Interview with Fred Kelemen about »KRISANA«
(»FALLEN«) by Erika Richter
- How did it come about, that
you, a Berlin film director and author, made your fourth full-length film
I have known the city now for nine years. I was guest of the
film festival several times and led in 2002 a two month and in 2004 a
three month workshop with students from the Latvian Academy of Culture.
For a number of years I had planned to make a film (Iron City), which
is set partly in Riga, and for which there is a finished script. Unfortunately,
the project failed a year and a half ago because of the German producers.
But I still plan make the film. I made „Krisıana” („Fallen“)
last year as a co-production with the co-producer of Iron City. I coupled
my stay in Riga with the work on this film, which arose spontaneously.
The idea for it was also of course a consequence of my intensive occupation
with the city and its different worlds. It came out of the mood in which
I was there. Afterwards the film was edited in Berlin, before I flew to
a shoot in Armenia. I worked there as cameraman for a film of the Canadian-Armenian
director Gariné Torossian.
I was aware from the moment I first thought about making „Fallen“
that there would be no point in taking the idea to Germany, writing a
script, going through the mill of film support and television editors,
which could possibly take years. The film would get cold and never be
made. And I think a film should be made while it’s still hot. But
the support system in Germany is not made for that. There’s a big
waste of energy before you get to the really creative act. In the end,
directors make a film because then at last the financing is there. But
meanwhile your soul and your head are often already somewhere else, and
the film is only made because it’s become possible; but then it’s
not necessary, hot any more. Every longing of love, for which you have
to wait too long for it to be satisfied, crumbles and pales. And here,
in the case of film art, it’s obviously a love affair. A change
in the support system, which offered directors, producers, everyone involved
in the creative process the possibility of making a film in a state of
creative heat, quickly, directly and shortly after the end of the scriptwriting
or drafting, would unleash a current of energy which would drive wonderful
films on the, let’s be honest, very wasted shore. I made this film
in a state of creative passion, and the actors and the team shared this
passion as well. Independently of how it is judged, I am at peace with
it, because it was born out of love, without having been the object of
any strategy or negotiation etc. There was a short, direct path between
idea and reality, similar to the artistic creativity of a painter or a
poet or to work in the theatre.
- Did the fact that you made it
in a foreign country, whose atmosphere and political and historical background
is different, and whose language you don’t speak, influence this
film, perhaps contributing to the story’s uncluttered sparseness,
clarity, concentration and poetic density? Or did this outer „strangeness“
play no part for you in the work on the film? How did the story develop?
I didn’t feel like a stranger. I don’t feel like a stranger
in countries outside Germany. I feel like a stranger with some people.
It doesn’t make any difference where they come from or where they
The film’s style has nothing to do with the place. It’s a
consistent result of my previous work, a continuation. The events can
happen anywhere. But naturally the place and its people gave their colour
to the sound of the film, the sound of the noises and of the images.
The story developed from the characters all by itself. The people in the
film do things, and as doers they spin stories. Stories or situations
are natural spin-offs of our deeds; similar to a spider’s thread.
I followed the possible and relevant behaviour of the characters. That
let what happens arise logically.
- As in your earlier films, the
main character’s walks through the area, in this case through Riga
night and day, are of central importance to the „hero’s“
story and the film’s structure. What do these walks mean to you?
The walks don’t mean anything. We walk, we’re underway, we
have to get our body from A to B, we’re not motionless beings, or
plants, or angels, we’re underway, the restlessness drives us. There
are no paths, there is only he who is moving. That’s man. We spin
the paths by moving. We leave traces. Traces of doubt, violence, longing,
love. We’re underway. We are nomads. We’re on the move. It
doesn’t mean anything, other than that we’re moving.
- In your earlier films, passionate,
painful relationships between two (or even three) people stood in the
centre, which led to excesses and eruptions. In „KRISıANA“
(„FALLEN“) we experience the story of a man whose longings
and yearnings are internal. This film’s intensity has nothing spectacular
about it. Do you see this spiritual concentration as an expression of
a new level in the development of your film thinking?
