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Dietrich Brüggemann • Director

“What happens in a family when ideology takes over”


- Competing for the first time in Berlin, the German director deciphers Stations of the Cross. Silver Bear for Best Script

Dietrich Brüggemann  • Director
(©Andreas Teich/Berlinale)

Surrounded in particular by his cast Lea van Acken, Franziska Weisz and Florian Stetter, together with producer Jochen Laube, German director Dietrich Brüggemann (who wrote the film's screenplay with his sister Anna, also present at the press conference) deciphers Stations of the Cross [+see also:
film review
Q&A: Dietrich Brüggemann
film profile
, presented in competition at the 64th Berlinale.

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What made you choose the subject of religion?
Dietrich Brüggemann: The idea had been running around in my head for quite a while and I felt it had the makings of a film. At the end of the 90's, one might well have thought it was the end of the road for religions, but such was not the case. When you go to the United States, you hear lots of Christian sermons and priests preaching on the radio. Catholic, Protestant or others, they naturally address theology with different details, but they share in common the way they live with religion. The subject of the film is what happens in a family when ideology takes over, and it also takes a look at the role played by priests in society. Though they are in no way sects, they simply follow the precepts of their religion while rejecting certain modern-day elements. It is a nice, rather normal family, they are simply very fervent when it comes to religion. We are on the borderline with normality in the Church. The film is certainly not an attack, nor a desire to tarnish anything. I in fact believe that Christian values are very important both spiritually and socially. The highly rational system of the Catholic faith can, however, also become a form of ideology.

What about the theme of sacrifice for your female character?
In fact, she does exactly what religion demands of her and she is even more radical than the priest requires. That's what the system pushes you to do: to become a saint. She follows in the steps of Christ and the final question put to the spectator is to observe what that really means, whether the sacrifice is in vain or not.

With your staging consisting of very long and static sequences, how did you manage to work with the actors, especially the youngest ones?
It's not the first time that I have used long sequences and I in fact made a horror film that way a few years ago called Nine Takes. But you need a good screenplay and the scenes have to function as they are written. Because you can't construct the film in the editing room. You then have to have the right actors. Which is also true for the younger ones. When we cast the children, some of them would hide under the table, some ran away, and others kept asking for their mothers, but there was one who just sat there and watched. And then, something clicked. And that's true of the entire cast. Everything fell into place perfectly. For instance, for the part played by Lea van Acken, I thought I would have to drive all over the country and spend months visiting all the drama schools. She stood out on the first day of casting. I said to myself: "It can't be true, it's supposed to be long and difficult". But to get back to your question, then comes what I call the magic of the film shot in a single take. Concentration is at its highest pitch on both sides of the camera. It's a kind of church, and it's extraordinary to see how very few of the actors forgot their lines. Everything functioned just marvellously.

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(Translated from French)

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