Constanze Klaue • Director of Lychen 92
“The question is why it is so important to talk about the time after 1989?”
- German director Constanze Klaue talked to us about her short film Lychen 92, screening as part of this year’s EFP Future Frames
As every year, 12-year-old Mo sets off to a campsite in the small town of Lychen with his parents. But this time things are different. Germany may be reunited but people are divided. Former East Germans find themselves with little money. Those who relocate to the West find themselves better off. In Lychen 92 we see times of enormous social change through the prism of the experiences of a young child.
The German film is directed by Constanze Klaue, a multi-talented director who is also a writer and musician and has studied at the Academy of Media Arts. With Lychen 92 screening as part of this year’s European Film Promotion’s Future Frames, which takes place during Karlovy Vary’s Eastern Promises, we caught up with her to find out more about the turbulent politics behind the film.
Cineuropa: Much of Lychen 92 is about how a child perceives times of great social upheaval. What drew you to this subject?
Constanze Klaue: I was born in the GDR but raised in united Germany and when I started to study in the western part of Germany, I realized that there were huge differences amongst my generation: that my friends from the West have completely different backgrounds from my friends in the East. I thought it was normal for our parents to be unemployed, suffering from mental health problems or drinking a lot of alcohol. And then I realized that it wasn't normal and the reason is based on the consequences of the reunification. So many people lost their jobs; their identity; their homes. It was too easy to say that “socialism was bad and now everyone is free”. Most East Germans never wanted to live under capitalism and had so many problems identifying with West Germany. From one day to the other they had to accept that they are second class citizens. Life in the GDR was no longer worth anything…
The film delves heavily into the attitudes of the reunification at the time. Did you ever worry some of the nuance will be lost for audiences outside of Germany?
Oh yes, I was definitely worried about it, because I am sure that the nuances are hardly understood even in western Germany. But this raises questions for the film and that is good for starting a discourse. I am very interested in how the film will be received outside of Germany, because most of the films about the GDR end with the fall of the Berlin Wall (and David Hasselhoff). The question is why it is so important to talk about the time after 1989? The answer is that East Germany has a big problem with right groups and parties today and THAT is not only a German problem.
But there are not only negative things about East Germany. I also try to show the special identity of the East Germans.
Working with children always creates its own unique situations. How did you go about casting the youngsters in the film?
I searched ALL casting agencies in Germany and had a very long and intensive casting. But there were simply no boys who had the typical East German behaviour and that typical accent in their language. Then I started a local radio call and asked the local newspaper to publish an article about the film. Then I got a lot of E-casting videos. Among them was Emil Dieck, who plays Brecht in the film. Enrico I finally found in the forest while I searched for locations. He was sitting at a small lake with his grandparents and was fishing.
There’s an ever so slight air of surrealism about the film. Was this to emphasise a child’s POV?
I think that is my USP is to look through children’s eyes. I do it in my books, in my songs and in the film. I am a big fan of literature and films that have an initial lightness of touch but have a secondary, deeper level. That touches me much more than the mere tragedy. And that gives my characters more dignity. They shouldn't be pitied. My big role model is Jonathan Safran Foer. He is the master of tragic-comic storytelling.
What are you working on next?
My first feature film is something like a continuation of Lychen 92. It’s an adaption of the bestseller Punching the World by Lukas Rietzschel and explores stories up to the present day including our current problems with right-wing groups and parties.
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