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BERLINALE 2024 Encounters

Eva Trobisch, Adrian Campean • Director and cinematographer of Ivo

“This documentary-like approach resulted from the connection between inside and outside”

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- BERLINALE 2024: The filmmakers give us the low-down on their intimate and empathic social drama about a devoted caregiver

Eva Trobisch, Adrian Campean • Director and cinematographer of Ivo

German director Eva Trobisch presented her newest social drama Ivo [+see also:
film review
interview: Eva Trobisch, Adrian Campean
film profile
]
in the Encounters section of this year's Berlinale. We met her and her cinematographer, Adrian Campean, to talk about the making of the film, which focuses on the resolute title character.

Cineuropa: Where did the idea for the movie come from?
Eva Trobisch:
I search for my characters in the grey areas or in-between worlds. I came across the figure of the angel of death from the Charité clinic. I was fascinated by this woman who wants to redeem people and who, at the same time, obviously also plays God. This was the trigger, and the story then started to focus on palliative care. That's when Adrian came along. Through his father, who is a doctor who has founded an alternative system for the care of palliative patients, he was very close to the topic. I did research myself, too. As in most nursing professions, the staff are underpaid and work in poor conditions. They often don’t work together with the doctors, but rather in their own care service. They go from house to house and don't have much time for individual patients.

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Adrian Campean: In comparison, my father has set up a system in North Rhine-Westphalia in which both the caregiver and the doctors work closely together. Everyone receives almost the same salary, which is supplemented by bonuses, depending on the extra work involved. It's palliative care that takes place in the hospices and, above all, at the patient's house. Of course, they also have time pressure because they have a lot of patients, but the nursing staff and doctors can basically take their time to look after people.

The aesthetic of the film has a documentary look. How important was it for you to be as authentic as possible in the portrayal of the story? Where were the boundaries?
ET:
We found our way on the fly; we didn't have a clear concept right from the start. I was unsure at the beginning. That's why it was important to have Adrian, who had a completely different approach to the subject. Together with his father, we worked out the different approaches. For example, there was the idea of filming in a documentary style so that the patients would be real, but that didn't feel right for me in the end. That wasn't the cinematic approach I was looking for. It might have worked if the patients had been the absolute focus. But the main character was Ivo, and the patients were part of her world. That's why it was important for all of the patients to be actors. However, the rest of the medical staff are real nurses and doctors – they do a fantastic job and have a level of expertise that would have been difficult to replicate.

AC: The aesthetics are also partly due to the budget when it came to the equipment or individual technical aspects. But we actually liked that, too. The documentary-like approach also resulted from the story – for example, from this connection between inside and outside. Many documentary-like views arise because the main character drives a lot by car, or because she goes in and out of the flats. Some things came about of their own accord, like the pigeons on the building site. We also shot in many apartments and houses of friends and acquaintances. We created the characters' stories from the motifs we found there. Of course, this was in addition to the research we had done beforehand.

Has your personal attitude towards the topic changed as a result of working on the film?
ET:
The movie was a great, essential experience for me. Most people who deal with the subject of death probably have a different view on life and find a different relationship with it. You become incredibly humble towards your own health and the health of others. What I had to learn was to find my own attitude towards the patients. I was cautious at first: it's easy to slip into sympathy, into a compassionate tone that doesn't help the patient. All of the doctors and nurses have a straightforwardness and matter-of-factness that make real help possible.

What were the most important criteria that the actress had to fulfil for the role of Ivo?
ET:
Minna Wündrich, who mainly performs in the theatre, committed to the project with great dedication and a willingness to take risks, shaping and shedding light on her character more precisely with each passing day. Thanks to Minna, Ivo now possesses this unflinching brightness. Minna's Ivo is patient and gripping; she is strong – both mentally and physically – and possesses great empathy while at the same time being capable of emotional detachment. These are all attributes that we have often observed in people who consciously choose this field of work.

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