Ein Blick und die Liebe bricht aus

Interview with Jutta Brückner by Ingeborg von Zadow

Jutta Brückner is the director of the Filminstitut Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. She has been making films since 1975, and is recognized as a successful director in the national ancl international film world.

In the early 1970s, Jutta Brückner began working with some of the people who founded the New German Cinema – among them Alexander Kluge and Volker Schlöndorff. Initially influenced by the auteur approach, Jutta Brückner later began to make her own kind of essay film, which explorecl inclividual and group experiences, and examined questions of autobiography and film. Taking themes that she found in her own, her relatives’ and her friends’ lives, she began portraying conflicts that were specific to her generation of women.

After her first film, “Tue Recht und scheue Niemand” (1975), which is composed entirely out of filmed photographs, Jutta Brückner made two essay films, “Ein ganz und gar verwahrlostes Mädchen” (1977) and “Hungerjahre – in einem reichen Land” (1979) which were set in realistic situations. She then began to concentrate on the development of a different aesthetic approach relating to questions of time, space and narrative. Realizing that we all live in many different spaces at the same time she began altering her film style to combine realistic with non-realistic images. Films such as “Ein Blick – und die Liebe bricht aus” (1985), “Kolossale Liebe” (1983-91) or “Lieben Sie Brecht?” (1993) confront her audience with various, often in style contradictory images to which her imagination, her experience and her thorough control of old and new film Techniques have led her.

Jutta Brückner never seems to get tired of exploring new aspects of life. lt is the constant, almost restless search within herself and history, within societal structures and human interactions that fascinates the listener about her personality. As she transposes this search into film it does more than keep her alert and open for the things to come.

Talking with Jutta Brückner during the period of time of this interview was a memorable experience. This interview, held in july 1995 in the Filminstitut der Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, strives to give an insight into her work and personality. Although Jutta Brückner has a good command of the English language, she doesn’t really speak idiomatic English. I have tried to keep the language in the printed interview as close as possible to the original one, in order to offer the reader a lively and more personal impression of the filmmaker. Changes were made for clarity sake, either by the editors or by Jutta Brückner.


ZADOW Why did you start making films?

BRÜCKNER From the very beginning I saw that filmmaking would help me to get out of the dead-end I was stuck in with my writing. I saw that film allowed me to do what I needed most: to reinvent, refigure myself, not only conceptually but also as a physical body. Filmmaking is the only art that permits you to do that. The image of myself, the bodily image of myself had been destroyed in the course of my youth, which I depicted in “Hungerjahre – in einem reichen Land”. This adolescence wasn’t very special, it was very ordinary. Significant for me was the fact that I lost my words. When you lose your words it means that you have lost your body before that. They go together. So I had to reinvent myself as a body. I could not do that through writing.

ZADOW Do you think that many women filmmakers of your generation had similar reasons to start making films?

BRÜCKNER No, I think there were many different starting points. We had in common what we had learned from the feminist movement: that we had desires and longings, goals to achieve in life. We wanted our lives to be different from what they had been. Nearly all of those who belonged to my generation of feminist filmmakers in West Germany started making films after they were thirtyyears old. They were not very young and not students anymore.
I think it was the feminist movement with all its demands that pushed us to open ourselves to an art that is made for a big audience. We got the power to do this and also the questions, the ideas from the feminist movement. We hadn’t dared to do this before, because of alack of self-confidence. We thought that the problems we had in our lives were private ones. We thought we were isolated. We then discovered that our problems were social and historical. From the feminist movement we also got the power to demand the means, the money, televisions lots, positions in the filmmaking industry and runs in the cinemas. We declared that we had the right to be there and that what we wanted to show was important.

ZADOW How do you see the situation of new women filmmakers in Germany now? A feeling of collectivity like you had when you started twenty-five years ago doesn’t exist in that form any more. Have the new women filmmakers been able to benefit from your work and from the feminist movement?

BRÜCKNER Yes, they have. It is possible for women to make films now, even if it is not the norm yet, it is now generally accepted that a women can make a film. The young women now could benefit more from what we did but every generation has to fight its mothers and fathers. We are the “mothers” now. What we did is regarded as old-fashioned. I don’t think it is. We made films about the difficulties of being an “emancipated” woman in this still very patriarchal society. The new generation of women does not find a lot of things dear to them in our films. Whereas we talked about breaking out of normality for the sake of an innerand outer freedom, they want to have that freedom as part of their normal life. They want to show that it is normal to have a career as a woman and nevertheless a life that includes men and children. ( … )

ZADOW Are you talking about young women filmmakers now or about young women generally?

