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BERLINALE 2023 Competition

Christoph Hochhäusler • Director of Till the End of the Night

“‘No happy ending’ is also a possible life scenario”


- BERLINALE 2023: Our discussion revolved around the distance inherent in modern-day romances and what it really means to stay true to yourself

Christoph Hochhäusler  • Director of Till the End of the Night

Oscillating between the romance blossoming between star-crossed trans woman and criminal Leni, and the gay and emotionally distant cop Robert on the one hand, and a drug investigation on the other, in Till the End of the Night [+see also:
film review
interview: Christoph Hochhäusler
film profile
, Christoph Hochhäusler tries to capture the essence of what staying true to yourself really means – whether that entails finding your very own happy ending or just learning about yourself in the process. We spoke to him about his Berlinale main competition title.

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Cineuropa: The most striking moment of intimacy between the leads, Robert and Leni, is when there is a car window – a wall, so to speak – between them. Do you like working with symbols?
Christoph Hochhäusler: I don't know if the wall is a symbol. But the obstacle of this wall or the protection it offers naturally enables a certain kind of personal opening up. It's an alienation device, a hindrance that is very present in our day and age. You can make love on Zoom or Skype. I'm interested in that. What does it improve about the situation? After all, it is difficult to deal with someone else's body. The relationship we are showing in the film is specifically full of conflicts.

Bodies are an abstract construct, and Robert is told to ignore binary terms. On the other hand, he also faces a challenge: he simply likes men, and now the man he loves is no longer a man.
You can't do anything about feelings. You can criticise them, but they are still there. Robert is someone you should criticise, but not condemn. He's not ready yet.

He's not ready yet, but Leni is very secure in her body. You usually see that situation the other way around.
She is just who she is, and that is where she draws her strength from. Even though the social aspect can never be truly neglected, it always plays a role in the formation of one's own identity. How do others see me, and what do others expect of me? That is a big part of the fascination surrounding [actress] Thea Ehre and Leni.

Is this also the reason why some characters can have a happy ending in this film, and some can't?
There is a line uttered by Robert that he is not the type for that. “No happy ending” is also a possible life scenario. I don’t condemn it at all if someone doesn't know who he, she or they are. There is always this terror nowadays of “being yourself”. But it's not that simple; it's not black and white.

Besides the interpersonal relationships, the film is also a story about a drug investigation. Normally, you see a lot of hardened men in these stories, but you turn that on its head with this LGBTQ film. What was there first – the idea for these characters or to do an investigation?
The characters were always the stable factor, as were their problems or their longing for each other. What came relatively late on in the process was the gangster element. The gangster Viktor, who has this emotional intelligence that Robert lacks, has a catalysing effect on the love story. I wanted to show a gangster who is half-evil on the one hand, but who is still not blind to other people's feelings and who also has a life at home.

Watching the film, it's never quite clear what the truth is. Did Leni and Robert know each other beforehand or not?
I've always been fascinated by film noir – the fact that you're drawn into such a dark mire and don't know who to trust. That may be frustrating, but I find it fascinating.

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