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“Comedy needs a specific place and time”

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Josef Hader • Director

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- Cineuropa met up with Austrian actor Josef Hader, whose first film as a director, Wild Mouse, is now in German theatres

Josef Hader  • Director
(© Gerhard Kassner / Berlinale)

At the 67th Berlinale - where Josef Hader unveiled Wild Mouse [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Josef Hader
film profile
]
, his first feature where he also ventures behind the camera, in competition - and as Filmladen simultaneously released the film in Austria, Cineuropa met up with the much-loved Viennese actor and comedian to talk about this off-beat, exuberant satire about an upper-middle-class music critic’s breakdown after he loses his job. Wild Mouse is now playing on German screens, courtesy of Majestic.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: Some directors make the movies they’d like to see, while some try to convey certain emotions or ideas... What was the trigger that put you in the director’s chair?
Josef Hader:
Definitely the former. When I write a comedy or a screenplay, I am my first audience. It may seem silly, but I’m sitting there laughing at my own jokes, at least the first time, and then I start working on them. I make what I would like to see, and hope other people will like it, too.

Was it challenging to combine that role with that of the lead actor?
Of course. This is something I had been thinking about for some time, but I was hesitant. Then, when I wrote the screenplay for Wild Mouse, the first I have written alone, without a co-writer, after the second or third draft, I told myself: "You have put so much into this; maybe you can do it!" I thought about it some more, and I felt it was my last chance to be new at a job, a job that is very exciting – even though it is also very difficult, and though sometimes I felt I might have reached my limits, in the end, I really liked it.

So Wild Mouse is a social satire with some personal elements – despite its universal appeal and the fact that the story unfolds in a context of the wider global crisis (which we hear in the film, on the radio)?
I’m convinced that when I make a film, be it comedy, tragedy or tragicomedy, it has to be located in a specific place – I don’t like comedies that could happen anywhere – at a specific time, and it has to talk about that society at that time. For this film, the idea was to talk about my own social environment, about this upper-middle-class milieu that is politically correct, eats organic food, does a little sport... Indeed, we hear the news about the Midde East, but we don’t know what it means, who the bad guys or the good guys are, and so in a way, it paralyses us. We tend to think we’re hip, and better than our parents, but in the end, we are the same.

Georg, the character you play in the film, is going through a crisis, but so is nearly everyone else in the movie, albeit in a less spectacular manner.
The film tells the story of upper-middle-class people who each have their own personal drama, all at the same time, but their respective dramas don’t fit together, and that’s the tragedy as well as the comedy in the film. Unlikely people are mixed together here and new relationships are formed, whether they are meant to last (like Georg and Erich’s) or they are just for one night, but the main idea is still that the greatest problem in the world is that each and every one of us wants different things that don’t quite match up.

A large part of the story happens at a fair - the film actually gets its title, Wild Mouse, from one of the rides, a roller-coaster ride. How did you come up with that location?
The idea to shoot in the Prater amusement park, near Vienna, came along quite quickly. I felt it would bring something to both the image and the sound of the movie. I wanted to have many different atmospheres in the film, instead of a musical score, and Prater is indeed another world. I also liked the idea of throwing a classical music critic into the place with the ugliest, most headache-inducing music you can find in the city. And then, after the city and the park, I also wanted to have scenes in the snow, because snow changes everything – the picture, the sound – and I wanted a very quiet finale, there in the snow.

(Translated from French)

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