No, it’s not a new level. It does not exist anything new. Everything
was always there. But not everything appears immediately. Particular conditions
come together with particular circumstances let reality step forward,
like in a chemical or alchemical reaction. And at this time, in this situation,
in this place, with these people, it was possible to tell what the film
shows in this way. But it’s not a new level. In a certain sense,
fire is always present in wood. And under particular conditions it comes
out and is visible.
I wanted to be stiller in this film, I did without the expressive excesses.
They raged inside instead. I put the drama, that really always plays inside
- it just manifests itself in the outside world – into the heads,
into the imagination. For a long time I’ve had an uncomfortable
feeling about the vulgar, related stories. The real drama takes place
in our spirit. It’s like everything an illusion, and like every
- Why did you choose black and
white for the first time for this film?
I’ve always made black and white films, only in colour. This time
I did without the colour.
- Do you believe that with this
universal story about loneliness, failure, longing for love, guilt and
hope of forgiveness, you can contribute something to how people cope with
their lives in these hard, soulless times?
No. Nothing. It’s a very individual thing, what somebody makes of
a film he has seen, what this film does to him, what sort of a life he
has in it. And it’s like that with everything we encounter, everything
that comes across our way.
- How do you see with this film,
and also in general with your attitude towards the meaning of film art,
your situation both in the film scene, which is more or less concerned
with making a profit, and in society?
Each film can be the last one. It’s getting more and more difficult
to make films which don’t subject themselves to the capitalist principles
of moneymaking, which are not inherent in this or in any art. Unfortunately,
each film has to be pushed through against the ruling ideology with great
effort. Meanwhile our whole life is being attacked more and more from
the commercialisation virus and the fear infection. It’s the same
with film. The audiences are allowed fewer and fewer possibilities to
be aware of other forms of cinema, which means they get an artificial
narrowing of their view imposed on them from outside and an amputation
of film art. An act of violence.
- Why have you now become a producer?
That has to do with what I just said. Every producer who, against his
better judgement, doesn’t make a film which he knows to be good,
because it doesn’t correspond to commercial, profit-orientated interests,
is contributing to the death of film art.
And we, that means my partners and I, don’t judge the value of making
a film according to profitability criteria, but according to original
artistic und human communication criteria. That’s also a possibility
to deal with this art form. Maybe it’s a chance. And something really
has to change.
- Once you said that you don’t
believe in hope and also you don’t think that any film could change
a person. Why do you still keep making on films and teaching others to
do so? What ‘s the purpose?
We are mortal creatures. We should not hope. We should create and lead
our life as a human being wholly, including our fleeting physical existence
and our transcendental essence. I did not say that I don’t believe
in hope, I said that hope, as I understand it, is a passive attitude,
which keeps us in the state of waiting. We sit and hope and wait and while
we are waiting, life happens and others act and determine our reality.
Hope is a very popular political instrument for keeping people calm and
controlling them. It has become a kind of ideology. But hope should be
based on something. This could be called vision. I would prefer to replace
HOPE with VISION. A vision is charged with energy and passion, it’s
not passive, it demands fulfilment. In a time in which the end of utopias
is being proclaimed, it is extremely important to have the courage to
think utopian, to open our minds, to be able to go beyond the very limited
pragmatism which focuses our thinking and feeling on a very material level
of our existence and ignores our intellectual, emotional and creative
abilities and possibilities. To live without hope, to believe in life
and its possibilities without hope or desperation, to move beyond these
illusions and enter the space of reality where we can see with an unspoilt
look what life is really like, to think the unthinkable without limiting
ourselves, to act authentically, not to be afraid of Utopia even if there
is no promise of fulfilment, to extend our mental and emotional boundaries,
to love without expectations and reward, would be an act of human dignity
and beauty. – Even though it is terribly difficult.