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Hannes Stöhr • director

From the Atlantic to the Urals


Hannes Stöhr • director

After studying European law and winning an Erasmus scholarship for two years in Spain, the thirty-five-year old Stuttgart-born director Hannes Stöhr was naturally drawn to put his experience of different European nations onto the big screen, as show the titles of some short films he directed during his five years at the dffb (the Berlin-based film and TV Academy): Europa (1995), Berlin Is In Germany (1999, Best Short Film in Potsdam)...The latter then became a 2001 feature which won Panorama Audience Award at the Berlinale, amongst other awards. In One Day in Europe, Stöhr depicts four thefts which all happen on the same day, the day of a big football game, in four different places (Moscow, Istanbul, Santiago de Compostela, and Berlin) and enhances his clever analysis of clichés with witty dialogues and, in the background, a utopian vision.
Cineuropa enjoyed a nice breakfast meeting with the director in Paris, where Hannes Stöhr was presenting his film at the German Film Festival at the "Arlequin" theatre.

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Cineuropa: Why did you choose these four towns (Moscow, Istanbul, Santiago de Compostela, Berlin)?
H.S.: These are all important places for me. I spent two years in Santiago de Compostela as an Erasmus student —though I spent most of that time backpacking around— and now I have a Spanish co-producer, Filmanova. I am from Berlin, worked in Turkey, and am also very fond of Russia. Besides, choosing such 'European' cities means I talk about Europe in the larger sense. Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals is a beautiful Utopia. I initially intended to film a fifth story about an Italian in Stockholm but there was no budget for this and the film would have been too long.
Of course, my being familiar with these particular places was crucial in terms of research. I wanted to be accurate. The actors and I really worked as a family and they helped a great deal: Miguel de Lira is quite famous in Galicia and knows the place well, Erdal Yildiz is a friend of mine, and I have known the Russian police officers since my studies at the dffb (Film school in Berlin)...

Why did you choose to set the story on the day of a big football game? Why are all four stories about theft?
The idea of the film is to look back on the 1990's and underline one specificity of my generation, that is, the fact that we have travelled all over Europe and have all spent these international students evenings where Polish, Greeks, etc. chat the night away in English —which is why the title is in English. So the film is based on my personal experience, and I have to say that my first notions of what Europe was came from the Champions league. As as kid, even during the Cold War, my vision of Europe was all-encompassing because of all the little team flags on my walls, including the Sparta Prague and the Locomotiv Moscow. Europe has a lot of different definitions, a historical one, a social one, and like it or not, football championships are cultural events which shape a community. It is an interest people from everywhere in Europe have in common. We almost called the movie Galatasaray v. Deportivo, but eventually changed it, except in Spain.
Theft is just incidently the theme of my film. These stories —which also compensate for the Utopia by showing not everybody is a good person—, had to be simple to allow me to elaborate on people's mentalities. Furthermore, everywhere in the world like in Chaplin and Keaton, the police and the uniform are burlesque elements.

In each sketch, you use a lot of cliché, yet the final result is not at all manichaean and narrow-minded.
When you have an hour and a half to say it all, you need to be clear-but and create understandable characters. In fact, I only use clichés to play with European citizens' conception of one another, with the Comedia dell'arte in the back of mind.
Moreover, clichés are no all wrong: it is not that Spanish people are lazy but the "siesta" is important over there. The Spanish who saw the movie actually found it quite accurate, although strangely, some German spectators thought this portrait of Spain was exaggerated. At the Pushkin theatre in Moscow, all spectators laughed through the whole Moscow part. The German guy in Turkey who thinks he knows everything is typical, and so are the over-competent German cops who endeavour to search 150% of the truth of a non-existing crime. The French couple allowed me to stage a true rivalry between Paris and the other provinces, especially the South.
Derision is very didactic, In a world which is constantly changing, it is important to refer to a Utopia —which is why I chose this dreamy title: 'One day...'—, a representation of the future drawn from the lessons of the past, as much as it is necessary to take into account our divisions. This football game illustrates the division between Muslims and Christians, the Church and the Mosque represented on the team flags (the cross of the Deportivo and the Turkish crescent of the Galatasaray). The architecture of the cities I chose refer to the opposition between spirituality and atheism, between holy monuments and sovietic or modern constructions... The Asian buyers loved the movie because it shows that Europe too lacks real unity.

Did you meet many distributors?
The film screened in competition in Berlin before 200,000 spectators, and many distributors enjoyed it. The film has already been bought for several territories in Asia and South-America, for Turkey (it was selected for the Istanbul Film Festival) and everywhere in Europe, except France and the Netherlands —the usual suspects! (laughs) But I am confident we will find a French distributor soon.

This film has a relatively small budget.
It does. Two million euros is not very much for a cinemascope movie. That is also why I tried to involve my friends and work with the local staff, which created a very cosmopolite atmosphere on the set. We were less than ten people to be present on every location.

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