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Alain Gsponer • Director

Looking behind the façade

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Alain Gsponer • Director

Alain Gsponer likes to disclose all kinds of untruths, exploiting their tragicomic nature and creating his own particular style. He is one of the idiosyncratic, meticulous directors of a generation now in its thirties, and yet for many abroad he remains a secret festival tip. This may be due to the difficulty in categorizing Gsponer, whose work certainly cannot be labelled New German Cinema or Berlin School (although he had chosen to live in Berlin).

His first full-length films, winners of several awards, were Rose and Life Actually [+see also:
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. These films already constituted the essence of a cinematic style that emerges in the tragicomic deconstruction of its own and other images. The same could be said of My Words, My Lies – My Love [+see also:
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, his most recent feature. It is a romantic comedy, of course, though anything but a film made according to fixed recipe. It focuses on a hired waiter who rises in the world to becoming a star on the literary scene – from a manuscript he stole to impress a girl.

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Gsponer learned his craft at the Baden-Württemberg Film Academy, where he was accepted as a documentary filmmaker. After his talent for directing actors became obvious, however, he graduated in the film department in 2002. Since then, he has aimed high with his casting decisions. One can always recognize the pleasure of acting on screen in Gsponer’s work. But the light-hearted mood of those performances hides the fact that he calls for family line-ups first or requires his actors to perform psychological status exercises. “I am leaving naturalism behind more and more,” he says. “What I see all too often is a lack of energy in films made of television. But I want scenes full of energy.” Actors who work with the director are let off the leash, yet he still manages to pin down their energies.

Gsponer views filmmaking as a team effort, preferably with a regular collaborative team. Matthias Fleischer generally handles the cinematography in his films and Alexander Buresch is his customary co-writer. In those cases in which he took full responsibility for the screenplay, Gsponer says, the films turned out too serious. “Drama is simpler,” he believes. “But the viewer will allow you to take him further if you can manage to make him laugh now and then. A wink on the side means that sometimes you can go right into the depths.” This search for the depths often leads Gsponer and his author Buresch to hyped-up, even surreal sequences. The son’s hobby in Life Actually is constructing homemade bombs, and his father experiences a cathartic moment only when he gets high on drugs. In Gsponer’s work the façades always crumble, whether in the family, a neighbourhood, or the culture or media business. The director is currently considering material with political implications in face of increasing animosity towards foreigners in Switzerland – an investigation into the duplicitous dealings of the political world would definitely not be out of place in his filmography. In addition, this year he also intends to continue developing original material in which more lies are uncovered – mainly in a family setting. But all these firm ideas are not enough for Gsponer. He is already planning a very different project for 2012. Together with the Munich-based production company Claussen+Wöbke+Putz he will be making the film version of a classic German children’s book.

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