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Lorenz Suter • Director

“The movie was like a work in progress; nobody knew where the story was going”


- Cineuropa talked to Swiss director Lorenz Suter at Solothurn about his mysterious and aesthetically intriguing movie Strangers

Lorenz Suter  • Director

Cineuropa spoke to young Swiss director Lorenz Suter at the Solothurn Film Festival about his mysterious and aesthetically intriguing movie Strangers [+see also:
film review
interview: Lorenz Suter
film profile
, which was premiered at the gathering.

Cineuropa: Why did you choose a specific genre (film noir) for your movie?
Lorenz Suter: First of all, I love cinema in general, and film noir in particular. In this specific genre, there’s something mysterious that somehow grabs me and pulls me in. Film noir allows me to look at the world and at people in a unique way. The world is not just dark and moody; it’s also unstable, and it’s a dangerous place to live in. It means that the characters need to face the darker parts of their souls. Sometimes they feel the need to lie or to have selfish goals, and that’s what interests me – those conflicting personalities. It’s not a pessimistic view, but rather a very realistic perception of the world. I like to show how people behave when they are not in the light of day, when they are not the best version of themselves. They make mistakes and regret their decisions once it’s too late. That doesn’t make them bad people, but they just float. To reflect this in the movie, the images are kept in half-light. Just as important is the strange, nostalgic music, a mix between an orchestra and synthesised sounds – it’s old-school and modern at the same time.

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How did you cast the actors, and how did you work with them?
I already knew them when I started making the movie. The main actor, Nicolas Batthyany, is a friend of mine: we met at the Zurich University of the Arts. We shot a short film that looks exactly like a 1940s film noir [The Man Who Didn’t Want Anything], but it’s about a modern-day relationship. The main character followed me for almost ten years. Strangers is the result of that obsession, and it had to be with Nicolas in the lead role again. The main female characters are played by two actresses whom I admire very much. They both bring a great emotional quality to their characters as modern femme fatales. One of them, Marina Guerrini, is my girlfriend. Before I met her, I got to know her as an actress, years after she started acting as a teenager. With her, as well as with Nicolas, it wasn’t about finding the actors; it was about making them an essential part of this movie. And in return, they made their characters into something very special. 

Strangers was produced as an independent movie; can you tell us more about this process?
The way we made this movie is quite strange in itself, especially for Swiss movies. We followed our instincts and made the film with minimal financing. We were interested in telling a story about a fatal love triangle, but there wasn’t a fully finished screenplay. There were just these three characters evolving and growing organically. I wrote scenes and lines as we went along. The writing, shooting and editing didn’t happen in order, but in different stages. I watched what we shot and made changes. The movie was a work in progress for more than two years; nobody knew where the story was going. We were influenced by the circumstances surrounding us. One funny anecdote is that the main character was forced to leave his flat, and actually it was my apartment, and I really had to move out! The movie was not finished at that time, so I had to find a way to continue shooting. I rewrote the script to incorporate this “accident” in the story. Obstacles like these showed us the way – we didn’t fight it; we just followed the flow, finding a creative way to carry on. It’s an interesting process artistically because the actors and I never really knew what the characters were going to do next: will they be good or bad? Are they lying or not? I told the actors to be in the moment. It took a lot of courage for them to be in the dark for so long and become strangers to themselves. But that’s what film noir is all about, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.

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