German director Andres Veiel talks about his competition film If Not Us, Who, which focuses on the real life turbulent relationship between Bernward Vesper and Baader-Meinhof militant Gudrun Ensslin in 1960’s Germany.
The film explores the origins of the Baader -Meinhof movement in Germany by focusing on the love affair between Bernward Vesper and Gudrun Ensslin, before she becomes involved with Andreas Baader. Why did you feel the need to tell the story this way?
There have been other films about Germany in the 60s, but all the films show the same images of demonstrations and police hitting people. I said we have to restart the whole debate going into the early biographies of the main protagonists of the increasing violence in Germany at the end of the 60s. So I went into the family stories, the background, the political impact of the trial of Eichmann, early footage of Vietnam. I combined new footage with a very strong love story.
Your background is in documentaries. How did your approach to making a fiction feature differ?
In a way, the beginning of the project was the same approach as making a documentary, with lots of research. The difference is that the making of a documentary takes places mostly in the editing room. The process on this film is all in advance, you have to do the editing by planning the whole shooting process.
Did you find it difficult to combine the historical and political elements of the film with telling a love story?
Some people say, if you tell a political story, don’t tell a love story, because a love story is like sprinkling sugar on it. In this case, it is bullshit. If you go into these political issues, you cannot ignore the personal side of the main protagonists, because the love story is the nuclear fusion behind it.
Do you take inspiration from any other film-makers?
When I’m preparing a film I’m like a monk, I don’t go out much, I don’t go to the cinema, because I am trying to find out what is the heartbeat of the material. Of course I’ve been impacted by people. I learnt a lot from Krzysztof Kieslowski, who taught me in the 80s in Berlin. I am still close to him, and there is always a little hint of him in my work.
You are based in Berlin..how does it feel to be screening your film in competition here?
In a way it was my goal to take part in the competition and I’m very happy that we finally made it. Cannes is an important festival in terms of international response, but for the atmosphere, the intensity and how films and received and debated, Berlin is perfect.
I am working on a film about the financial crisis. I am doing a lot of research work, so I don’t know whether it will be a doc or fiction. It might sound boring, because the crisis is over but by the time the film is finished, I’m sure we will get the next crisis!