Max Gleschinski • Director of Alaska
"The two female protagonists are not so much saviours to each other but more travelling companions"
by Teresa Vena
- The German director told us more about his feature film that tells a story of how to overcome loneliness and grief
Max Gleschinski's quiet and gentle drama Alaska [+see also:
interview: Max Gleschinski
film profile] premiered at this year's edition of the Max Ophüls Prize, where it won the award for Best Feature Film. We asked the director more about his relationship with the landscape that plays a major role in the film and his approach to the development of his protagonists.
Cineuropa: What influence did the landscape in which the story is set have on the script?
Max Gleschinski: I have always been fascinated by the contrast between nature reserves and campsites, between paradisiacal peace and human encounters. The campsites are islands of civilisation, on and between which people meet again and again. Circling on the water routes of this small lake district you can't avoid other people. It is in radical contrast with the American vastness. This is why this place is also called the "economy version" of Alaska. It was in fact the starting point for the film. I have been there regularly with my family since my childhood days and know very well how this place feels – steady paddling, feather-light fresh water moving underneath you, sweat on your skin, mosquitoes buzzing. Being out there offers a certain continuity that I like to embrace. The script I wrote was based on this feeling.
What was most important in the development of the two female protagonists? Was it clear from the beginning that a love affair would develop between them?
Kerstin and Alima flee to each other. I don't know if that is love. In these few days of our narrative, they understand and support each other, offer each other refuge and comfort in an uncomplicated and unconditional way. An ambiguous but tender bond emerges between them. At the same time, we wanted to portray their relationship as a salvation. Until the end, both women's focus is on their original loss. They are not so much saviours to each other but more travelling companions. I think that's beautiful.
How did you find the two actresses?
Pegah Ferydoni touched me very much in Susan Gordanshekan's A Dysfunctional Cat [+see also:
film profile]. She accepted immediately, which encouraged us very much. She immediately identified with our project, so that I was able to involve her in the entire casting process. I knew Christina Große from Michael Fetter Nathansky's Sag du es mir [+see also:
film profile] (also produced by Wood Water Films). She saw a certain weightlessness in the character of Kerstin, which added a certain depth to it. It corresponds to the element of water as well as to the different gliding motifs of the film and at the same time allows a very unusual perspective on grief.
What inspired you to create this chapter structure and have the paintings as chapter covers?
From the beginning, it was important to me to use different perspectives to tell the story, the place and the time element. The place is constantly being rediscovered through the appearance of the different protagonists and the conflict, which is very nebulous at the beginning, and becomes more tangible with each new added perspective. With the paintings and titles, I wanted to create a platform for the protagonists. They announce their entrance and concentrate the attention on them, they get a space that belongs only to them. Alima and Thomas are not secondary characters who only serve to narrate Kerstin's journey. They are the main characters of their own story.
What were the most important aspects for the development of the aesthetic concept?
Cinematographer Jean-Pierre Meyer-Gehrke's most important thing was to bring the place and characters together. We had to tell the story of the lake landscape with its recurring motifs and unique atmosphere without losing our characters on the way. This balance was difficult to plan beforehand, and we realised that a lot depends on intuition. It was crucial to be able to show at the same time movement and stillness at different points in the film. Moreover, we put a lot of thought into the choice of our lenses. Jean-Pierre suggested old Mamiya 645 Sekor C lenses. It was possible to preserve blurs even in the wide frames. At the same time they allowed us to focus on the characters. Moreover, we tried to avoid an inflationary use of shot-counter-shot scenes, which hopefully makes it something special when two looks meet.
Why was it important to tie in with the beginning of the story at the end? Have you thought of different endings?
The circular narrative was there from the beginning and we stuck to it until the end. In the editing it was a question of dosage: What exactly do we see and for how long? What information do we need? How explicitly? Besides that, it seems to make sense that Kerstin finds herself at the end back where she started her journey. And that her trip, with its tranquility and encounters, may repeat itself.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.