Regie, Drehbuch, Kamera, Ton, Sonstiges

Between Fact & Fiction

Portrait of Director Bettina Blümner, German Films Quarterly 4/2014

"I think it’s really exciting to blend the genres of documentary and feature film," Bettina Blümner tells me during our conversation about her work as a director up until now. "It matches my view of life. It’s important to me that people can't sense the staging, that everything creates a natural impression, yet still exhibits my interpretation of the story. I'm not dogmatic, and so that’s why I like to use music in my films. I also attempt to avoid overdoing the dramatic aspects. It's important for me to show the humor in drama and to underline the dramatic moments in a comedy."

Blümner became well-known immediately with her first film, "Prinzessinnenbad" ("Pool of Princesses"). It was a documentary film, while the next work, "Scherbenpark" ("Broken Glass Park") was a feature. In her latest film, "Parcours D'Amour", she has returned to the documentary. "Nonetheless, the films do have something in common – they are all about creating portraits of a generation and they deal with growing up. My leading character in "Scherbenpark" ("Broken Glass Park") remains true to herself. She follows the path which her heart dictates to her. She is extremely self-confident, she knows that she wants to get out of there, but she doesn’t know exactly where she wants to go yet."

This description could also be applied to the three friends she followed and observed for years in "Prinzessinnenbad" ("Poll of Princesses"). "It's about growing up, turning into an adult. It was great fun to recount tales about discovering the world. You know from when you were a teenager yourself: you always think everything is so much better in other families."

Bettina Blümner doesn't think the difference between documentary film and feature film is entirely distinguishable. "Film is film". But, naturally, she is conscious of the difference between the promise of reality in the documentary and other, imagined realities. She says that "Prinzessinnenbad" ("Pool of Princesses") was a documentary film which she shot in a similar way to a feature film, concentrating her observations in a dramatic way. "What my films show are subjective perceptions."

When asked how she came to the directing profession, Blümner mentions her schooldays, during which she saw many decisive works – Kieslowski’s "Three Colors trilogy" ("Drei-Farben-Trilogie") made a particular impression on her at the time. And she also speaks of her father: "I learned from him to see things with a special photographic perspective," and so she began photographing and making films. "I love to tell stories, the spoken word has become very important to me. Great dialogues are a rare commodity, but they are the charm in a lot of films."

Her career to date can be described perhaps as an opportunity to roam, allowing Blümner opportunities to explore the boundaries between documentary film and feature film. Here, perhaps, the influence of Christoph Schlingensief can be sensed from afar: she worked for him at the Volksbühne, experiencing first-hand the existing possibilities to ignore assumed boundaries and limitations.

The directors whose work she likes include Richard Linklater. "I really liked "Boyhood", and as a whole I admire his approach very much: I like feature films that include documentary elements, and the other way around, documentary films with a fictional touch." She also enjoys British social comedies. Humor and dialogue are very important to Blümner. She admires the work of the German screenplay writer Daniel Nocke and director Stefan Krohmer, who both work with great dialogues and unusual characters. And also films by Andrea Arnold or the Dardennes brothers.

Blümner enjoys experimenting. Just as she is not happy to feel tied to a single genre, she is also interested in working with different writers and colleagues. Repetition could easily become a risk. "Each film is a new challenge and I love challenges. I do like to work in seasoned constellations, but I also appreciate new and exciting constellations. Then it is easier to try out new things and question one's own working method. I like it when I am approached with new and interesting ideas and material."

Blümner's films all reflect an optimism – full of humor and unusually adult for German films – that is combined with a practical wisdom in day-to-day life, although that doesn’t mean there is not a touch of madness or a "special perspective" here and there. Like in "Parcours D'Amour", Blümner’s latest film, for example: "I came across the subject of the dance cafés during my research for a feature film – and I have always wanted to make a film in Paris. So one thing led to another."

"Parcours D'Amour" had its world premiere in Montreal and screened in Zurich and will be shown in Hof at the end of October. She has several projects that she has already been working on for quite a while and others that she is currently developing. And when she really believes in a project, she pursues it with great passion, both in real life as well as the fictional one.

Author: Rüdiger Suchsland

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH