Gotz Spielmann

Started by wilder, March 29, 2012, 10:14:57 PM

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Götz Spielmann (born January 11, 1961 in Wels, Austria) is an Austrian director and scriptwriter. Götz Spielmann grew up in Vienna. After High School, he lived in Paris for several months. From 1980 to 1987 he studied film direction and script-writing in Vienna at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna. At the Viennese Filmacadamy, his professors included Harald Zusanek and Axel Corti. After making several short films, and receiving his diploma with Vergiss Sneider!, with the drama Erwin und Julia, Spielmann had his first great success. In 1993, his film Der Nachbar won the Vienna Filmaward at the Viennale. And in 1994, his film for television Dieses naive Verlangen was awarded with the Erich-Neuberg-Preis. In 2006, he was honored with the Upper Austrian Landeskulturpreis in the "Film" section. Spielmann is one of the most important contemporary Austrian Film directors. His films The Stranger and Antares were the Austrian candidates for Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Antares has been screened widely at more than thirty International Film Festivals. Spielmann is on the committee of the Verband der Filmregisseure Österreichs (the Association of the Austrian film directors).

In the Linzer Kammerspiele (Linz, Upper Austria) he made his debut as Theatre Director with the performance of the play Der einsame Weg, written by Arthur Schnitzler. For the season 2006/2007, he wrote his first play for the theatre, the Landestheater Linz, Imperium, which was first released on January 5, 2007 at the Linzer Kammerspiele. In January 2009 Spielmann's Revanche was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.


1990: Erwin und Julia
1993: Der Nachbar
1993: Dieses naive Verlangen
1995: Loveable Lies aka Pretty Lies (Liebe Lügen)
1996: Fear of the Idyll (Die Angst vor der Idylle)
2000: The Stranger (Die Fremde)
2001: Spiel im Morgengrauen
2004: Antares
2008: Revanche
2013: Oktober November

Revanche Trailer

Gotz Spielmann's most recent film, Revanche, is far and away my favorite movie of the past five years. Information online about this director is pretty limited and spread across a wide array of sources, so I wanted to gather as much of it as I could find all in one place.

Video Interviews

AFI Interview

Indie Express Interview

17 minute interview on Vimeo

35 minute interview with Criterion on Hulu Plus

Other Links

Gotz Spielmann's Top 10 Criterions

Director's Notes on Janus' Official Revanche Website

Print Interviews

Filmmaker Magazine - Gotz Spielmann, "Revanche"
by Nick Dawson

Contemporary Austrian cinema has been dominated by the works of its two best known names, Michael Haneke and Ulrich Seidl, but now the name of the prodigiously talented Götz Spielmann can be added to that list. Spielmann was born in 1961 in the town of Wels, but grew up in the country's capital, Vienna. As a child he was drawn to film and he began writing and directing in his teens; when he was just 17, he had his first film shown on television. Between 1980 and 1987, he studied film at the Vienna Film Academy, part of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where his professors included the directors Harald Zusanek and Axel Corti. Having already made a number of award-winning student shorts, Spielmann made his feature debut in 1990 with Erwin und Julia, a tale of Vienna's disaffected youth, which he followed up with 1993′s Der Nachbar. In 2000, he returned with The Stranger, a gritty depiction of the darker side of Vienna, which was chosen as Austria's submission for the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars. That same honor was also bestowed on his next film, Antares (2004), a triptych of interlinking stories set in a Viennese apartment building. In addition to periodically making films for TV, Spielmann has recently also begun writing and directing plays at the Linzer Kammerspiele in Linz, Austria.

Revanche, Spielmann's latest film, is his third consecutive feature to be submitted by Austria to the Academy Awards and was one of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film this year. The set-up for the film is simple and familiar: Alex (Johannes Krisch), an ex-con minder at a Vienna sex club, is secretly having an affair with Tamara (Irina Potapenko), one of the Eastern European prostitutes under his care. To pay off both their debts so that they can escape to a new life together in Spain, he plans to rob a small town bank near his grandfather's farm outside the city. Though its title and relatively conventional film noir beginning suggest a straight-up thriller, Revanche is in fact an incredibly nuanced and thought-provoking film which takes us to unexpected places in its profound examination of the themes of guilt, love and revenge. Spielmann weaves together elements of noir, Greek tragedy and pastoral in a perfectly paced and structured film which feels utterly real and organic. It is a beguiling piece of cinema, and it is unlikely that a better film than this will be released this year.

Filmmaker spoke to Spielmann about his writing process, the film's organic nature, and his take on Hollywood cinema.

Filmmaker: What was the starting point for the film, and how did you first get interested in exploring these ideas?
Spielmann: I must admit that for me it's always quite difficult to really analyze what the starting point was. Finding stories and ideas in which I really believe is such a complex and somehow chaotic process that I never can say where one story started and another ended. In this case, I found a sketch of the plot which I had written some years before but had put away because at that time it didn't interest me anymore. It was one of those ideas that you're interested in and you try out: you makes notes and make a sketch of it for a few days, but then it doesn't feel interesting enough and you put it away and go somewhere else. When I read it, I was thrilled because I felt that there was something which has a lot to do with ancient tragedy in that plot, and that made it really rich and interesting and full, and then I started to work. Of course, there are other routes and sources for that: one is that about a year previously, I made a 10-day trek through the landscape where we then shot the movie, walking alone and thinking about stories and what I wanted to do. Another, for sure, is that I did a lot of research about prostitution some years before, which led me to the Ukraine. I researched that in Vienna and Eastern Europe, where a lot of the women come from. There are always a lot of sources that have to come together so that the river of the story can be filled up with energy and material.

