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Ulrike von Ribbeck • director

"Teamwork, trust and tension"


Ulrike von Ribbeck • director

Ulrike von Ribbeck was born in Minden/Westfalia in 1975. Bitten by the film bug at an early age, she majored in Visual Communication at Hamburg’s Hochschule fuer bildende Kunst, made videos, realized she was permanently in love with film, applied for and was accepted by the German Film & Television Academy Berlin (dffb), where she studied from 1999.

Her short films Am See (2001) screened in the Cinéfondation section at Cannes 2003 and Charlotte (2004) in the Berlinale’s Perspectives German Cinema and Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight in 2004. Her first feature, the family drama Frueher oder Spaeter which she developed during her attendance of the “Atelier de la Cinéfondation” in Cannes 2005, was produced by Polyphon in co-production with ZDF/Das kleine Fernsehspiel and ARTE.

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Watch her shorts and you’ll know she tells the truth when she affirms, “I love emotional cinema.” But the kicker is that she loves emotional cinema that derives its power from the script and cast, not directorial theatricality. “I thought Woody Allen’s Match Point [+see also:
film profile
was fantastic,” she continues. “Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm, The Graduate, Lost in Translation, too. I like tense, emotional stories that show the characters’ inner conflicts. They’re plot-orientated, certainly, but the main driver is the emotional. Personal feelings are most important,” she continues, “I build on my own experience and build that into the story.”

“Feelings and moments become part of the fantasy and story-telling. I’ve read and studied the classic three-act-structure, the story of the hero – it functions just like the Star Wars principle – and I stay with the classical narrative methods but I love it when genres get mixed. You can have crossover with realism, sure.” And given that the mainstream is also a broad stream, von Ribbeck also “loves thrillers because they leave so many possibilities open, such as In The Cut from Jane Campion.

So what kind of director is she?
She tries “to get the actors to bring in as much as possible about their own lives. I work long and closely with them, building up a basis of trust to create an ensemble film. We talk a lot about role and character. We talk our way into the characters and create them between us.”

On the writing process, von Ribbeck says she “likes working with co-authors. You talk, you get new ideas, you toss them around. It’s less lonely! The ideas are your own but team working opens new doors, new opinions, inspiration and confrontation. Katharina made the whole process very constructive and I’ll co-write with her again on my next film.”

She says also cares very much about the other partner in the relationship, the audience, “to give them a view of life they might not have had before. I like it when films stay in the memory, touch and affect people.”

Von Ribbeck is now working on the treatment for a thriller about a young manager who is mobbed and tries to discover who is behind it. “He’s lost his job, his life and woman,” she says. “It’s about control. How strong must an individual be? Personally and socially? We live in a performance-orientated society and I’m interested in what happens when this society, or the family in Frueher oder Spaeter, falls apart; that threat in the everyday when the familiar comes under pressure.”

Like all young and new directors, von Ribbeck is “optimistic about the future. I’d love to work in France as it inspires me, but there is also so much talent in German film and good stories can and will be told.”

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