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Philip Gröning • Director

"A challenge given to the audience"


- Philip Gröning presented The Policeman’s Wife in competition in Venice. Special Jury Prize

Philip Gröning • Director

Cineuropa recorded an interview with German director Philip Gröning during his visit to the 70th Venice Film Festival where his latest film, The Policeman’s Wife [+see also:
film review
interview: Philip Gröning
film profile
, was presented in competition.

What are the themes that you wanted to exploit in the film? 
The film is about universality both in terms of the obscure side represented by domestic violence and the love that brings a family together. It is a film about violence in the home, but also about the love between a mother and daughter. These aspects are of equal importance in the film. Then, it is also about imbalance. It is a story that could take place anywhere.

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How did you work on the division into chapters?
Each chapter is a scene. The situation therefore dictates the duration of the chapter. We wanted the public to come in and out of these scenes so we cut them with an entry and exit point for each of them. The chapters enable a certain distancing. This isn’t a film that wants to be imposing. Distance is important to give the public the freedom to judge, but it is also a challenge given to the audience who looks at this story which doesn’t take it hostage.

Were you inspired by stylistic references?
There are no stylistic references. I make films as I wish, following the intuitions that seem the most correct in relation to the story or characters. There are passages that are more artistic while others are more naturalist, but the style is dictated to me by the story and the characters’ emotions.

The film is not Manichean. The violence is rather the result of a pathology...
I did not want to show a bad man. He is a normal man who lacks love and the danger to fall into violence is present for everyone when a lack changes your existence. Everyday-life begins to empty itself when we become violent. It begins very simply and the change is sometimes insidious and slow to develop, but in the end, we destroy the life of others and our own at the same time. It could be compared to a disease that alters personalities. In this couple, the man and woman are both victims.

Why did you use a recurrence of singing scenes?
Singing – and especially the nursery rhymes that are sung in the film – represents a transfer of love. The child teaches the parents to sing. The parents teach the child to sing. A transmission takes place and this was the aspect that fascinated me the most. These are also moments of pause for the spectator, which are useful when emotions are too strong and one needs to breathe before delving into the story again.

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(Translated from French)

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