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Florian Gallenberger • Director

A tendancy for extreme conditions


Florian Gallenberger • Director

“I certainly don’t crave it,” Florian Gallenberger emphasizes. By this he means the now almost notorious stress he experiences while filming on location. The director made his Oscar-winning short film about two street kids, Quiero ser, on the streets of Mexico City, his full-length film debut Shadows of Time [+see also:
interview: Florian Gallenberger
film profile
in the slums of India, and John Rabe – the first German cinema film ever to be made in China. The making of all three films was “absolutely crazy, sheer madness,” as the director admits. Every time, he thought it couldn’t get worse.

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A different exotic backdrop to each film and shooting an adventure in itself: others would soon give up in those circumstances. But even though he claims the opposite, Gallenberger seems to need this kind of kick. And aren’t all his films, just like the making of them, about solidarity in extremely adverse circumstances? “I simply love the adventure. Each film has given me a piece of this world in a way that no tourist could experience. The difficulties making the films were the price that I had to pay.” Gallenberger is the adventurer, the exotic character of German cinema.

This attitude to film has shaped him since he was very young. His first experience with the camera was at the tender age of four, when he was discovered for an advertising spot for washing machines. He was put into an agency’s books as a result, and from then on he acted frequently in series such as Derrick, Der Alte or Polizeiinspektion 1. Then his voice broke, ending this early career. But even then, the young actor was less interested in the films themselves and more in spectacular experiences: e.g. in a helicopter or even in a hot-air balloon. Filming has always been a borderline experience for him; one that widens his horizons.

Gallenberger abandoned his studies of Philosophy, Psychology and Russian after only a year (he wanted to learn the language in order to understand Tarkovski’s films better), and applied to the Munich University of Television & Film at the age of 19. There he made his first “real” short film Mysterium einer Notdurftanstalt (which was immediately invited to 20 festivals), the documentary film Die Gebrueder Skladanowsky in cooperation with Wim Wenders, and finally his graduation film Quiero ser.

There is something else that may drive him and possibly sends him abroad so much as well: his preference for great emotions. At first, all broadcasters blankly refused to support Quiero ser, claiming that it was “pure kitsch” and that “no one wanted to see” that sort of thing. The accusation of kitsch was made repeatedly in the case of Shadows of Time as well; it was well ahead of its times perhaps, and predated the Bollywood-trend. “It annoys me that melodrama is considered such an inferior genre in Germany.” Gallenberger loves the melodramatic; he likes to be moved in the cinema and he is ready to admit it. Perhaps that is also a reason – albeit an unconscious one – why he likes to shoot his films “elsewhere” and let himself be influenced by foreign narrative traditions.

It may seem almost heretical – but could he imagine shooting a quiet, intimate story in a Berlin kitchen? Gallenberger has to laugh at my question. He is considering two projects at the moment, but one of them is set in Mongolia and the other (Narziss und Goldmund) in the Middle Ages. So it seems he is still seeking after adventure.

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