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“Home is something we find inside ourselves”

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Tereza Kotyk • Director

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- Austrian director Tereza Kotyk talks to us about her debut feature film, Home is Here, in competition at the Lecce European Film Festival, a minimalist and poetic dialogue across a distance

Tereza Kotyk • Director
(© Vittoria Scarpa)

Home is Here [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Tereza Kotyk
film profile
]
is the debut feature film by Czech-born Austrian director and screenwriter Tereza Kotyk. The film is the minimalist and poetic tale of the (non) encounter between two lonely souls. Hannah has temporarily gone back to living with her mother and little brother in the Olympic Village of Innsbruck. One day she sneaks into Max’s house, a man who lives alone in a modern and cold house. She returns every day, and soon enough the two start to engage in a strange form of communication at a distance. The film was screened in competition at the 18th Lecce European Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: How was the story of this (non) encounter born?
Tereza Kotyk: I didn’t choose the subject matter, it just came to me. I went out for a walk and when I came back, I wrote the story in half an hour. I had just got back from England, and went to live in a very small town near the mountains, where people don’t communicate much. I was fascinated by how people can reduce their verbal communication to a minimum yet still maintain relationships between themselves. To begin with I thought it was me who was failing to communicate, but then I understood that a lot of people, especially wealthy people, live in a sort of glass bell jar, they organise their lives and try to avoid deep and meaningful relationships.

Who is Hannah, the young protagonist of the film?
Hannah is a very special person, I wanted to focus on these kinds of families of migrants. I was interested above all in the effects of migration, when you stop having a common language with your parents because you grew up in another country. Like me. I was born in Austria but my mother tongue is officially Czech. And yet, I can express myself well in English, as in German, but not in my mother tongue. So what is a mother tongue? What does it mean to be home? It’s hard for migrants of various generations, but it’s also hard for people who were born in a given place, as just because you have a nice house, it doesn’t mean you feel at home.

What compels Hannah to enter Max’s house for the first time?
She is attracted to what she sees, it fascinates her. We tend to live through projections, we project something onto our relationships, onto our children and onto our jobs, it is difficult not to. Then there’s the issue of crossing borders to find our own territory. Hannah enters a new territory to find herself, only to discover in the end that this wasn’t necessary, because if you believe in yourself and face up to the conflicts inside you, you find freedom. But doing so also causes Max to open up, because that house is almost a kind of emotional prison for those who live there.

And what compels Max to play along?
He’s distracted, a man takes longer to understand what he has before him. Max holds onto the past with his ex-girlfriend in this house, which is why he keeps all his things in a box. His first thought is that it must be her who’s come back, who wants to get back in touch with him. He thinks this because she has the keys, it doesn’t occur to him that you can get into the house via the terrace, he can’t see things from another perspective. Sometimes men aren’t capable of seeing the good things happening to them. For example, his assistant at the office is a beautiful and fantastic woman with a strong character, but he doesn’t realise that she could be his.

Was it difficult to find Max’s house? Did it match what you had in mind?
The house I had in mind was completely different, but in the end we couldn’t use it. It was a problem, as this film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, but it does have a lot of movement, we are constantly following the character around his house. In the end, as we ended up with a different house, we re-wrote the screenplay as we had to change tack. We had just 21 days of filming available to us, and had to be very clear about how we wanted to shoot the film.

Last but not least there’s the title: Home is Here. Where is home, in your opinion?
I think it’s something we find inside ourselves. It’s easy to say that home is where you feel at ease. I always say that my home is where my work is, or where my projects take me, because I’m in harmony with them. Home is not always the place we physically inhabit, but a psychological space.

(Translated from Italian)

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