Leni Lauritsch • Director of Rubikon
“I don't like it when the main characters act in a totally classical way”
- We chatted with the Austrian director about refusing to meet expectations and shooting a genre film on a shoestring budget
When the Earth is hit by an environmental catastrophe, three survivors on the Rubikon space station have to decide whether they will save themselves and stay put, or risk their lives and start looking for survivors on a poisoned planet. What would normally be a five-second, no-brainer decision in most science-fiction blockbusters becomes the central conflict in Leni Lauritsch’s debut film, Rubikon [+see also:
interview: Leni Lauritsch
film profile], now screening at Zurich and subsequently Sitges. How would humans really react? And can they be blamed for putting themselves first?
Cineuropa: Rubikon is your debut film, and you already head out into space. That's not easy in terms of cinematic mise-en-scène. What inspired you to do it?
Leni Lauritsch: As a first-time director, you never know if your first film could also be your last. So I thought to myself, “Okay, I'll just do exactly what I feel like doing.” I've been a sci-fi fan since I was a kid. I also did VFX myself for a while. That's when I knew we could do it if we were very smart about it. We simply made a kind of chamber drama out of it.
You have already tackled the subject of moral ambiguity with your short film Rote Flecken. What fascinates you about this topic?
What interests me about film is this friction with no clear answers – when you notice where our differences and our commonalities are. Morality is an incredibly exploitable topic: that's why it's exciting to look into these grey areas.
The character of Dimitri (played by Mark Ivanir) also says that there is no shame in taking care of oneself. There’s a certain cultural pessimism in that.
I think sci-fi is mainly dystopian, and utopias are the exceptions. But it was actually important to me to have a generational clash. I have representatives of the Boomers, Gen Z and my generation, Generation Y. In the end, there is the strong voice of Gen Z coming through, as it is starting to feel responsible.
Your main character is the soldier Hannah (played by Julia Franz Richter). You refuse to meet expectations, because she never goes through the typical story arc of a cinematic soldier.
It is not easy to develop a main character as the doubting, least active one. I don't like it when the main characters act in a totally classical way, and I love it when you can break with these expectations. That heroism that you always have in these films pissed us off so much. That's exactly what we didn't want.
Another character is the climate activist Gavin (played by George Blagden), who is the first one to give up mentally.
I myself have suffered a lot from the current situation our world finds itself in, and from documentaries that I watched, after which I was really depressed and cried for a week. He is a character that is very similar to me. I also felt this great senselessness and probably wanted to put it in the film.
Rubikon is one of the few science-fiction films made in Austria. Is this a genre in which you would dare to do more here?
What we did is, without wanting to sound arrogant, pioneering. But honestly, I don't think it should be done that way again. We all put in much more work than the budget allowed for in terms of remuneration. But I also believe that many more people will now dare to take up the genre.
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