BRÜCKNER Both. Young women want filmmaking to be a job, like other jobs. I think there is a split. Women at the university who learn feminist film theory, are very dependent on what their theoretical mothers have worked out. They try to build their own research on existing studies and texts. The split between the generations is not as profound there.
In filmmaking there is a considerable rejection of past achievements. Feminist film practice has been influenced largely by German women. We had so many opportunities compared to women in other countries to develop a style of feminist filmmaking. The new West German “auteurs”’ films are very distinctive, so this is true of the feminist branch as well. Women’s filmmaking defines itself not only against what their “mothers” did, but also against what “German mothers” did. Young women want to do something else now. The period of West German feminist filmmaking, as a period of auteurist filmmaking is very clearly over now. That does not mean that the women who began working during this time have stopped. I work, others do. But we or those of my generation are all developing in very individual ways now.

ZADOW Is it possible to say in what direction the new German women filmmakers are going?

BRÜCKNER There is a trend toward comedies. The German main-stream right now makes what we call “Beziehungskomödien” (comedies about relationships). In comedies the difficulties of life are obscured by the mechanism of misunderstanding. This is the way young women now convey their feelings about being cheated in or by life. Other women try to continue a more feminist way of filmmaking by continuing to work with experimental films. The kind of “auteurs”’ filmmaking that we, the feminist women of the first generation did, is no longer possible. They are not funded anymore. There has been a big shift in filmfunding since at least 1983.

ZADOW Let’s switch gears a bit now. I’m interested in finding out how you work. How you deal with actors. In your film “Ein Blick – und die Liebe bricht aus” you portray both men and women. Many of the men are portrayed in a very negative way. I sometimes got very angry at them while I was watching the film. On one hand you are the director who has a working relationship with these actors and you are the author who creates the scenes. On the other hand, you are a woman watching these men do what they do. How did you deal with this conflict?

BRÜCKNER It was actually very difficult at that time. It was only possible because I made this film in Argentina at a moment when Argentina opened to the world after the dictatorship around 1983/84. My presence and what I wanted to do was something rather new. Not only for the men, but also for the women. Since people in Argentina were – and still are, I hope – very polite, they were curious to see what they had missed throughout these years of dictatorship.
It went fine for a while. They were very patient. They watched and collaborated. The men acted in the way I told them to act. But then, after some time, they got a little bit angry at me. They didn’t show it really, but a woman on the set told me that one of the young men had said “What does she think, she just comes here and she tells stories about us. I think she needs” – and this is a very crude expression – “a good fuck.” It was a very typical macho way of resisting. I didn’t really feel it on the set though.
They asked me what image I had of men. I answered that that is of no importance for the film. I told them that this film is not about men, it is about women. I said to them “You are only there as hooks on which the women hang their feelings. You are not in this film as individuals. Look at what you are wearing. You wear these gray suits and these red ties, you are just hooks, nothing else.” They accepted it, somewhat reluctantly, but they accepted it.
It was a little more complicated with the women, because the women really had to play roles. I had to explain to them that they should be individuals and stereotypes at the same time. This is somewhat hard to understand and maybe they only understood it because their roles had no lines. It would not have been possible if they had had text. Since they had no text, they had to exaggerate, they couldn’t be nuanced and differentiated. Their roles were like wood carvings, just showing the outlines.

ZADOW In very simple situations?

BRÜCKNER Yes, just very basic human reactions. The film is composed of seven different stories. I wanted to show the basic feeling of being a bride; being a married woman in an unsatisfactory marriage; being cheated on by your husband; being alone with a dream man and then seeing that there is another woman kneeling beside him; being “on the market” and seeing all the others, being alone; longing for the dream man and meanwhile being raped by four other men; having an abortion; and being a very young girl who thinks love is just like having a glass of water, and who allows a man to use her. The last situation is about leaving. About throwing dirty water from a bucket into a man’s face and walking away. The film is like a whole life, seven situations come together. Seven very basic situations.
To be able to show that, I used very slow and very stylized movements. I did not allow natural movements, that would not have worked. It had to be like in a dream or in a dance. Both are abstractions of reality, or condensed reality. I also used non-realistic settings, non-realistic light, non-realistic space, and manymirrors.