Filmmaker: Once you've managed to tap in that river, do you write quite spontaneously?
Spielmann: I would say it's a hard struggle to get to a point where I write spontaneously, and at that point it's easy. But every day, it's a struggle to get to that point because, in my opinion, real or honest creativity has to do with an empty mind, and the work and the struggle is to get there every day. Sometimes it takes half an hour, sometimes it takes three hours when writing a script, but when I've found that point it's very easy and very refreshing to write. So it's half a struggle and half a holiday. [laughs]

Filmmaker: So when you're in that mode of having an empty mind, is what you write is coming from somewhere subliminal?
Spielmann: I think that "subliminal" is a good word, yeah. Let me say it this way: I think we have two energies or two intelligences. We have a small one that's consciousness, and a big one – an enormous one, very precise, knowing many things much more than our consciousness could dream of – which is maybe below our consciousness or above our consciousness. Maybe it's around it – I don't know. And I think that the really important things in life happen in the big intelligence and not in the small intelligence of intellectuality.

Filmmaker: Revanche is so beautifully paced and structured, so can you tell me about the process of achieving that?
Spielmann: It was not easy. It was quite complicated because there was the danger that the movie would fall into two pieces, so it was a lot of work. In this case, the process of writing means to analyze the problem, to know what has to be solved, and then wait until the solution comes. So part of the work is conscious and analysis and intellectual; I have nothing against that because it's a perfect tool, but it's not more than a tool. It has nothing to do with the truth or real things, so it was quite hard work to find the structure. It was tricky, but I'm happy that the audience don't realize that it had to be tricky, because I think that the real, beautiful things seem to be very easy – and it's a hard struggle to get to that simplicity.

Filmmaker: The opening image of the film is of ripples breaking on a placid lake, and the film itself seems to be about the ripples caused by a single event. Is that the reason you used it?
Spielmann: Yes, and no. Yes, because that sounds a very useful and truthful thought to me, and no, because it's a picture not an idea, and a thought or an idea followed. The picture came first and I somehow felt that this was the beginning. It was an instinct. I would lie if I say that I write calculatedly; I don't.

Filmmaker: It seems like Revanche plays with the conventions of film noir, so I'm interested to know your feelings on the genre.
Spielmann: I like it, I would say. By the way, it was quite influenced by Austrian and German directors, and the basic root of film noir is the so-called German Expressionism which was very strongly influenced by Austrian artists, so film noir seems to be something that has its roots in Austria and Austrian culture. But, on the other hand, I never think in genres when I work because I just try to make personal movies as good as I can. Certainly I'm influenced by everything I've seen and everything I've read, but I don't care about that. I have no problem in being influenced. I don't feel any need to be something outside the world; I'm part of it, so I'm influenced, but my working process and my goals never have to do with genre. So that influence just happens.

Filmmaker: My reaction to the film was that it begins with a classic film noir setup, but then takes us in an unexpected direction. Even the title seems to give us expectations of a more conventional revenge film.
Spielmann: I didn't think about that, not really, but then maybe I just started simple. My mind is simple at the beginning and during the process of working it's getting more complex. Maybe it's so easy that maybe clichés are in my head, but when you look with care and with concentration at a cliché it shows its hidden truth. So maybe that happened, but I never thought to to manipulate the spectator.

Filmmaker: "Manipulate" is a much stronger word than I would use.
Spielmann: You know, of course, there is a lot of conscious and unconscious trickiness in telling stories. There's structure and you work with tension and you work with expectations when you tell a story. Everybody does that, and I am not an un-tricky writer. So, on the surface, that's part of the work, but what I'm trying to say is that the profound importance is to get over that, to go deeper than that and be more exact than the manipulating methods cinema allows. By the way, one of the basic longings for the style in which the movie was made was not to manipulate. That's the reason there are so few cuts, why there is no film music at all to give the spectator his or her own freedom in being touched or not and not to manipulate the emotions. That can be very easy if you know how to make movies but which, in my opinion and from my personal experience as a spectator myself, doesn't create emotions that last. Those emotions that are evoked from manipulation don't lead to a need, they don't make a big experience, and my longing and my goal is to create experiences for the audience, not manipulations.

Filmmaker: The film does feel incredibly organic...
Spielmann: A beautiful word.

Filmmaker: ...And spontaneous and unforced. How did you achieve that effect?
Spielmann: [laughs] Yes, that's a very big question, my dear, [laughs] because it has to do with a lot of things. It first of all has to do with writing the script, especially dialogue, it has to do with the work with actors, it has to do with the work with the camera, with the pictures. All that has to come together to find that organic (I like that word very much) form, finally. I would say in general I work with a very precise knowledge of what I want from each single scene and each sentence an actor says and of each single picture, and on the other hand I wait as long as possible to reach that goal. That means when I shoot a scene, I know what feeling and energy and emotions should be in that scene, but I decide at the very last moment how we'll do it and how I'll shoot it. That allows me to stay inspired by everything that happens, by the actors, by the people I work with, by the locations, by the weather, by the light, by the noises I hear – by everything.

Filmmaker: Does that mean that you encourage your actors to improvise?
Spielmann: I work with improvisation in the rehearsals. I rehearse a lot. I rehearse about two weeks with the actors before we shoot. In that process, I sometimes change some dialogue. When I see in rehearsal that an actor can not do it in the way I want it, then I change the dialogue, or if there is an improvisation that makes it more interesting then I put it into the script. But that's not needed: if that doesn't happen, there's still an idea in the script and a scene that works. When I shoot, I very seldom work with improvisation, only in situations of a high emotional energy level, for example the bank robbery. When I shoot, it's very precise.

