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Love triangle against the backdrop of immigration

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Sören Senn • Director

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Sören Senn • Director

Sören Senn, born in 1969 in Switzerland, studied literature and philosophy in Berlin, Bern, and Paris, before he joined Potsdam's Konrad Wolf Film Academy, where he studied from 1999 to 2005. Your Happiness Depends on Me (o.t. KussKuss) is his graduation feature, but he has also written several short films and documentaries, for others as well as for himself, such as Ein Abend für Dora and Bruder Jakob, both made in 2003, and has received several grants (in Weimar; in Chur, Switzerland, for example).

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Your Happiness Depends on Me is the story of a model modern couple whose good intentions end up endangering their relationship. When Katja the hard-working bread-winner and Hendrik the intellectual meet Saida, an illegal immigrant from Algeria, and accept to organise a "passport marriage" between her and Hendrik, they are caught up in a chain of events and feelings over which they have no control. Your Happiness Depends on Me received the Babelsberg Media Award 2005 for the Best Graduation Feature.

Cineuropa: What inspired you to combine a love triangle and more serious, less individual issues, such as exile and immigration?
Sören Senn: Currently, in Germany, such themes as residence permits, multi-ethnic society or integration are very much discussed in politics and the media. On the other hand, a lot of the people here don't have to deal with these subjects in their daily life. But that's exactly what I am interested in: where do politics and personal experience meet? And also: how do political questions provoke psychological conflicts? In other words: what is the emotional base of a political problem?

You said you wrote the parts for the actors. What were your criteria when you cast them?
All three main actors and their backgrounds are completely different. For the cast of Saida we wanted an actress with an original North African background. So we looked for a woman in France, because there are no North African actresses in Germany. On the other hand, it was quite difficult to co-operate with French agencies, because KussKuss was only a student project with no money. So I was very lucky that Saida Jawad was so courageous to come to Berlin for a trial for two months!
For the part of Katja, the doctor, I already had Carina Wiese in mind before writing the script. I knew she could personify a very committed but also very self-centered character.
With Axel Schrick it was similar: I knew he was a very intellectual person with a good sense of humour, so he fitted perfectly for the part of Hendrik.

During the film, Saida undergoes an impressive metamorphosis, but as beautiful as she becomes, she remains impenetrable, which makes it difficult to decide whether she is a "good" person or not. The same applies to the other characters for that matter, as they are all quite isolated.
I am interested in "mixed" feelings because I think that most of the time, in real life, emotions are all entangled. Sometimes it occurs to you that you don't know anymore whether you love a person because of himself or because you hope that he can give you an aim or a solution. That's exactly what happens to Saida, but I would also say that all the characters remain "impenetrable", to a certain extent. Everyone has their own inner conflicts and a hard time communicating.

As a young filmmaker, what are your influences?
For this project, we tried to play on the "lightness" which characterises French cinema (to avoid depending on those typical deep and heavy German films), but I was also influenced by psychological storytelling in recent Danish cinema.

What is your next project?
I am working on several projects in Germany and Switzerland, developing scripts with co-authors. I hope very soon to get the opportunity to make a second feature film. But I am also working on a very personal documentary about religion.

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