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BERLIN 2018 Competition

Thomas Stuber • Director

"I always wanted to create a film where you have the feeling that the story is being told"

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- BERLIN 2018: Thomas Stuber talks to Cineuropa about his Berlinale competition entry In the Aisles and how being told a story is melancholic

Thomas Stuber  • Director
(© Jörg Singer)

German director Thomas Stuber talks to Cineuropa about adapting his Berlinale competition entry In the Aisles [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Franz Rogowski
interview: Thomas Stuber
film profile
]
 from page to screen and how being told a story is a melancholic experience.

Cineuropa: When did you first read the short story by Clemens Meyer?
Thomas Stuber:
I read it for the first time eight or nine years ago. In the Aisles was part of a collection of short stories, and I was completely blown away by it. I don’t know if I’d ever read something like that; it was only 25 pages, and there was very little in there, but the story had so much depth and atmosphere. I wanted to make a movie out of that. 

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Was it hard to adapt 25 pages into a film that lasts more than two hours? 
Adapting the story into a film was an interesting and difficult process with Clemens. Of course, on one hand it’s easy because you have something written down already and you don’t have to invent it, but on the other hand, it’s not a piece of classical literature, it’s not a novel. I read the short story again a couple of days ago, and I was surprised by how much we covered that was in the text. There was one bit that was two lines, and it became three scenes of 14 minutes. It is the nucleus; everything is in there. We talk about every theme and every image, and we just kind of rolled it out.

There seem to be influences from Wes Anderson, Roy Andersson and Aki Kaurismäki on the film; did you want to pay homage to them? 
Sure; I watch a lot of films, and it’s not like I watch only one genre of cinema. I’m interested in everything, and I believe that the way the story comes to life on the screen depends totally on the story. If you watch my previous film, A Heavy Heart [+see also:
trailer
interview: Thomas Stuber
film profile
]
, it is completely different. It was handheld and widescreen, and it is very natural; there was no magic in it whatsoever. So here, I thought we had to do something different altogether. So my love for Andersson and Kaurismäki made me watch their films again. Loneliness is a very important factor for my filmmaking; I believe that’s important for Kaurismäki, and I love the way he combines that with humour – and that is what makes his movies so great. 

Why did you want to make use of the voiceover in this film? 
I always wanted to create a film where you have the feeling that the story is being told. I didn’t want to make a film where you would feel like this story is happening right now. To me, the whole point of “Let me tell you a story that happened to me” is that it always puts you into a sort of melancholia – this is over, these times have happened, and it’s always different to remember a moment compared to experiencing it. You shift your imagery, and sometimes it’s different from what really happened. I thought that would fit in better with the magical realism, and the narration also acts as a contrast: at first, it doesn’t suit Christian, who doesn’t speak very much, but I thought it was very important because what he does say is very intelligent. I didn’t want anyone to have the idea that Christian is stupid.

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