Filmmaker: Has the rehearsal process, and other aspects of your filmmaking practice, been influenced by your theater work?
Spielmann: Not at all, not at all. Theater refreshes me very much, it makes me fresh and full of energy. It's something I love to do. If you have a really good play, a masterpiece, it's just refreshing to work with that, to understand it better and better during the process of rehearsing it. I like to work with actors and I like work that vanishes very quickly afterwards. When you make something for the theater, three months after the opening, it's gone, it's away most of the time. I like that. It's something which is a good opposite to the writing process, which has a lot to do with being alone, and sometimes being lonely, and working on theater is the opposite, it's working together. It's really a kind of fun which I do with a lot of passion and seriousness. So fun not in an un-profound way.

Filmmaker: If you like how theater disappears, does the permanence of films make you feel pressured? Do you not like that permanence so much?
Spielmann: I like it very much and wouldn't say that it's pressure, but another kind of responsibility. I like that responsibility as well. I like both. I like the lightness and I like the responsible things.

Filmmaker: Do you see Revanche as a typically Austrian film? How do you view it in the context of a national cinema?
Spielmann: For me, that's hard for me to say because I'm Chinese and I more see the differences between us Chinese. [laughs] I don't look at us from outside so I don't think we're all the same. [laughs] I don't know, I really don't know. I like some filmmakers here very much, in some aspects I'm influenced by Austrian culture and Austrian tradition. But, on the other hand, I don't feel like an Austrian artist, I feel more like a citizen of the world, or maybe of Europe. Austria's a very small country, so for an artist's self consciousness or self definition, a country alone is too little to define yourself by.

Filmmaker: You said you're a citizen of the world, so does that mean that you might consider doing a film outside of Austria? Have you considered doing a film in the U.S.?
Spielmann: That might happen, yes, but I cannot say. It depends. If the project, the script and the circumstances of working give me the impression I could make something beautiful, then I would do it, yes.

Filmmaker: If you could travel back in time and be able to make movies in a time and place of your choice, where and when would it be?
Spielmann: It would be between 1950 and 1965 in Europe, maybe Italy, with what emerged from the neorealists. For me, the mid 50s to the late 60s in European cinema is the most interesting part of film history.

Filmmaker: Is Hollywood going in the right direction?
Spielmann: I have the impression, yes. In my opinion, it opens itself more and more to a cinema which is not a kind of commercial easy listening.

Filmmaker: Finally, what's the smartest decision you ever made?
Spielmann: To get born.


Interview with the Austrian Film Commission for Revanche
by Karin Schiefer
© 2007 Austrian Film Commission

What interests me most is telling a thriller at an extremely slow pace. I don't want viewers to just forget time for ninety minutes. I want them to become conscious of it.

The title Revanche clearly reflects the theme of your new film. Should we expect a classic story of revenge?
Götz Spielmann: Possibly classic, but not in the sense of genre cinema. That doesn't interest me so much, I work intuitively rather than according to a concept. While the story definitely contains some elements of suspense, I've tended to disguise them in this production through my directing rather than elaborate on them. The suspense doesn't occupy the foreground for me.

So is the theme of guilt more important?
Götz Spielmann: The question of guilt was certainly the main theme at the beginning, the initial intellectual impetus, though that shifted gradually. What the film explores more deeply now, and that doesn't sound like it conforms with the Zeitgeist, is the secret behind life. That's where my focus turned, to the secret, the riddle that life represents to me. Life, and I believe in its beauty. To put it in banal terms, I believe that despite all the terrible things that happen, despite all the problems and misunderstandings, despite all the loneliness and conflicts, life is the way it should be. Exploring that more deeply is what I'm doing right now. This focus was probably a part of the story from the beginning, but concealed, and now I'm starting to discover it by working with it.
There's an uppermost level, a story of revenge which is told in an extremely clear and relatively stringent way, with a story of guilt and an obvious main character, a "hero." That's the surface. Deeper down, I hope, the film tells us about a kind of stillness behind things. It's difficult to express that in words, because it refers to a realization, knowledge or experience which begins beyond conscious thought and language.

The story's constructed in such a way that the question of guilt can be interpreted in an extremely relative and subjective way.
Götz Spielmann: That's right. In that sense the film's obviously a sequel to Antares. It should be clear that the characters see, and are able to see, nothing more than portions of reality. In addition it involves a search for identity and the fact that an inner feeling is connected to an external reality?in a truly tense situation or positive harmony, so that the inside and outside are not in grotesque contradiction to one another.

Two worlds meet, that of prostitutes and pimps and the conventionality of rural life. You once said something about the former, the setting of your last play, Imperium, that it's in a sense a condensed outline of society as a whole. In what way?
Götz Spielmann: For two reasons: Firstly because when you look behind the scenes, it's all about making money, some amount of profit, and an incredible number of things are subordinate to that. That's also what makes up today's society, and it's also one of our fundamental problems. Secondly people constantly try to conceal the banality of this, give it more false significance, and hide the primitive greed driving it, the need that creates it. I see in this a more intense, simpler and therefore extremely obvious analogy to the current state our society.

You directed two stage plays between Antares and Revanche - one by Schnitzler and one of your own, Imperium. Is Revanche a further development of the material from Imperium?
Götz Spielmann: No, these two projects were in fact created completely parallel to one another. The idea behind Revanche is older than the play. The play revolves around a medium-size brothel owner who's ruined by his plan for life, which is too narrow and too superficial. In the case of Revanche the brothel owner is a secondary figure whose main function is to represent the milieu which I'm now quite familiar with from research.

