Marcus H Rosenmüller • Director of Beckenrand Sheriff
“I reserve the right to see the world as something beautiful”
by Teresa Vena
- The director’s new comedy serves as a manifesto for more mutual understanding
While the public debate about everyday discrimination for people of ethnicities other than white in Germany remains fiercely topicalin politics and the media, a series of films have been dealing with it in different ways, too. In his latest outing, Beckenrand Sheriff [+see also:
interview: Marcus H Rosenmüller
film profile] (lit. “Pool Edge Sheriff”), director Marcus H Rosenmüller, known for his tragicomedies such as Wer's glaubt wird selig [+see also:
film profile], which are usually set in Bavaria, tells the story of a young refugee who has been assigned as an assistant to the lifeguard at the local swimming pool. At first, they don't get on, but then they come to realise their similarities and that they want to fight for a place to be able to call home. We talked to the director about his protagonists and his ability to see the beautiful side of the world.
Cineuropa: How did the project come about?
Marcus H Rosenmüller: About two-and-a-half years ago, my producer, Julia Rappold, took part in a script workshop at a film school. There, Marcus Pfeiffer presented the story and read out a scene from the script. Julia then said that the humour would suit me and that I should make the film. I actually saw a spirit, an attitude, in it that I liked very much. On the surface, there is a clear, comprehensible story, but it also conveys a reconciliatory, positive-minded utopia. I reserve the right to see the world as something beautiful. Like Marcus Pfeiffer, I enjoy having the ability to maintain levity amidst the heaviness.
What fascinates you about the profession of a lifeguard?
The open-air swimming pool is a beautiful place where many people also have childhood experiences. The lifeguard is a kind of antagonist there. He is the rule-keeper, and kids measure themselves against him. He is a similar figure to the facility manager at school: on the outside, they have something austere about them, but I have seen that many of them also have a big heart.
When was it decided that Milan Peschel would take on this role?
In the first version of the script, the actor playing the lifeguard was supposed to be someone from Bavaria. But Milan was my preferred candidate, and we considered whether it could work or not. Since both he and Marcus Pfeiffer agreed, we then rewrote the role for him.
As a non-Bavarian, he almost has an even more austere outlook…
Above all, he is someone who is not originally from this place either. And he is also not integrated, in his own way. He therefore has emotional points in common with Sali. The swimming pool becomes a home, a base for him. One should not underestimate how places can be a home for someone.
How did you go about casting for the role of Sali?
We did a lot of research and also wondered whether we should have a real refugee to play the role. But the part seemed too complicated because it needed the right timing to be able to switch between comedy and drama so accurately. This is a real challenge that also requires a good command of the language. We then found Dimitri Abold, who has great acting talent. He had to prepare intensively for the role. He himself has not been “socialised” in the same way as the protagonist of the film. He has no past as a refugee. He speaks perfect German and had to learn to bring in the different linguistic nuances in his accent. It was important that he appeared as authentic as possible, which is why he spent time with real refugees, too.
Apart from the relationship between the lifeguard and his assistant, there are two other narrative threads: the love story and the father-daughter relationship. What do you like best about each of these themes?
Each character has his or her own real story. Everyone is caught up in their story, and that's often the way it is. We forget that everyone has to struggle. We have to learn to deal with our fears, and normality is difficult to establish. It is important not to barricade oneself in one's own story, but rather to be open. In the film, one story conditions the other. Connections emerge, and that's how people find each other. The characters are not interested in economic gain, but rather in their friendship. Dreams and visions can change the world, and I like to show a certain utopia. I'm also aware that I'm going into kitsch territory, but it was intentional to adopt a childlike perspective. The swimming pool is a kind of metaphor for diving into the righteous and the paradisiacal by jumping into the water.
Were there any logistical difficulties when shooting at the pool?
We spent a long time looking for the right swimming pool. It had to meet specific criteria, like having the different diving boards, and it had to be organised on different levels. It also had to be possible to heat the pool because we shot in October and November, and it would not have been possible for the actors otherwise. It was also important that it wasn't too big. In the end, we had two swimming pools that we were able to use.
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