Screen talks to Austrian director Florian Flicker, whose fifth feature Crossing Boundaries world premieres at the Sarajevo Film festival this week.

Florian Flicker’s fifth feature film Crossing Boundaries is world premiering in competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival (Jul 6-14). Based on the play by Karl Schönherr She-Devil from 1914, budgeted at €1.7m, mostly through state funding, and produced by Vienna-based Prisma Film, the film tells the story of a love triangle that is based on interests rather than romantic feelings, set against a backdrop of illegal immigration. It stars Andreas Lust and Andrea Wenzl and was shot by Martin Gschlacht.

You made your previous feature film as a director, Hold-Up, 12 years ago. What were you doing in the meantime?

After Hold-Up I worked on another (international) project for a long time until I had to face the fact that this project could not be financed completely. Then I went on developing projects, writing scripts but also writing reportages for print-magazines, directing stage plays, working as a co-writer and I did a documentary [No Name City, 2006]. I had a lot of “right” stories, it was just never the right combination and timing. Finally with Prisma Film there was the right partner for this movie.

Crossing Boundaries, based on a play from 1914, has a background story of people smuggling. How strong is this issue in Austria currently?

The film takes place ten years ago and at that time (and until 2007) there were still a lot of refugees trying to get illegally into the EU by crossing the Austrian-Slovakian border. It is a very special area: flood plains, untouched wilderness - that’s where the film takes place. Young Austrian soldiers had to sit on watchtowers in the middle of this wilderness and make sure that nobody gets in. A strange and very wild atmosphere.

And although this area is only 50 kilometers far from Vienna, the Austrians have not known much about the things happening there through all the years since the Iron Curtain had ceased to exist.

Schönherr’s play fascinated me with its powerful play of tactics, deception, pretended emotions, self-deception and surrender between two men and a woman. Everyone loses control of the situation and him- or herself. It is a story about the boundaries between men and women, betrayed by the others and by themselves. And this is never out of date.

Bearing in mind that your previous feature Hold-Up was a black comedy, what would you say is the tone of your film? How funny or how dark is it?

The setting and the orchestration of characters is very minimalistic. And as the characters don‘t talk very much you may get a feeling that this is a kind of Western, also due to the mentality of the people living in this border zone. The isolation of the Iron Curtain and the unpredictability of nature made them very special, having an ironic and cynical outlook on life without even knowing it.

On this film you worked with some famous names of contemporary Austrian cinema. How did you decide who to work with and how did it go?

Twenty year ago I directed a stage play and Andreas Lust played the only part in it. On Suzie Washington (1998) we also worked together. And meeting him again during the preparation of the movie, after two minutes I knew it had to be him. Especially in the scenes with little dialogue, I really admire him for this seemingly effortless way of acting.

It’s the same with Andrea Wenzl: I could watch her face for hours. She has a big charisma and I think it’s no wonder that she is about to become a big star, right now in Munich, where she is very successful on stage.

I’ve known Martin Gschlacht for a long time. We both are very instinct-driven concerning creative decisions and not very talkative. I admire his sensitivity for colours and light. He is a modest guy, but I think he is a master.

What does the fact that your film is world premiering in Sarajevo mean to you?

I have been to Sarajevo with Suzie Washington in 1998 and have very vivid memories. The atmosphere in town, the talks with people I met and the encounters with other directors. Remembering all this, Sarajevo is the perfect place. I am proud and thankful.