Did these last two works cast a new light on your films and alter your approach?
Götz Spielmann: No, not really. My theatrical work enriches my other work through different experiences, stimulates my thinking through working closely with great plays. But my film work isn't really influenced by it. At the same time however, everything has some kind of influence, so that's true, I suppose. But I'm not aware of precisely how, I don't notice it.

Working with actors is known to be an important part of your work as a director. Compared to Antares there are some new faces, how was the cast chosen for Revanche?
Götz Spielmann: When you avoid the beaten paths with well-known celebrities you can discover great new actors. Discovering new faces isn't really my intention, that just happens because I look for the best possible cast without any preconceived notions and do a lot of looking around and auditions beforehand. In the case of Johannes Krisch I've felt for a long time that there's a movie actor with a great deal of potential. This is his first leading role in a theatrical film. A real discovery for Austrian cinema, in my opinion. I hope that others will see it that way too. For the role of Tamara we looked for a young Russian actress, did auditions in Moscow, Kiev, and finally in Bucharest. Then we found Irina Potapenko in Berlin. She's originally from Ukraine, then moved to Berlin at the age of eight and grew up there. She plays a prostitute and prepared by spending a few nights with the women at a brothel in Vienna, observing the clients and getting to know the life. A part that takes a great deal out of her emotionally, which she put a great deal of dedication into. I considered Andreas Lust for a part in Antares, and he really convinced me, even though I decided on someone else in the end. He plays a policeman who accidentally shoots and kills a young woman and has psychological problems as a result. He spent some time with the police in Gföhl to better slip into the character and the milieu. I think Ursula Strauss is one of the most interesting actresses of her generation, and it was high time for us to work together. I was thinking about her when I wrote the screenplay. It was the same with Hannes Thanheiser, who plays the old farmer. He had small parts in Erwin und Julia and Antares. The farmer was written for him. But choosing the cast isn't the only important thing, rehearsals are too. I spend a few weeks working with the actors before shooting starts, and we condense the figures and scenes, filling them out and "setting them free."

Your work with Martin Gschlacht has turned out well for some time now.
Götz Spielmann: Turned out well doesn't do it justice, it's more than that. Our third film together and our collaboration has become extremely intuitive, extremely precise without a great deal of talking. We've also become friends over the years, which is a beautiful thing, working together with friends. Beforehand we talk about the resolution, specific images, technique, etc., and a great deal about the story, its hidden meaning, the film's basic formal concept, rhythm and style. We mostly work with natural light and go to the limits of what's possible with the 35mm stock. At the same time it should "look good," and not be an attempt to simulate documentary authenticity à la Dogma. Extremely few cuts, long shots. Of course that involves the danger that there are many fewer possibilities to make corrections during editing. Everything must be precisely planned for shooting. That's what we look for during shooting, and then we don't have to do much talking about what we want, it has become natural. A director couldn't ask for anything more.

This is the first film you've produced with your own company. What was behind this decision?
Götz Spielmann: Simply because I never really felt that with any of my previous films I never found a producer who made me feel I was in good hands. I run my company together with my wife, Sandra Bohle. We're producing the film together with Prisma-Film, and the combination of individuals and our work together has turned out extremely well so far. I expected shooting would be more difficult, as I had to think and act as both the director and producer. But the opposite was the case. A lot of things are much easier. I have the sense that I can plan and make decisions in a much better way for the good of the film and the great crew. We work hard, all of us together, but we enjoy working in this way. At least I hope the majority saw it like that. As producers we tried our best to make this atmosphere possible.

What role does time play in this story?
Götz Spielmann: In my opinion the best films are the ones where time is transformed into a space for experience. Like a river you watch flow by, where all the water eventually comes together in a sea at the end. On the one hand story-telling in film is bound to time like any other dramatic art. But the most important experiences in life happen in a place where time is suspended, and play a role. That's why I always see my work as taking place on two different levels. The story you're telling is a means to this end, but it isn't the purpose or the destination.  Everything needs a surface, a superficial level in the film which must fit and which requires suspense, though that isn't the most important thing. Sometimes not making use of this suspense might be the right thing to do, if that would go too deep or interfere with something behind the story too much. You could say that's the deception in filmmaking. Revanche is a very precisely written story, but the focus when it was being made wasn't producing as much suspense or breathlessness as possible. Telling the story of Revanche in a way which creates a maximum amount of suspense would be easy to do. The important thing for me was a formal and esthetic slowness. In my opinion that's the exciting thing and the risky aspect of the film. What interests me most is telling a thriller at an extremely slow pace. I don't want viewers to just forget time for ninety minutes thanks to cinematic mechanisms and its methods of manipulation. I want them to become conscious of it. That's when you can truly overcome it.


Gotz Spielmann - Cineuropa Interview
by Fabien Lemercier

Cineuropa: On the surface, Revanche is a suspense thriller centred around a bank robbery. However, the film combines numerous themes, including guilt, the search for identity, loneliness and contrasts between city and country. What is the film's main subject in your opinion?
Götz Spielmann: What guided me was the idea that the film should be a journey towards silence. But essentially, it's the possibility of tackling individual existential questions that interests me. The problems of conflict and social difficulties are also part of my work for I live in our society and I'm well aware of what goes on around me. I therefore have my opinion about what's not right and what could be different. But I try to look beyond this for there are much deeper issues.

What was your method for writing the screenplay?
My writing process involves not finding any ideas at first, putting other ideas aside when they're not good enough, reading books, being frustrated and trying over again. When I worked for the first time on the original idea behind Revanche, the plot thread immediately reminded me of Greek tragedy, which gave it a much more interesting significance in my opinion.

