society in general – from religion to the military powers. Is it more a criticism than a depiction?
I could not tell you what exactly it is; I only can tell you what it is not. For instance, it is not criticism. But it may provoke criticism – or maybe another opinion or empathy or some kind of mental disturbance? Film should provoke anything but boredom. 

In the beginning, the woman bears the weight of the film, but in the end, it’s the man who does. Were gender roles in society an issue that you wanted to tackle as well?
The relationship of the couple in my film is very much the relationship that my parents had. The story I made out of it was a mixture of biography and fairy tale. And by the way, this is the style of every other story I have ever developed. 

What led you to choose very powerful actors (Ulrike Beimpold and Rainer Wöss) for your film?
I was looking for actors with a “big body” because I needed a counterweight to the idea of God, who is all spirit. Luckily, my casting director (Nicole Schmied) and I found extraordinary, pure actors who were willing to trust me as if it were for real.

There is a grandiose, sumptuous type of filmmaking throughout Superworld. What were your creative influences during the making of the movie?
I love nature, the environment, dirty details, light, small things, little animals, colours and old surfaces. I have a strong vision of the scenes before I start writing my screenplays. All of my stories start with an image, not with an idea. In my Bible it says, “In the beginning there was light.”

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