Lukas Valenta Rinner • Director
“In the best-case scenario, the funny situations are also the most terrifying”
- We met up with Austrian-born, Argentinian-based director Lukas Valenta Rinner, whose latest film, A Decent Woman, is another blunt, startling satire about social canons
Austrian-born, Argentinian-based director Lukas Valenta Rinner went to the South American country again to film another blunt, startling satire about social canons: A Decent Woman [+see also:
interview: Lukas Valenta Rinner
film profile] world-premiered at Sarajevo and is now being screened at the 41st Toronto International Film Festival. We chatted with him about the movie.
Cineuropa: The film is a rare co-production case: Austria, Argentina and South Korea. How did the project come about?
Lukas Valenta Rinner: About a year ago, I was contacted by the Jeonju Film Festival a few months after my first feature, Parabellum [+see also:
interview: Lukas Valenta Rinner
film profile], received the Special Jury Prize in the festival's competition. That’s how the South Korean cooperation started. Just before I was told about the Jeonju Cinema Project, I had visited a nudist swingers' club in Buenos Aires during a location scouting session, and I was completely blown away by the location and its inhabitants. So I started writing and casting. It was a very challenging timeline because of the short deadline to present the first cut during the Jeonju Film Festival in April 2016. We later got additional funding through the Austrian Arts Fund and the province of Salzburg, which had co-funded my previous film, and Argentina’s Universidad del Cine, as a co-producer providing technical equipment.
The story follows the same sociopathic path you started with Parabellum. What was the idea behind the film this time?
The province of Buenos Aires is a peculiar place, with noticeable differences in status and class. On one hand, you have these "exclusive" communities, which are gated and protected by security, and on the other hand, you've got poverty, unemployment, poor wages and despair. I wanted to highlight these contrasting spaces. And my inspiration – as was the case with Parabellum – came from real life. There were threats from the "decent", conservative gated community against the nudist-club owners and visitors. By talking about these class tensions, I tried to approach the structural violence, which might seem subtle but is, in my opinion, inherent in modern Argentinian society.
The plot reaches its end kind of abruptly. Was this a deliberate narrative decision?
Yes, definitely. We wanted to create an ending that could be cathartic for the characters and the viewer. During the film, you can feel a lot of subtle tension, which progressively leads the viewer to long for relief because some scenes are so uncomfortable. And that – as disturbing as the events in the film might be – becomes a comical moment. I was interested in putting the viewer in a moral dilemma.
You decide to portray your characters as very unsentimental and unemotional. Why?
For me, my characters are actually very emotional and sentimental. You are right: the moments I decide to show in my films don't expose this vulnerability so blatantly. I guess my scenes start when other directors would cut the scene. I like to show "in-between moments", which focus more on silences, subtle pain and awkward moments. Below the surface, however, there are still roaring rivers of emotionality.
There's a connection between these unemotional characters and your stoic filmmaking, which is very static, quiet and visually powerful. How do you approach this?
Together with my DoP, Roman Kasseroller, we put a lot of emphasis on connecting our characters with the space that surrounds them. In this film, we worked a lot with the contrast between the sleek, symmetrical, clean spaces of the gated community and the vivid, green park, with its ancient pools and rooms. So we put a lot of focus and thought into the locations, their atmosphere and how that would translate onto the screen.
You also mix deadpan comedy and bleak stories in a very interesting way. What would you say influences you the most in achieving this?
I usually start with a "documentary" kind of approach at the beginning of my films. Situations taken from real life inspire me - situations that my co-writers and I find ourselves in during the writing process, which are sometimes bizarre or terrible, or sometimes funny, and then find their way into the screenplay. The rest happens on set naturally, with a mix of professional actors and non-actors. This fact and the uncomfortable situations we put our actors in create funny moments quite naturally. And in the best-case scenario, these funny situations are also the most terrifying.
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