Your characters seem ruled by fate, but they always have a choice and you play on this with small recurring details (the intersection in the forest, the double photo, etc).
I like making a film's story more complex. As in life, things repeat themselves, but their meaning changes because we change; we may have a deeper understanding of them for example. These elements are constantly connected to one another like a carpet that's more solid when it's not simply a mosaic of disparate things.

Did you aim to see how far you could go in slowing down the thriller format?
From a certain point of view, yes. But not at the writing stage. I just wanted to make a personal film. When the screenplay was finished, I realised that it was rather like a thriller and I felt the need to direct it as slowly as possible. From time to time during the shoot, I said to my team: "Don't forget, I want to make a boring film".

Your film language seems to be moving towards purity.
Simplicity is the goal of my work and I try to be as simple as possible, but everyone knows that it's very difficult.

Your work is somewhere between "mainstream" film – dominated by the plot – and a quasi-documentary approach.
I don't consider myself to be in the middle, but rather different from both. It's not a compromise, but rather a combination: putting elements together and giving them form to create something new.

In John Cassavetes' work, for example, there's a big difference between the strength, emptiness and rituals on the one hand and, on the other, actors who simply perform and a camera that follows. However different these two almost contradictory methods of filmmaking may be, I like them both. And the very lively energy in Cassavetes' work is expressed with ease and clarity: it's an attempt at combining different, conflicting elements to render them harmonious, which creates complexity and peace at the same time. For harmony means accepting tensions, not pushing them aside.

What are your main cinematic influences?
I've never followed them as I've tried to make my own way, at least on a conscious level. It's not very original, but the most important directors in my view are Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovski, Yasujiro Ozu and John Cassavetes.

You produced your own film for the first time. Did you do so in order to gain more artistic freedom?
I was very free at the start of my career as a director and I've rediscovered that feeling since making my previous film, Antares. Before that, I relied on circumstances, even though I've never made a film to order and what's essential is doing what you have to do whatever the circumstances.

Getting funding together is not particularly easy in Austria. I didn't have any difficulties with Revanche – which we were able to get off the ground quite quickly without co-production support from other countries – but I did with Antares.

What will your next project be?
I have a few ideas and I've worked on them over the last few months even though I've had very little time due to the Oscar nomination. Now I have to return to silence, I must listen and focus my thoughts.


TrustMovies Interview with Gotz Spielmann

The first thing that greets the viewer who sees Revanche will be the famous old Janus Film logo (at left) -- which greatly surprised me and the friend who accompanied me to the press screening, since we had not seen this two-sided face introducing anything other than a classic film in, well, decades. Turns out that's exactly the case, as Revanche is the first new film to be released via Janus in -- count 'em -- 30 years.

When we arrive at the offices, we learn that Herr Spielmann will actually be waiting for us at his hotel a mile or two uptown, so the Janus/Criterion representative Sarah Finklea hails a cab and we speed north. During the cab ride, Finklea explains that, so impressed and in love with Spielmann's film were the Janus people when they first saw the film, that they bought the distribution rights practically on the spot. We talk about our varied reactions to Revanche: While I found the plot turns predictable, Sarah says that although she did not find the plot to be "super-surprising," she nonetheless found the emotional resonance that occurred for her after each plot twist to be enormous -- particularly regarding the character of the wife. "Everything she reacted to and how she felt seemed so fresh to me," said Sarah, "and not at all what I would have expected." For both of us, the acting from the entire ensemble was so good that it brought the movie to life without a moment ever seeming false.

In the lobby of the upscale Hotel Roger Williams, Götz (pronounced Getz) Spielmann is waiting for us, and a very casual, classy figure he presents. In appearance he seems one of the more effortlessly elegant film directors I've encountered, a fact I attribute perhaps to his having worked in legitimate theatre for some years. As the director must leave for another interview soon, we get down to business immediately.

TrustMovies: What was the biggest difference between filming Antares and Revanche?
Götz Spielmann: I would say that Revanche was much easier to make because, for some reason, it seemed to have a more closed structure, and so Anatares was the higher risk. Antares was three stories combined into one which means that it had a lot of very important characters, which you then have to work with...

Antares, as I recall, had three stories while Revanche, in its way, has just one -- although it does bring together maybe three stories. So the films are similar in that way, except that Revanche has its separate stories that seem to move outward and then encompass each other as the film returns inward.
Uh-hmmm. Uh-hmmm. (He seems to be agreeing). The poet Rilke, he said, at the end of his life he had the impression that he also wrote the same poem. I think this is a kind of paradox...

Well, I think it is true that artists are most interested in... what interests them the most.
Yes -- and you know, for some reasons, I hope that my movies are as different as possible. And for other reasons I hope that they really have something in common because I think that is what happens with works of art. It shows that they... it shows that they are -- I am missing an English word here that I cannot think of. (Ed: I can't either. ) But I hope you get my meaning.

One of the things, it seems to me anyway, that interests you a lot is sex. What impressed me enormously about Antares is how sexual it was without ever being "leering." When I watched it, I felt absolutely no sense of that sleazy quality you get from some movies, and yet I found it to be one of the most adult and mature looks at sex that I have ever seen -- right up to and including the fact that we glimpse an erection once or twice during the film. When I saw that, I remember thinking: Wow -- why don't we see this in films more often? It is so much a part of the sexual act, yet in most films, it's as though the penis either does not exist or, if it does, it's always flaccid.
I am glad to hear you say this.

