Samstag, 6. März 2010

Mark Johnson and Michael Haneke the day before the Oscars

Mark Johnson and Michael Haneke the day before the Oscars

After a short welcome by Bruce Davis (Academy Executive Director), Mark Johnson (Foreign Film Award Executive Committee Chair ), took over the 82nd Academy Awards Foreign Language Film Award Nominees Symposium on Saturday March 6, 2010 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The symposium started with the screening of excerpts of the films "Ajami", "The Milk of Sorrow", "A Prophet" , "The Secret in Their Eyes" and the "White Ribbon". All directors of the films were present, including Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, Claudia Llosa, Jacques Audiard, Juan José Campanella and Michael Haneke.

In the beginning of his introductory speech Johnson stressed that those five nominated films were carefully selected by a committee that consists of about 300 members. He also defended the Academy for not being prejudice.

“In talking earlier this week to Claudia Llosa and Juan José Campanella, the directors of the nominated films from Peru and Argentina, they expressed to me their surprise and delight that the Academy would nominate two movies from South America. When I asked why, one of them told me that’s what many film-festivals would never do and that never before had two films from South America been Oscar nominated. I was both surprised and somewhat defensive, because they might have thought we sat in a conference room upstairs in this building and pointed at a map and pick our nominees. We’re not strategic enough and quite frankly that smart enough to really care from where our nominated films come. I firmly believe that all of our selections are based pure and simply on the value of submitted films regardless of the country. We really don’t care, where a good film comes from, just that it’s good.”

Furthermore, Johnson stressed that due to the inability of Americans to embrace subtitled films, the Academy would try to do whatever they can do to draw attention to these movies that are worth the effort. He also said that the nominations can have a huge significance "not just in the pride that brings to the films of the filmmakers, but often to the film making community of that country itself. Often the nominations of the movie will ignite governmental support of its national cinema."

Johnson, who almost forgot to introduce German director Michael Haneke, said that this would be his favorite category of the Academy Awards and that this has been the strongest year, since he's been the chair in that committee.

Director Michael Haneke came to the Academy with three of his producers of the film "White Ribbon," including Stefan Arndt. Main actor Burghart Klaussner, as well as Haneke's son and grandson were there.

Mark Johnson: All of your films have been so heavily prized and given so much acclaim throughout the world and won film festivals and your equivalence of the Oscars and so on, to what degree is any of that meaningful to you as filmmakers, or is it really something more for the producers or the distribution companies?

Michael Haneke:

Ich kann nur anschliessen, an das was die anderen vorher gesagt haben. Man macht ja Filme um zu kommunizieren und jede Art von Anerkennung seien es Besucherzahlen, seien es Preise ist natuerlich ein Zeichen, dass irgendetwas an dieser Kommunikation funktioniert. Das ist sozusagen der emotionale Teil, dann gibt es aber einen praktischen Teil wir sind alle in dieser Branche, immer so gut, wie unser letzter Erfolg und da sind natuerlich Preise unglaublich wichtig fuer die zukuenftigen Projekte.

Well, I can only agree with what has been said up till now. You don’t make films to win prices, you make films to communicate and so every kind of recognition is an aspect of that, whether it’s prizes or whether its success in terms of box office and that shows then that the film has worked in terms of communication. That’s the emotional aspect of the prices, the practical aspect is that in this branch you’re always as good as your last film, and so the prices are a recognition of that and may make it easier to make a next film.

Michael I see that your film is a screen-play that you wrote but there is a credit to the famous writer Jean-Claude Carrière. How did that come about?

Der Film, also das Drehbuch wie es urspruenglich geschrieben war, war ueber 3 einhalb Stunden lang und die Produzenten sagten natuerlich dass man 3 einhalb Stunden Filme nicht verkaufen und auch nicht produzieren kann, zumindest nicht bei uns und deswegen wir koennten den Film nur machen, wenn wir eine Stunde rausschneiden, dann hab ich das versucht, und das 20 Minuten geschafft und dann gesagt, mehr ist nicht drin und dann hatte ich die Idee den Carrière zu fragen, ob er mir beim Kuerzen helfen kann und dann haben wir uns getroffen und das Skript gelesen, er hat ein paar Wochen Zeit gebraucht, dann ist er gekommen wir haben 2 Tage gearbeitet und dann war der Film auf der Laenge, die er jetzt hat.

