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“So much in this film is about leaving everything that seems unnecessary out”

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Florian Hoffmeister • Director

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- German cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister talks about his second feature as director, The Have-Nots, which was screened in Tallinn and has already been released in Germany

Florian Hoffmeister • Director
(© BNFF)

German cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister showcased his second feature as director in competition at the Black Nights Film Festival 2016 in Tallinn. For The Have-Nots, he adapted Katharina Hacker's award-winning novel of the same name and created a picture of a Western generation in the aftermath of 9/11. A young couple is caught in a self-woven net of love, grief, guilt and anxiety.

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Nisi Masa: What drew you to the prize-winning book by Katharina Hacker?
Florian Hoffmeister:
The contrast between private life and political life, and how disconnected stories suddenly get connected, is what drew me to the book. And the fact that a German novelist was writing about people going through private relationship struggles with the political scenario of 9/11 as the backdrop, and how that political scenario actually affected them without them actively engaging in it.

Would you say then that in the adaption the focus is more on the relationship of the couple and the political background is used as a backdrop for a dysfunctional relationship, or is the couple used to illustrate the consequences of the terrorist attacks? What would you say is more the focus?
I think the balance is similar to the book. In the book, of course, it is richer in every way. From very early on I was very attracted by its atmosphere. When you create an atmospheric piece, you still have to have a little drum beat that keeps on clicking, so that the audience stays with you. To me, the focus on the relationship is that little drum. When people come out and say it's all about the couple, I would say yes, in a way, that is the thing that will interest you more, but if somebody with a very political outlook watches the film, he or she might have a completely different perspective. They might say that it is all about the dysfunction of the world – not the couple. The film is constructed so that you can project your own preferences or your own perspective onto it.

Why did you choose to make the film in black and white?
I thought the film needed a slight filter, an aesthetic distance, something that subconsciously pushes the narrative into another realm, a more metaphoric perspective of the story. And I also wanted a feeling of reduction to be present in the visual language of the film. So much in this film is about reduction, condensing, leaving everything that seems unnecessary out, and within that framework create a fragile atmosphere of awareness towards the remaining details.

With Maren Ade's Toni Erdmann in Cannes do you agree that there is this new spirit in German filmmaking?
I couldn't disagree more strongly. I think it’s fantastic for somebody like her to have that kind of success. But I think the tendency of the media to stylise it as a sudden indication of a new existence of German cinema completely ignores – and I get very passionate about this – dozens and dozens of people who have been making exciting, provocative and also entertaining films for years. German cinema has always been there. It was just not recognised as such in the past. I think it doesn't do German film justice to say 'Now we’re back’. Let´s be a bit more subtle than that. Let´s say: “Oh, something might have slipped my attention, and maybe it is worth looking at German cinema more closely.“

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