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Christina Friedrich • Director of Zone

"All the scenes in my film were shot in one take, with no retakes"


- The German filmmaker discussed her latest film, about improvisational acting, creative freedom and the primacy of emotions over the literal meaning of her images

Christina Friedrich • Director of Zone
(© German Film Fest. Madrid)

German Film Fest. Madrid brought to the Spanish capital the second feature film by the filmmaker and writer Christina Friedrich, entitled Zone [+see also:
film review
interview: Christina Friedrich
film profile
. Despite not suiting all palates, nor patience, it aroused the curiosity of some of the audience at her screenings. After one such screening, we met on a terrace with the director to get more details on this work, which was presented in the Harbour section of this year's IFFR.

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Cineuropa: Did the film come out of the need to expand on the themes dealt in the novel on which it is based, Keller, which you yourself wrote?
Christina Friedrich:
The book has a very heavy text. I talked to several publishers about publishing it, but they told me it was too dark... But German history is dark! So, I decided to make a film about it and just as I started shooting, a publisher became interested in my book.

Both works pick at the same wound: how the German people did not stop the barbarism, how something so bestial was normalised. Has this caused criticism from any social groups in your country?
The film has not yet been released in my country. It will be released on 3 October in Berlin, although it was previewed at the Rotterdam film festival. It received hardly any funding: only in Thuringia, the federal state where the action takes place. When I applied for grants, the book already existed and you could see where my work was going and what the point of the film was, but it was in the middle of a pandemic and they told me they didn't need any more gruesome German stories. There was no real interest in subsidising it and when I presented it at a German film festival they told me they didn't want to screen it, so I'm extremely grateful that this festival in Madrid has accepted it.

Why a film with so many parts? Is it a puzzle, a poem...?
That’s not how I intended it. It's like when you paint a picture or compose a symphony, certain elements crop up. I would define it as a prayer, an exercise in memory: the requiem of a girl crying for those who disappeared in a country.

Zone is very performative, with choreography and music. And some living paintings, set in a pictorial style, but in movement.
Sure, these are my resources. I come from theatre, I work with human bodies, with empty and big spaces.

Was there a pre-scripted structure when Zone was made or was there a lot of improvisation?
I threw away a large part of the script I wrote, also for cost reasons, as it is financed by me. But the locations are predefined and all the scenes were shot in one take, with no retakes. Actors are completely free to improvise.

How long did the filming take, as there are a lot of scenes?
About twenty days, in summer. With no assistants or catering, I cooked for the whole team. But the editing did take a long time.

When you presented the film here in Madrid today, you recommended the audience to immerse themselves in the film like in a river. Does this mean that you attach more importance to emotion and what the images provoke than to looking for the meaning of the images?
I think Zone can be read with the body: it takes a certain amount of blindness or deafness to appreciate her. You don’t need to try to understand her in her entirety, but to let oneself go with confidence, entering into the life of this girl as herself, assuming that we do not understand everything, but we do feel many things. That's what cinema is: a medium that conveys emotions; we must not try to understand it with the intellect, but with some confusion, without words and with surprise.

But in order to make such a unique film, there is no other option than to be an independent soldier. Is absolute freedom your reward?
I never wanted barriers or compromises to create Zone, I wanted absolute freedom to build it. The price is high, of course, but it has turned out the way I wanted it to. I didn't want to negotiate anything at all.

Do you have any similar upcoming projects?
I’ve just finished a David Lynch-esque film, with children on a very long night journey, called The Night Is Dark and Brighter than the Day. And I have another one in the pipeline, Ach Europa, which is monstrous, political and wild: with a lot of madness and body.

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(Translated from Spanish by Vicky York)

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