The original screen-play as I wrote it was 3 and a half hours long and of course the producers told me that there was no way that they get financing and that they can produce this film at least not in Germany, therefore I was told it would be essential for me to cut the film by at least an hour, so I spent a long time wiggling away and succeeded in shaving off 20 minutes and said I can’t do more than that, but then I had the idea to bring Jean-Claude Carrière in and to help me shorten the film. We met, we read the script, Jean-Claude needed a few weeks, he came back, we worked together for two days and as a result to that the film came to its present length.
Mark Johnson:
That’s fascinating so they ended up working just the two days together and then it was a finished script.

Michael Haneke:

Man muss nur an der richtigen Stelle streichen.

It’s just a question of recognizing the right spot to cut out.

Mark Johnson:

Michael you’ve worked with some of the best actors in the world I think of your film with Isabelle Huppert in the Piano teacher. Obviously in White Ribbon there were a number of professional actors, people I’ve seen before, but then the real stars of the film, the most significant characters of the children were the children. There were so many children in the film. They were spectacular, they have some of the most beautiful faces you've ever seen, and yet in the context are quite terrifying. That must have taken you a very long time to cast those children?

Michael Haneke:

"Ja, das war meine grosse Sorge, den Film zu starten und dann festzustellen dass dann diese vielen Kinder, die eine entscheidene Rolle spielen, dass ich dafuer die richtigen Leute gefunden hab. Deswegen haben wir schon ein halbes Jahr vorher mit dem Casting begonnen und haben ueber 7000 Kinder gecastet was relativ viel ist und alle Kinder waren die ganze Zeit waehrend des Drehs da und wurden betreut und vorbereitet und es war auch natuerlich in dem Drehplan eingeplant, dass die Arbeit mit Kindern, vorallem mit kleineren Kindern mehr Zeit braucht. Wir hatten das gleiche Problem mit den Statisten, also sie haben ja da ein paar Gesichter in der Kirche gesehen. Der Film spielt zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts auf dem Lande, die Leute damals kennen wir von Fotos, wir wissen wie sie in den Zeiten aussahen. Die Bauern, die heute in Norddeutschland leben, haben ihren klimatisierten Traktor und sehen aus wie jemand der aus der Stadt kommt. Wir haben also ueber 200 Statisten aus dem Norden von Rumaenien per bus kommen lassen, um diese Gesichter eben zu finden. Und beim Casting der Kinder war natuerlich erstmal das Talent entscheidend, aber in zweiter Linie schon auch die Gesichter, die halt Gesichter sind, die man sich in dieser Zeit vorstellen kann.

That was my greatest concern of course that we start with the pre-production of the film and that I have to call back my producer one day saying, I’m sorry we have to stop I haven’t been able to find the right faces, the right actors for their parts. This is why we started with the casting half year before we started shooting the film. We met with over 7000 children for the roles. When they were all present during the shoot, we prepared them, we worked with them before the shoot, they had people looking after them and we also planned this in our shooting schedule. We knew that working with children would require more time, especially with the youngest children so we allowed them more time during the shooting."

We had the same concern with extras. You've seen the faces in the scene in the church. The film plays in the beginning of the 20. Century. The people we know from that time, we’ve only seen on photographs, however, the farmers you find working in Germany today, real farmers, spend all day sitting in air-conditioned tractors they don’t look at all like farmers from that time. And for that reason we traveled to Northern Romania and chose 200 extras there who came by bus to us. Our main concern in casting the children was of course that they would be talented, but second that we’d find the right children that looked like the faces we’d come to know from photographs in that period.

Mark Johnson:

These are really remarkable faces and a fascinating detail that you needed the faces with the lines from the sort of weather beaten qualities that perhaps you can’t find today.

Mark Johnson: Michael, you’ve done your film in black and white

Michael Haneke:

Ja, ich hab das von Anfang an entschieden. Ich hab gesagt, wenn ich den Film mache moechte ich ihn in schwarz-weiss machen. Da bin ich anfangs auf eine grosse Gegenliebe gestossen, sowohl bei den Produzenten als auch bei den Verleihern. Und weil ich ein sturer Mensch bin, hab ich’s durchgesetzt und jetzt sind wir alle gluecklich.

I decided that from the very beginning. I said, if I make the film, I do it in black and white, of course the producers and distributors didn’t welcome that. But since I’m a rather stubborn individual I got my way.

Simone Kussatz:

Mr. Haneke, I felt intrigued by your character Karli, the little boy with down-syndrome, what made you decide to have a mentally retarded child in your cast?

Michael Haneke: I just wanted to resemble how village people looked like and in earlier times there were sometimes several mentally retarded children living there.

Article with Interview by Simone Kussatz

Photo by Press department of American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

All content of this site (c) belongs to Simone Kussatz

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