That's the effect the film had on me because it seemed so real and yet it was nothing like pornography because it was all about the feelings attached to the act. In fact I was hoping for more of this from Revanche, but it didn't happen. (Götz laughs) But that was OK. Your films also take a look at the "uses" of sex -- how important sex is and how strange it can be, too. In fact, now that I think of it, without giving away a spoiler, Revanche seemed very much about, among other things, the uses of sex.
Well, what can I say? I am interested in human beings, you know, and life and sex are an important part of all that. When I tell stories, this is one aspect -- one level of possibility -- to tell what I want to tell. I never have done a sex scene or shown a naked body just to, I don't know, just to make something more interesting or be provocative. I think for me it is something which, well, I just don't see any problem with at all. I simply start out to tell a story.

Maybe there is no problem because, where sex is concerned, you don't have one?
Well, of course there are problems in sex and sexuality, as there are in everything in life. But these are often hidden and private, although sometimes they are not. But in dealing with sexuality, I don't see the difference, I guess. (He shrugs.) I am sorry, because I simply don't see any problem with showing all because all of this is important and all of it is interesting and part of life and all of this can be used to tell a story. And because it is like that in life, too, as when people use tenderness when they are making love, then this changes things and tells a different story. So of course the sex scene then has to be different.

In your two films, I never got any of that sleazy sense of the way in which the camera moves that I sometime feel in watching other movies. I think this is good, because it allows us to look at what is going on not as a voyeur (though we're all voyeurs, I suppose, where watching movies is concerned). But there are sleazy voyeurs and just regular voyeurs, and your films make us the latter, I think. You do not seem to appeal to the sleazy sense.
Um-hmmm. You are right.

So, what are you working on next? The IMDB doesn't give me a clue about this.
No. The IMDB does not know everything. (He laughs) But I don't know yet myself. I am working on different projects, different ideas. And things have not gotten to the point where I can tell what will really be my next project.

You don't seem to work terribly quickly. There were four years between Antares and Revanche, right?
Something like that, yes.

But, then, quality takes time.
Yes, quality does take time. Especially the ideas. And finding a really nice idea that will carry me, this can be the most exhausting, the most time-consuming part for me. Once I get this good idea, I am quite fast in taking it and getting the script.

You wrote and directed both Antares and Revanche.
Yes, I write and direct all of my movies.

Considering the time involved, how long would you say it took you to get the script in the shape you wanted before you began filming?
After really having the idea, it takes maybe two months.

Wow-- that's fast.
Yeah, but it can take years to get the idea.

That's why there are four years between films?
Yes, but I also worked in theatre at this time.

That's right: theatre.
Yes, I directed for theatre and I wrote a play, too. So I was not lazy. (Now, I laugh.)

Would you say you are now fifty-fifty between theatre and film?
Now? No -- film is now dominating my working life.

How many full-length films have you made?
I have made eight.

Really? And I've only seen two?
Most of them for television.

Ah, that accounts for why we have not seen them over here.
Most of these were from my own scripts and most of them, except one, were not original stories.

Is there anything else you'd like to say? Like, questions you wish people would ask you, but they always leave out?
I never thought about that. Interesting question: Let me see... At the moment, no. I am quite satisfied with your questions.

OK, then. I am really happy to have been able to meet you and I look forward to your next idea -- and the film that comes from it-- whenever that may be.

(I start to stand up but Spielmann suddenly lights up and continues speaking)

I am working on some ideas, but for me it is sad because I have a lot of ideas -- at least once a week -- but having an idea is not enough. It has to be something which thrills me and leads me and which opens some profound energy in me. The process is that I work on ideas and I wait, and when it happens, good; when it does not happen then I put it away. And wait for the next idea. It's a mixture between work and waiting. So I wait.

It's like falling in love, you know. It's like you have it in your hands to go out and make it possible, but you have to be open for the possibility for falling in love. You can wish it like mad and it won't happen. You have to have humility. That's what I'm doing whenever I am sitting around the writing table with ideas, waiting to see if I fall in love or not. Up to now I didn't fall in love with a new idea for my next movie, but I have some ideas that I am working on. And it could happen tomorrow, in the airplane back. Or maybe it will be in one year, you know? Because, really, you never know when you will fall in love.



Austrian Film Commission - Götz Spielmann: Antares - Interview

Antares is the largest star in the constellation of Scorpius, a red binary star. The name is from the Greek and means Anti-Mars. The film comprises three interconnected stories that are in a sense three 'Scorpio stories' with intense emotions, both positive and negative: sex, jealousy, violence, crisis and death.
Götz Spielmann's new film Antares opens the competition at the 57th Locarno festival.

AFN: What does the film's title mean?

Götz Spielmann: Antares is the largest star in the constellation of Scorpius, a red binary star. The name is from the Greek and means "anti-Mars." The film comprises three interconnected stories that are in a sense three "Scorpio stories" with intense emotions, both positive and negative: sex, jealousy, violence, crisis and death.

AFN: What's the motivation behind this narrative concept of three sequential episodes?

Götz Spielmann: A long while ago I started thinking about the fact that we're all part of interrelationships which are far bigger than we realize. In other words, solitude and isolation are illusions of our consciousness. I'm fascinated by telling three stories playing out simultaneously which are related without the protagonists being of aware if it. I didn't want to use more or less coincidental parallel montage for that, so I chose a sequential structure. With each story these interrelationships and the fact that all living things belong to a much larger web are made increasingly clear. In addition it was important to me to alter and expand upon the dramatic possibilities which were available, thereby getting away from the classic style of narration. I love refracting the classic dramatic structure in such a way that a clear story's still produced which the audience can comprehend both emotionally and intellectually.

AFN: Which was probably made more difficult by the fact that the screenplay wasn't laid down to the last detail.

