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BERLIN 2017 Forum

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Casting: The bitter tears of a character in search of a character


- BERLIN 2017: Nicolas Wackerbath’s film is a story about cinema that has been put together like a Russian doll — not only in terms of its subject matter but also its structure

Casting: The bitter tears of a character in search of a character

Casting [+see also:
interview: Nicolas Wackerbarth
film profile
, the opening film of the Forum section at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, turned out to be a remarkably apposite choice, and not only for the way it purports to slink into the world of cinema by the back door, only to throw the audience in head-first, immersing us in its depths with masterful skill under the magician-like direction of Nicolas Wackerbarth.

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As Casting gets under way, we are in fact under the impression that we are witnessing several days of casting for a remake of Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, narrated like an observational documentary and filmed on a shoulder-mounted camera. We overhear casual conversations in the dressing rooms and on set, and, as actress after actress reads for the role of Petra, we observe the complex and interdependent relationship that arises between these hopefuls and the director, Vera (Judith Engel). It’s a relationship that oscillates between submission, mixed with a need to show gratitude, and a sense of resistance or even defiance, tinged with pride, that seems both completely understandable and a little ridiculous. 

The experience is a little like giving birth: as essential to the artistic process as it is painful on a human level. By calling into question the integrity of each member of the team as they carry out their work on the film, relationships are twisted and sensitivities provoked. The dynamics at work in this process seem to be underlined by the presence of an external agent, Gerwin, once an aspiring actor himself. Everywhere you look, there he is, solely to deliver his rejoinder. The auditions rumble on, with the crew seemingly at the mercy of the mysterious intentions of a director who would appear to be the root source of the frustration reigning over them all. Suddenly, this visitor in their midst (memorably played by Austrian actor Andreas Lust, known for his Oscar-nominated performance in Revanche [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Götz Spielmann
film profile
as well as for the superb The Robber [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Benjamin Heisenberg
film profile
) reveals a level of commitment, both physical and otherwise, that is surprising to say the least. 

Gerwin’s enthusiasm, which extends to a sensual embrace with the actor he replaces, cringe-worthy compliments and even, quite literally, the kissing of feet, provokes a certain disquiet. With a suspiciously martyr-like air, Gerwin casts an irritating veil of uncertainty over his role on the set that makes everything more complicated, and Casting morphs from meta-cinema into pure fiction — a story whose protagonist is a character in search of a character. However, this is a cruel deception: right from the start, the only thing that matters is the film, the manifestation of the director’s vision — that intangible desire that transforms her not into a puppet-master but a magician, forced to ignore Gerwin’s bitter tears in her quest to bring forth Petra’s. 

Casting was produced by SWR – Südwestrundfunk.

(Translated from French)

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