Director, Screenplay, Director of photography, Editing, Producer

A portrait of writer-director Lola Randl

A portrait of writer-director Lola Randl, German Films Quarterly 3/2013

Once Lola Randl had finished introducing herself to all the other shaven headed guys with glasses in the café and finally found the right one (Note to self: next time wear something distinctive, a pirate outfit, maybe), she sat down and scanned the room again, this time observing it from the correct perspective. Observation, as you will discover, is what Lola Randl does.

Tall, with penetrating grey eyes, Lola Randl has recently moved to "a very large house in a run-down Prussian village," in the Uckermark, a historical region in northeastern Germany. "The locals are semi-friendly and I’ve always lived in the country anyway," she explains. "People there don’t talk about their projects the whole time. There aren’t any supermarkets, cafés, launderettes and everyone on their laptops and mobiles, dreaming!"

Getting away from it all or escaping it all? "Both!" Randl says. "I grew up in a conservative village in Bavaria, but in a small, hippy, part of it. People were so estranged. I can’t handle it when everyone is the same and not the same! Also, I’m a restless character and I thought moving would calm me down! But now I keep thinking I have to do stuff! It started when I was a child and now I know I can’t solve this problem: I’ve just postponed it!"

For Randl, her films, as a writer-director "have a lot to do with me! I don’t belong to any particular 'school', and working to a formula is not what I do. I have to do what I know. Of the two, writing is what I prefer most. I keep thinking I have to make these things! Writing is harder, but more interesting."

As to her working methods, Randl does not use storyboards: "I know how it should turn out," she explains, "even if I do make wrong decisions on the way! Often I discover them in post-production, which can be very painful! Then I have to live with it!" And then she confesses: "I always have problems when my films are finished! It’s like I wish I could have loved them more! Then I’m really restless and have to throw myself into something new, projecting the hope and desire into the next one. Sometimes I even hate and reject what I’ve just done! It’s really hard for me to tell journalists positive things about my films."

Back in Berlin after post-producing "Die Erfindung der Liebe" (The Invention of Love"), she stresses that, for her, "editing is extremely important. I take part in all the post work. I get depressed when it’s over," she confides, "since all the possibilities are now off the table! As long as things are still open, I have room." Mood swings? "Yes, I’m sometimes highly euphoric, sometimes very depressed by it. Writing is the thing for me and post is like a rewrite. I have no problems taking things out or changing them. Post can also show how blind I was when directing. When filming, I edit automatically in my head, but then at the editing desk I’m using another head. It’s cooperation, though. I don’t dictate to the editor. I work a lot with Andreas Wodraschke, a very creative guy."

If you look for a thread, a thematic, in Lola Randl’s films, it is of people wanting to step out of their current life, making plans that never really come off: their lives will start as soon as … Or they are trying to be different in another place. "In 'Die Besucherin' ('In Between Days'), my first film," she explains, "you see people can’t step out of their lives. But they try, even for a while. I can’t escape either! That’s also the great thing about film, too: the audience sits there for a while and they are out of their lives. Or not!"

Visually, Lola Randl’s films "are not 'realistic': I don’t make those. They are plays, fiction. I want to try things, test emotions when I’m working, and the audience should experience the same. But this is not reality: it is unreal. You have to allow yourself to go with the game." Using those intense eyes, yet again, she leans forward and, almost hypnotically, says, "Accept the game, forget it’s one and it functions. I like manipulation very much, and also being manipulated, and then suddenly you realize you’re being manipulated! That’s why I also love music in film, when it manipulates."

Being her own writer, Randl "writes the script to be played as it is. I don’t have to communicate a lot with the actors. I need to know they have the feel for it. Anything extra they bring is even better. I just need to know it works, it all fits together."

Randl uses situation to drive her narratives, the ones her characters "have fallen into, the awkward ones! I actually feel I’m making comedies, but they’re not really funny! People laugh but are not sure why. I like it when the audience doesn’t know what the film wants from them! My next one’s going to be really terrible in this respect!"

During the making of "Die Erfindung der Liebe" ("The Invention of Love"), Maria Kwiatkowsky, the lead actress, was found dead in her Berlin home. Randl was not just professionally, but also personally very affected by the tragedy.

"I’ve been working on the film for five years," she says. "I’d started to cast the role of the young girl. It was taking a long time and I was becoming restless, not finding the right one. I finally gave the nod to one who was still very good. Then I cast the boy and he recommended Maria to me. She fitted so perfectly! I’ve never experienced that! I had to cancel the first one. It was very painful for us both, but it was the right thing to do. Maria was perfect. She was as she was, spooky for everybody."

Kwiatkowsky’s death left Randl with "half the film, not even in chronological order." So what did she do? "I never thought to retry the illusion with a new actress. I felt it was the film’s fate to be robbed of its illusion. The decision to finish it was easy, but doing so... I’m still not sure how to describe it: a film within a film? The author writing the film at the same time? The film makes the real problem its problem, and then it becomes the illusion again. I’m keen to see if people can be taken into it and with it. I have no idea! And then I have all these rejection issues again! The child has to be protected because it is so strange!"

Abandonment figuring large here, Randl explains further: "The strange thing is when you have lost the project, you are alone and start all over again. I like working with people, so film gives me an opportunity to get together with them. When not making films, I don’t know what I should be doing. It’s coming to terms with my personality!" she laughs. "Directing is perfect for me: I’m involved with people but there is also a distance. You’re a part of it, but also separate, and the separation is good."

Asked whom she admires, Randl lists Franz Kafka, Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Douglas Sirk and Ernst Lubitsch, her favorite being, "Lubitsch. He lays out the game and the game turns, he shuffles and re-deals the cards. He seduces the audience and they go along with him."

She is "currently working on various projects at the moment," such as "Schnick Schnack Schnuck" (the German equivalent of Rock, Paper, Scissors) a comedy "about a very restless woman who tries to make the best of life but has lots of trouble making decisions." It’s yet to be written, but Randl cites several more, one of which she envisages as a TV series, where two people, "Berlin types" move to the countryside in search of an 'authentic' life. "But there’s a lot of work to do first," she says.

Now getting fidgety, Randl looks around, stares at her bag, at me. Although there are no sharp objects within reach, she does find a spoon! Toying with it, as if for emphasis, she explains, "I’m happy when I find people who are also restless. That makes me realize I’m not alone. I’m too restless to have hobbies and interests!"

Does she have a message to the world instead? "No! I’m just really keen to see if I stay so restless! I’m still looking. I’ll let you know. Or maybe the searching is the message! It’s repeat pattern behavior. I’m excited to know where I’ll flee to next!" And with that, Lola Randl 'flees' to catch her train.

Author: Simon Kingsley

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH