GoCritic! Interview: Jan-Ole Gerster • Director of Lara
"The process of working on Lara was the other way around from the one on Oh Boy"
by Daniel Mohr
- We chatted with the German director whose highly anticipated sophomore feature screened in Karlovy Vary Competition
Jan-Ole Gerster stormed the European arthouse scene in 2012 with his well-received debut Oh Boy [+see also:
interview: Jan Ole Gerster
film profile]. Since then the cinema world has been eagerly awaiting his next project. Seven years on, the wait is finally over with Lara [+see also:
interview: GoCritic! Interview: Jan-Ol…
interview: Jan Ole Gerster
film profile], premiering in the main competition at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
GoCritic!: So, what have you been up to for those seven years?
Jan-Ole Gerster: I ask myself the same question! There are many answers to this. First of all, Oh Boy kept me busy for almost two years, travelling to festivals – and I travel to every festival – it was my first time out with a movie and I enjoyed the process so much that I spent a lot of time going to festivals and the international releases of the film, doing press.
And I have to say that the most honest answer is that I was slightly overwhelmed by the opportunity. Everything I wanted to say I put into Oh Boy and I had no script ready to do next. And then, all of a sudden, I came from a low-budget movie to people offering me money without even having a script. Agents from Hollywood started calling me, which was all bizarre and weird and I thought, “Oh my god, maybe I can do something big,” and it took me a while to get back on the ground and focus on my own ideas.
So, then I started a collaboration with Blaž Kutin, who kept mentioning this story he wrote years ago that never got financed or made. I got curious, read it and immediately fell in love with it: it felt like something familiar that I would love to have written myself. And because Blaž had no plans with it, I decided this to be my next movie.
Was it hard for you to work with someone else’s screenplay?
It was liberating in a way, because Oh Boy was a very autobiographical film and what I like most about filmmaking is exploring other characters without necessarily knowing what it is about and trying to find out. And I was curious why I felt so close to this sixty-year-old woman, who is troubled and nasty, but I felt so much for her. This was something I wanted to explore and discover. And I think there are so many hidden connections between me and the character that it almost felt like another autobiographical story. Working on Oh Boy was a process from the inside to the outside, while Lara was the other way around, I was trying to get to the core and essence of the story and character.
There are several clear connections between the two films, one of which is casting of Tom Schilling. Is there something about him that just makes him the perfect fit for this ‘troubled son’ character’?
[Laughs] No, but he is the perfect fit for these internally doubtful characters. Tom is a very silent and introverted person himself and there is a slight similarity between him and the two characters. And he is one of my oldest and best friends and even today I still forget about that when I see him on the screen, there’s something that really fascinates me about him. There was no doubt that Tom was the right person for it. And besides that, he is so ambitious that he even started taking piano lessons, until he really got it right. Even the professional musicians on set were impressed. It’s a typical Tom thing.
And Corinna Harfouch is absolutely brilliant in the film. Was she your first choice and what was it like to work with her?
She was my only choice, to be honest. My decision on whether to make the movie or not was about her commitment. And a few years ago, I had a magical moment when I saw her in the theatre, which really brought her to my attention. I didn’t know her personally, but I sent her the script through her agents, we met and immediately clicked. She wanted to play Lara right away, which was really lucky for me.
Do you have any ideas for your next project — and will we have to wait another seven years?
No, I hope not. In the meantime, I became a father myself and I feel the responsibilities of life more, but besides that I enjoy filmmaking so much. I think it was a bit of a trouble after Oh Boy – you know, the dilemma of the “difficult second album.” But now that I’m over it I feel more stable as a director and I’m looking forward to my next projects. I’ve started another project with Blaž and I’m working on an adaptation of a German novel called Imperium. I’ll hurry up so that we can meet again in, let’s say, three years!
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