ZADOW This brings me to my next question. You use mirrors in all your films. They seem to be very important for your work. How did your use of this device start?

BRÜCKNER It started in the first version of my film “Kolossale Liebe” because I needed it. This film was shot in one room, in a studio. So I said, we will use at least three mirrors, so we can get more interesting shots in this one room. I then learned that working with mirrors and especially with mirrors in one room, is very complicated. But it can lead to fine pictures and I liked it very much.

ZADOW How did your use of mirrors change over the years?

BRÜCKNER This is a very interesting question. You are the first one really to ask it. I started using mirrors for the sake of the better picture. I learned that the better picture for me is also the more “real” picture. Making visible what is normally regarded as an invisible inner reality. Not more realistic but more real. All my films revolve around the question of identity. The tool that provides us with an impression of our identity is the mirror. It is the essential tool for reflecting the identity of a person.
Using these mirrors in the first version of “KolossaleLiebe” showed me that my films, in which I want to tell something about identity, should depend more on mirrors. I knew that when I went to Argentina. I then met a very young cameraman, Marcelo Camorino. I was quite surprised when he said to me, “if you experiment, I’ll experiment too – I will use mirrors and colored light and smoke.” I said, “okay, do it, we are in a workshop.” I hadn’t planned to make a film when I went to Argentina. It was initially a workshop situation.
I was stunned when I saw the results. I discovered that I had met the very cameraman, the very operator I needed, because he used mirrors in an unconventional way. He made a real room into an unreal one. This was exactly what I needed. He helped me to discover what I really wanted to express. He helped me to find the real subject of this film, which is not these seven love stories but the search for ones own identity through love.

ZADOW In other words “Ein Blick und die Liebe bricht aus” was the first time when you, or the cameraman and you, used mirrors to convert a real space into a non-realspace.

BRÜCKNER Yes. And it was essential for everything I now do. The people in my films live as much in a real space as in an unreal one. They live their life in a very specific moment and at the same time they live in their thoughts.We all live in many different spaces at the same time. Not only in one. Remembrance is only one of the different spaces in which we can live. Projections, wishes, hopes are other spaces in which we can live.

ZADOW Your work with mirrors was the first visual step into this unreal world. You are now working on a project to develop new pictures. You have a new theory and innovative technologies. Is the next step coming up?

BRÜCKNER I have already taken it. After my experience with the mirrors in “Ein Blick und die Liebe bricht aus”, I got a lot of practice with video post-production. You can see it in “Kolossale Liebe”. I have two main approaches to finding non-real worlds, and I now have all my tools ready – the real ones and the non-real ones. I will combine them in my next films.

ZADOW What would a dramaturgy that uses these new technological possibilities look like? Does every filmmaker have to find his or her own or is it possible to find one that is generally valid, like the Greeks developed in Ancient Theater?

BRÜCKNER That is very difficult to talk about. You can see the first step of what is now possible in some Hollywood films. But they concentrate on genre films, for examples cience fiction and fantasy films and then it is easy. You just use techniques like morphing. To show non-real people in non-real worlds. But it would be important to use these techniques to show all the levels of reality that come together in any single moment of a person’s life.

ZADOW It is probably very good for a filmmaker to have all these possibilities now, but how do you choose?

BRÜCKNER That’s it. It’s very difficult. We have the technical capabilities now, but we lack an understanding as to what they can accomplish in the portrayal of individuals and in story-telling. Before these techniques were developed it was pretty simple. The camera was an instrument that served to depict real objects, and objects gained an added significance through montage. All films were realistic, but now you can and must decide which images should be juxt aposed to the realistic ones, and what the unrealistic ones look like. This decision is made only after earnest reflection about aesthetic and philosophical principles.

ZADOW You said “Women have to take action now, so that the split between body and soul won’t be inscribed once again within the new technology in the split between pictureand word.” Is this the chance for a film language for women?

