Black-and-white debut feature blurs the lines between perpetrator and victim.
For Austrian director Peter Brunner, the most important part of film-making is developing characters. “I love to look for all the possible layers of a character, and to follow the character into his abysses, showing him with all his contradictions,” says Brunner, a rising star who studied under Michael Haneke at the Vienna Film Academy.
Not surprisingly, therefore, Brunner’s debut feature My Blind Heart centres around an extremely complex character called Kurt, a man suffering from Marfan Syundrom - an incurable illness which has left him almost completely blind - who after killing his controlling mother goes on a journey of self exploration. Kurt is played by Brunner’s high school friend Christos Haas, who suffers from Marfan Syndrome in real life. His mother is played by Haneke regular Susanne Lothar who tragically died during the four-year production.
Brunner deliberately set out to blur the lines between perpetrator and victim in his experimental debut, which is shot entirely in black and white. “Ever since high school I was extremely fascinated by Caravaggio’s painting David & Goliath in which David, who holds Goliath’s head in his hand, is not a definite victor but a victim,” says Brunner, adding: “The theme of guilt attracts me very much and I think I will come back to it and work on it from different angles.”
Made on a microbudget of €60,000, the film has no conventional script and features several disabled actors. “Primarily I wanted to work with people who were willing to take a big risk. While searching for them I found handicapped people who offered me moving and touching acting performances without any filter,” explains the director, who cites Andrei Tarkovsky, and in particular his film The Mirror as having influenced him the most, along with “the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Francis Bacon.”
Brunner has now started working on his second narrative feature, We Are Sisyphos, another “character study” which centres around a severely traumatized American who lives in Vienna and tries self therapy to fill a hole in his memory. It will be produced by Austrian Production Company Golden Girls together with US producers Matt Parker and Carly Hugo, who co-produced Beasts of the Southern Wild.