Anna Roller • Director of The Last Children of Paradise
“I love to explore the things that are happening just inside our heads - and in a movie we can show them”
by Laurence Boyce
- Anna Roller spoke to Cineuropa about her short The Last Children of Paradise before it screens as part of EFP’s Future Frames at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Fourteen-year-old Leah lives in an isolated cabin with her ten-year-old brother Theo and their grandmother. As Leah begins to enter the throes of womanhood, her grandmother suddenly dies leaving both distraught. Without telling the outside world what has happened, Leah tries to take on the responsibilities of an adult whilst trying to cling to the idealism of her childhood. Anna Roller’s The Last Children of Paradise is a dark fairy tale that juxtaposes the beauty of childhood with the starkness of the adult world.
Cineuropa: There is the old filmmaking adage ‘Never work with children or animals.” You ignore half of this advice in The Last Children of Paradise. How did approach the film and working with the two young actors at the centre of the film?
Anna Roller: It is funny you mention that, because in our first two years in film school, we were not allowed to shoot with children, animals, weapons and cars. This film is my third-year project, so I immediately went for the challenges. When working with children I think the most important thing is the casting process, because I try to find personalities that are quite close to the characters. I was extremely lucky to find Lea Drinda, because she really is a natural talent, very clever and empathic. She could identify with her role easily and I could work with her like I work with adult actors. Together with her I cast the boy, Moritz Licht, and the two of them had a wonderful connection. The only thing that was difficult was the tough time-schedule, because in Germany the restrictions for shooting with children are really strict. I was lucky the two of them were so professional and on point.
What kind of things influenced the creation of the movie? Where did the idea come from?
The idea is based on something I experienced when my grandparents died, and we had their bodies laid out in our house for a few days to say goodbye. I experienced time differently - everything stood still. And I wanted to contrast that with the little girl, which is in a moment in her life where everything changes.
Tell us about the main location of the film as it’s such a crucial part of it. It’s partly run-down old house but it also has a sense of the fairy tale. Where did you find it?
The producers, the set designers and I spend several days scouting in Bavaria. At the end of a really exhausting and disappointing day we suddenly found the perfect house, empty but not too run-down. It had the kindest owners, perfect wallpaper, everything. The only problem was the house was in the middle of a village. But we remembered this really beautiful little house, which we also loved but couldn’t use from inside. The rest is movie magic… as well as the amazing work of my two set designers Luisa Rauschert and Lena Müller.
There is the sense of the fairy tale / the surreal. But there’s also a tangible realism. Was this juxtaposition between the two important for you?
For us, the contrast between the - what I call – ‘Grandmother-World’ and the ‘Three-Teenagers-World’ was really important. At first, the viewer finds himself in a kind of fairytale: the brother and sister in this isolated house and everything is a little old fashioned, magical and time stands still. But outside it is still 2018 and some youngsters are camping by the riverside. Visually Felix Pflieger (my DOP) and me were hugely influenced by Andrey Tarkovsky’s Polaroid photography. These pictures express the connection between ‘paradise’ and painful melancholy we wanted to create.
You’re heading to Future Frames and Karlovy Vary. What are you looking forward to while there?
I am really excited to meet professionals and other filmmakers. I hope to meet interesting people to get a sneak peek of which world is waiting there outside after film school. I also look forward to having exchanges with other young filmmakers about our struggles, strategies and hopes.
What is your next project going to be?
I am working on my first feature together with a wonderful writer. It will also be a story with magical / surrealistic elements in a realistic world. I love to explore the things that are happening just inside our heads -and in a movie we can show them.
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