BRÜCKNER Of course there is not simply one female aesthetic or film language. The various aesthetic solutions are always individual. But I do think that the new technology opens tremendous opportunities for women and their creativity. For one thing, they dislodge frozen power-relations that are inherent in the process of creating images; power games are still played in this area.
Sometimes a female director can work well on the set, but often she cannot, especially when she wants to do something out of the ordinary. Those women who want to go beyond simply proving that they know the rules of the film business, still have a hard time getting others to work in supportive and creative ways with them. In addition, women facilitate the depiction of simultaneous realities, in which they move much more often than mendo.

ZADOW These new possibilities in filmmaking depend a lot on machines. Will the main impulse for the films of the future come from machines? How important will actors be?

BRÜCKNER Actors have been very important in the past and they will be very important in the future. Because they are human. Their role will not really deminish. But the film will not only depend on actors to create a special emotional climate and to tell something about psychological processes.

ZADOW How important are words or the text now that you have these new visual possibilities of filmmaking? Will the picture become more important?

BRÜCKNER No, I don’t think so. The distinctions between what used to be a fiction film and what used to be a documentary film or an essay film are much more fluid than they were before. We are also going back to old techniques. A lot of the things that you can do now with little effort because of modern machines were also possible with the camera before but they required a lot of energy and time.

ZADOW That means that the old techniques, like your use of photos, will stay?

BRÜCKNER Oh yes. They work. My aesthetic approach in its deepest sense is the combination of new and old media. Images of actors and images in which actors don’t play any role any longer. Real world and non-real world.

ZADOW What fascinates you about photos?

BRÜCKNER First of all they are historical moments. They concentrate on one specific historical moment and I’m fascinated by that. I continue to be fascinated by that. It’s not just that it was very important for me in my first film. Photos are something wonderful. They capture the moment between two heartbeats. It’s like holding your breath before continuing to breathe. The moment when you hold your breath you realize that time is passing.

ZADOW How would you describe yourself as a director? The script you wrote for “Lieben Sie Brecht?” is very different from the finished film. There are changes, many things were added. A lot of the work on the script must have happened in rehearsal.

BRÜCKNER My way of filmmaking has meanwhile become very complex. I now write a detailed script when I make a feature film. I didn’t do that during “Lieben SieBrecht?” I was experimenting during that shoot.

ZADOW Do you mean “detailed” also in the delineation of the image?

BRÜCKNER Yes. I have to do that now. When you work with a rather large amount of money that some institution gives to you, you have to be very precise. You have to know exactly what you are doing.
I still make changes on my way from the script to the film though. If I find out that one of my fictional images should change after the script is finished it is probably a result of a lot of things that happened during the shooting, on the set, with the actors. But I believe that the meaning will not change from what I originally wrote in the script. Just maybe the way I want to express it.

ZADOW For your new Brecht project you are working with a professional producer which is something you haven’t done before. So now you write the script, you show it to him and he reads it. Doesn’t he say – wait a minute, what’s this –

BRÜCKNER Oh yes, he does.

ZADOW What happens when your opinions clash?

BRÜCKNER This is a very difficult situation. But it is so much better to work together with someone who has professional experience in filmmaking than to be left alone as a screenwriter and to not really know whether what you have written and want to show is clear or not.

ZADOW Is this your first film with such a detailed script?

BRÜCKNER Yes. No. Another one that had a very detailed scriptwas “Hungerjahre – in einem reichen Land,” my first feature film. If I had shot everything that was written in the script, it would have been a five-hour film.
In “Hungerjahre” I realized that I react totally differently as a scriptwriter than as a director. I wrote the script and then I directed it in a totally different way. I had to go through this experience. Now I know when I write a script at which moment to slow down and when I want to speed up the rhythm. It represents a certain kind of editing. I didn’t know these moments when I made “Hungerjahre.”

ZADOW You made a lot of films using your biography. What problems do you encounter in being a public and a private person at the same time?

BRÜCKNER There are very few problems. I could not have survived if I had not had the opportunity to change into a public person. The only way to survive is to be a filmmaker who expresses these difficulties. … You can ask me anything and there is only a small area of questions where I would say, no, this is really intimate and I don’t want to talk about that right now. But maybe you will find the answer to your question in a film five years later.

ZADOW So you found self-confidence through openess?

BRÜCKNER Yes. Exactly. The experience of my generation was that all the really vital things were hidden. The only chance of surviving was to make them public.

ZADOW Thank you for the interview.

Interview with Jutta Brückner by Ingeborg von Zadow
Interview with Jutta Brückner by Ingeborg von Zadow

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