Götz Spielmann: Yes and no. The screenplay wasn't as sketchy as it first seems, it was quite precise with regard to the dramatic structure, and the characters also. I merely reversed the process of working with the actors and writing the dialog. I worked with the actors first, on their characters, so that they could discover who they are, their conflicts and personalities. The dialogs were then created on that basis. It was more a matter of guided improvisation pointed in the direction I wanted to go. Working with actors represents another challenge I often think aboutæthe question of how to create living, vivid action in a film without sacrificing precise form and precision in the direction.

AFN: Did it take long to find the right people?

Götz Spielmann: Of course, it takes a lot of time when you don't always follow the set paths of casting. It requires more effort, but that's the only way to achieve superior results. We looked at theaters, acting schools and contacted people who had stood out in relatively small parts. Andreas Kiendl and Martina Zinner, Dennis Cubic and Susanne Wuest are for the most part unknown and have now appeared in leading roles. And Petra Morzé, although her stage work is well known, represents the discovery of a great film actress. I've wanted to work with Andreas Patton for quite a while, but it hasn't been possible until now because he's German and the authenticity of the language is important to me. Hary Prinz starred in The Stranger. A great ensemble, including the supporting actors.

AFN: The film is set in a housing development which conveys a certain uniformity and monotony, but individual stories are revealed behind the façades.

Götz Spielmann: There's a great deal of struggle for individuality in the private dwellings of such huge housing developments. These places represent good reproductions of our present-day society. In spite of all the variety in the opportunities for consumption and information, we're constantly served up a monotonous, uniform view of life. It's almost propaganda. At the same time I think that a lot more people than you would assume are resisting it in some way, for their own spiritual survival. The housing development is for me a symbol of monotony on the outside and an internal struggle for what people considered necessary for their personal existence. In addition the development links the three stories. A wide variety of social groups and very different kinds of people live in this kind of development. I believe that the monotony conveyed by this kind of neighborhood is in human terms an illusion and at the same time a valid portrait of our society in which everything's becoming more and more monotonous.

AFN: A great deal of Antares is about the failure of relationships. Is your view of love between two people pessimistic?

Götz Spielmann: You could also say that Antares is about the ineradicable desire for love and the difficulty of satisfying this desire. What is pessimism, what is optimism? In my opinion kitschy portrayals of life are extremely pessimistic because no one's life works that way. To me, pessimism is when cowardice and timidity prevent you from facing up to a fact. Compared with mainstream kitsch, Antares is superficially pessimistic, but I would say that in a deeper sense it's much more optimistic than any prettified story. After all, the task of art is to tell things as they really are, energetically, with gusto and with imagination. After seeing Antares no one would think, relationships are all just stupid, forget it. On the contrary, a lot of people will become more conscious of their love and comprehend that the struggle's worth it. That makes you stronger. Kitsch weakens you.

AFN: Although the sex in Antares is very explicit, you consciously distance yourself from mainstream cinema when dealing with the topic.

Götz Spielmann: Sex is an extremely important subject in life, because it expresses so much about our existence, has a lot to do with chance and a lot with need also. In my opinion, it's essential that the stories I tell have an existential aspect, and that's rarely the case with films in which sex is portrayed, although so many things are outrageously sexualized. We're constantly bombarded with sexual signals, either in the form of pornography or something which is completely devoid of emotion and portrays a thing which is purely physical, mechanical, or in the form of kitsch as a happy, lighthearted source of endless joy when it's done right and a few rules are obeyed. I've always been fascinated by the fact that sex is still a big taboo, not nudity, but in the neglect of its existential side.

AFN: It's still a fundamental decision, whether to portray sex or not when telling a story about it, and that also demands a lot of the actors and the director if something unique is to be created.

Götz Spielmann: We, the actors and I, and the core crew also, went through a lot of mental preparation beforehand and dealt with this very seriously. As a result we were able to work precisely and without inhibitions. I didn't want to leave it out because a film is determined by what it doesn't show rather than what it does show. When a sexual relationship is involved and I don't show the sex, it takes on much greater significance than if it were shown. And by portraying the physical aspect, I can say something about what's behind it and make a meta-level visible or perceptible. Omitting it would have meant making sex more important than it really is. That's precisely what we didn't want to do, instead of dealing with it matter-of-factly, showing it so that the actual issue's made visible.

AFN: What's more important when you direct, dealing with the actors on a psychological level or the formal, visual challenge?

Götz Spielmann: Personally, I give a great deal more thought to working on form, rhythm, the style, and therefore it occupies a more important place in my filmmaking. Working with actors means on the one hand creating what you need to tell a story, but on the other it's more importantly a kind of communication, extremely sensual and exciting. I put a lot of energy into it and get a lot back in return. But I don't worry about working with actors a lot, I just do it, though I put a lot of thought into form and content. My style, which I work on in a formal way, aims at a simplicity and precision which doesn't seem so spectacular at first glance, and doesn't demonstrate any artistic pretensions, it's concealed and invisible, but for that reason it has an effect which is stronger because it's concealed, a secret power which provides each of my films with most of their energy.

AFN: Since the screenplay was to an extent an outline, what was planning the individual images with the cinematographer like?

Götz Spielmann: My films are all always planned out before shooting starts. The rhythm, the images, the set-up of the scenes, ideas about where I want the actors to go, are all clearly defined and available for later use. When I direct, spontaneity is also extremely important and I compare the idea I already have with what actually happens and what my colleagues themselves add. The collaboration with my cinematographer Martin Gschlacht is nearly ideal. This is our second film after Daybreak, and he's more than just a cameraman to me, he's really an ally on many different levels. During the preparation phase we spoke about concrete matters rarely or not at all, and discussed principles instead. It was a matter of what telling a story in pictures actually means, what kind of images we want to create and why. We rarely worked on setting up scenes or concrete images which then only needed to be realized while shooting::: we worked out a common approach. Then a decision was made on location and in the moment concerning how we would shoot something and what we're doing, though on the basis of a great deal of knowledge about our dramatic structure and our style. It was a combination of an extremely precise concept and, up until the last moment, an openness to expansion and inspiration through experience.

