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INTERVIEW WITH ULRICH SEIDL

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At the Diagonale 2022, director Ulrich Seidl presented his feature film Rimini, awarded Best Feature Film and already in competition at the Berlinale 2022. Cinema Austriaco had the opportunity to have a chat with him and learn more about his film and his career. Interview by Marina Pavido.

Marina Pavido: How did the idea of making Rimini come about?

Ulrich Seidl: The idea for this story came from the actor Michael Thomas, whom I met as a singer many years ago. What I find most interesting about the character of Richie Bravo is his ambivalence. Richie Bravo is not a “pure hero”. He is a man who looks a certain way on stage, but who has to struggle for his survival every day. A man in financial difficulty, but also addicted to gambling and alcohol. A character who fails again and again and who for this very reason can appeal to the viewer. He immediately struck me as an extremely interesting character for a film.

M. P.: The character of the father is equally interesting. Could you tell us more about him?

U. S.: Rimini was initially conceived as a different project, from which two films are subsequently born. It was initially conceived as a family story in which the protagonists are the two brothers, the father and the mother, who, although no longer alive, nevertheless plays an important role in these two films, since she is always present in their memories. It was supposed to be a film about family relationships, a story of several generations. There are, in fact, the father, the two sons and also Richie Bravo’s daughter, basically three generations. The father comes from the National Socialist era, but that does not mean that his son has become what he is because of his father’s past. I did not initially think about this, but the viewer can still reconstruct his story at will.

M. P.: So will another film starring the other brother (played by Georg Friedrich) be presented shortly?

U. S.: Yes. The film is called Sparta, but we still don’t know when it will premiere.

M. P.: Why did you choose the city of Rimini and why is this city presented to us in a different way from how we usually imagine it?

U. S.: When I started writing the script, I already had in my head some images of the city in winter, which for me is particularly fascinating with a thick fog that conveys an even stronger sense of loneliness. Such an atmosphere was very inspiring to me. Of course, the story could have been set in another city, but I chose Rimini, where I used to travel as a child with my parents. For me, it is a particularly fascinating place with very interesting locations.

M. P.: Another very interesting element is Villa Bravo, where the protagonist lives.

U. S.: Yes, the villa is a place where in the past Richie enjoyed happy times, better than his present. Moments in which he was not in financial difficulties, in which he could afford to live in that villa, which would now need to be restored. The house and his way of living in it say a lot about the character. In the end, when his daughter together with her boyfriend and his entourage moves in he, although he has always been a proud owner of Villa Bravo, has to accept that the happy times are gone for good.

M. P.: Richie Bravo is essentially a lonely man. Loneliness, however, is a constant in your filmography.

U. S.: Yes, loneliness always plays a key role in my films. When you tell something about the desire to fulfil yourself and to be loved, at the same time you talk about loneliness.

M. P.: In the programme of this Diagonale are two other films you produced: Sonne and Luzifer. You, however, have always paid a lot of attention to particularly talented young directors who often experiment with new film languages. How difficult is it, however, today for a young person to find the means and funds to make a film?

U. S.: I don’t know if it is more difficult today than when I was young. In any case, it is always difficult because there is not enough funding for everyone who wants to make films and you often have to wait a long time before a film receives funding. You usually have to go to several institutions to get funding and that is a very long process. Everything also depends on the courage of these institutions to finance new projects and support new names. However, I find it very important to ensure that young talents can make their own films. If you don’t ensure that young people can make their own films, nothing will be made tomorrow. It must also be said that today’s funded projects are more and more commercial and there is almost no place for those who want to develop their own ideas or for those who want to experiment with new film languages. However, I believe that Austrian cinema in recent decades has given a lot of space to individuality and to a multiplicity of ideas and languages.

M. P.: Are there any films or film movements that played a particularly important role during your studies?

U. S.: Especially in the beginning you always have models. For me, there are many directors, including, for example, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Werner Herzog and Luis Buñuel, who have always inspired me. Thinking back to the city of Rimini, Fellini was not among my models, although I appreciate him very much. I always considered Pasolini closer to me because of his more realistic approach.

M. P.: However, Fellini is very often referred to by filmmakers from all over the world.

U. S.: Yes, Sorrentino, for example, is one of them, but he cannot equal Fellini. As for his last film (The Hand of God), for example, I had the opportunity to watch it and I found it very weak.

M.P.: One last question: what tips would you give to a young person who wants to become a filmmaker?

U. S.: Remaining true to oneself. This is fundamental in order to grow. It is also important not to compromise. When you start to compromise, it is then difficult to retrace your steps. This undoubtedly can be difficult, but in the end only those filmmakers who follow their own path become successful. Many, for example, given the difficulties give up on their projects and decide to stop working in the film industry.

Info: the page of Ulrich Seidl on iMDb; the website of Ulrich Seidl