Cannes Film Festival
24th Cinéfondation 2021
An encounter between a young nurse and her patient of the same age, Frida, on the border of professional distance and the desire for closeness.
Hi Aleksandra, thank you for talking to TNC, how have you been keeping during these strange Covid times?
Hi, thank you for the interview request. The strange times were scary and the long lockdowns and isolation felt like endlessness without frame and break by social events. Now, with the vaccines and the (European) summer, things are starting to get better and more lively, at least currently and in Germany. But many people are and will be in need for a long time. I have tried to make the best of it by continuing to work on my new project, my first feature film, which we are now producing. And I have finished the post-production of FRIDA.
Were you inspired to explore new creative possibilities?
I wrote a lot, not only screenplays but also prose.
How much did your time at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin prepare you for your path as a filmmaker?
The DFFB has a very free and individual training method. The work is mostly practical, we shoot very different films, sometimes very challenging projects, such as film shoots abroad, feature films (with very small budgets), improvised films, experimental films. Many renowned filmmakers have been guests or permanent lecturers at the DFFB, so we could learn from the best.
Congratulations on having Frida being selected for the 24th Cinéfondation, what does it mean to you to have your film part of this year's festival?
Thank you for the congratulations. It means a lot to me, it's a great honour and a bit of great luck. It is also a recognition of the work of the whole team. I'm excited and looking forward to the festival, to the other films and also to my colleagues from the Cinéfondation.
Can you tell me how Frida came about, what inspired you to write your screenplay?
Frida was inspired by the work I did professionally before I became a filmmaker. I was a trained nurse and the encounters and deep impressions that this work and the people left on me I really wanted to express in film. The professionalism of this work, which is physically and psychologically so close to people, often close to seriously ill or dying people, is a subject that interests me very much. How do you process that as a professional? Are there sometimes borderline experiences? Is the limit of professionalism sometimes crossed, and if so, how do you deal with the situation and the feelings? What does it mean when, as a young nurse, you have to deal with the serious illness or death of the another person? Does compassion increase when there is identification due to the similar young age? Or if there is an attraction? Is this allowed to develop? What are the secret feelings behind the uniform, which is not only a hygienic measure, a functionality and demarcation, but also protection?
As an actor, has it helped you connect with your characters and actors on a deeper level?
I think that my own experience as an actor helps me in a very practical way in dealing with actors. I have no fear of contact with actors, I feel sensitivity to their needs, I try to relate to each actor in an individual way, and I love the actors I work with. There has to be a relationship of trust.
How important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking when working on a short film like Frida?
It is very important. We had a very small budget and therefore limited production resources, from which we made the best we could. Together with the producer Stanislav Danylyshyn and the DOP Albrecht von Grünhagen, we shot the film as close as possible to what I and we had in mind. The collaboration with the DOP was very intuitive, we both had a similar feeling for the aesthetic choices and the form of the film from the beginning. I am always very curious and grateful for the suggestions and visions of my DOP, who takes my vision and feeling and proposes very concrete, sensitive images to it.
Do you allow yourself a lot of flexibility with your script or do you like to stick to what you've written?
I try to stick to the script I wrote. I also try to finish the script early in the production and from then on focus only on the directing decisions. Of course, there are still more or less spontaneous changes, suggestions, ideas, from the actors as well. These are always welcome. But I like to stick to the script and then rather shoot a second, alternative version of the scene if there is enough time for that.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I've always had a passion for movies and for storytelling, even as a child. But becoming a filmmaker myself was a relatively late decision for me. It was only through acting that I developed the idea that I would prefer to be behind the camera after all. For me, the film is the best way of expression for the many phenomena of life that fascinate me and that I want to show, tell, capture and pass on.
"Experienced consultants and close collaborators can help you with that. But one should not lose trust in one's own gut feeling."
How different was your approach to Frida compared to your other films?
I felt very strongly with FRIDA that the balance between the visible actions and the invisible, hidden emotions, between content and form, is a very fine, fragile balance that I absolutely have to be able to capture and hold. This film doesn't have a lot of dialogue. I wanted to rely on the presence of the actresses, as well as on the flow and rhythm of the narrative, the camera and the editing. And never lose the emotion of the film and keep that balance.
Do you have any advice or tips you would give to other filmmakers?
I can say about my own process that it is important to always go back to the original source of inspiration and emotion and examine it closely to find the right cinematic language and form for it. Experienced consultants and close collaborators can help you with that. But one should not lose trust in one's own gut feeling.
And finally, what do you want the audience to take away from Frida?
I hope that the audience can find an emotional connection to the film. I hope the film expresses how precious an encounter like the one the film tells is. Such an encounter does not only cause sorrow but ultimately gives a lot of strength for life.