AFN: A handheld camera was used in certain scenes. How was this realized technically?

Götz Spielmann: We rarely worked with artificial lighting, used highspeed stock and got all we could out of it. That created an extremely pure, authentic character, it doesn't look expensive and makes good use of what's available to us. It also permits extremely flexible, light-footed work because the lighting doesn't require a lot of set-up time. Despite the use of a handheld we worked on the images and the narrative style with a great deal of precision and rigidity. The handheld's used throughout the film for a total of about one quarter of it. Whenever the handheld's used, the choreography with the camerawork and the acting's extremely precise. This was the first time I've worked with a handheld camera, it represents a step forward or a transfer of my style to the possibilities it offers. Martin Gschlacht is brilliant with that also.

AFN: After The Stranger there was a TV movie, Daybreak. What interests you most, and what's different about working in the two genres?

Götz Spielmann: There isn't that much difference, because I can use my way of telling stories to good advantage in both styles. Cinema's the non plus ultra, the full orchestra, and television's chamber music. Television's more like a kind of popular theater and the popular theater of the 19th century which, although it has such a wonderful reputation, in reality consists mainly of trivialities, not unlike today's television. On the other hand there were also Raimund and Nestroy, who planted something honest in this swamp and managed to reach their audience. I like that about television, the fact that I reach a large number of people. It's a challenge, doing something in the wasteland of TV that creates some productive unrest. I like that, and that's why I want to continue doing it. What makes TV interesting is the tempo. You write the screenplay in January and the finished film is broadcast in December. When you're working in cinema, maintaining the excitement, the passion for a story long enough until financing's obtained is difficult. In the case of Antares I can't complain, everything went surprisingly fast.


Foreign Language Interviews

NZZ Online


Gotz Spielmann has a new film in production called 'Oktober November', which is expected to be completed in the summer of 2013. This is a rough translation of the synopsis from the official site:

Two very different sisters come from a guest house in the Alps. Once a handsome operation, but profitable long been little more.
Sonja, the younger, living in Berlin. She is very successful, become a famous actress.
Verena has left home never for long, still lives in the small village, with
her ​​husband and child.
And with the father, a weary had become patriarch, a ruler without a kingdom.
This overtaken a severe heart attack, which puts him in proximity to death. He survived, but cure is no longer possible: the next heart attack will probably be fatal.
Sonja goes after prolonged back home.
Where they have long been associated with hardly feels. Where Verena, her sister, her become so strange, and where the father is changed since the disease is so surprising.
When he had made ​​his peace with everything. As if he were left to die.
But something needs to be done before even.
OCTOBER NOVEMBER - a family history.

Oktober November - Official Site


October November premieres September 8, 2013 at the Toronto International Film Festival. Also playing September 9 and 14. 

From the festival website:

Director Gotz Spielmann follows his acclaimed thriller Revanche with this visually captivating character study, in which a family reunion at a mountainside inn lays bare old wounds and reveals long-held secrets.

Following his internationally acclaimed thriller Revanche, Götz Spielmann returns in top form with Oktober November, a visually captivating, character-driven study of family, hard-won self-knowledge, and loss.

A masterful sculptor of complex narratives, Spielmann introduces his characters one by one, blending together their personal histories and fraught relationships, allowing them to converge under the roof of the Berger family's mountainside inn.

Sonja (Nora von Waldstätten) is an actress living in the city who revels in her fame, a defense mechanism that belies the mounting anxieties fostering her identity crisis. Caught in a closed circuit of two-dimensional acting roles and a promiscuous lifestyle, she stands in sharp contrast to her older sister, Verena (Ursula Strauss), who has nobly remained at their family home to tend to their ailing father. Yet Verena shares Sonja's habit of internalizing her conflicts. Her seemingly tranquil and rewarding domestic life — complete with devoted husband and obedient child — obscures her affair with the handsome local doctor Patrick (Sebastian Koch, The Lives of Others). As this family reunion goes on, old wounds will be exposed, sibling rivalries will resurface — and secrets will be revealed.

Oktober November continues Spielmann's fruitful collaboration with cinematographer Martin Gschalcht, framing their protagonists in earthy, contemplative tableaux. Within this cinematic capsule, themes of identity, mortality, and responsibility take root, in synch with the tempered rhythms of the surrounding nature. Very much an actor's director, Spielmann flushes out the many layers in von Waldstätten and Strauss's performances, (re)building a family portrait through the camera's meticulous observation of moments, gestures, and the silence that separates each family member from the others.


Hour long interview with Gotz Spielmann for Oktober November conducted by The Seventh Art, October 2013.


Free audio version available here

Full video interview available for purchase here.


Gotz Spielmann's movie Antares (2004) is currently streaming for free with the Film Movement app on Roku

Three stories revolve around the love lives of an adulterous woman (Petra Morzé), a checkout girl (Susanne Wuest) and a single mother (Martina Zinner).


Been three years and Oktover November still hasn't been released in the states?


Back after nearly a decade with a TV Movie, Der Schutzengel (2022)

QuoteWhen the body of sixty-year-old Fanny is found in a swimming pond in Lower Austria's Waldviertel region, it is not immediately clear if it was a murder. Chief inspector Paul Werner and the young police officer Martin take up the investigation.


Woah, I don't think I've ever heard of this filmmaker. These stills are very intriguiging.