FILM

ALEXANDER GRAEFF
70th Cannes Film Festival
‘Paris, 1969’
Debut Short | France | Fiction | 29 m
Paris,_1969_-_Charles_Morillon,_Ben_Artm

1969. Gudrun, Andreas, and Thorwald hide in Paris after having committed arson in two department stores in Frankfurt. 

When Astrid comes to visit them they discuss the future of the group. While Gudrun and Andreas are in favour of more radical actions Thorwald becomes more and more skeptical...

Hi Alexander, thanks for talking to tNC, how's everything going?

I thank you. Everything's fine. Thanks.

Congratulations on having Paris, 1969 part of this year's short film corner, what does it mean for you to be able to share your film at Cannes? 

I am very glad. The fact that the people responsible for the selection, namely the staff of Maison du Film in whose selection Paris, 1969 is shown at this year's Short Film Corner, recognize the film's quality makes me very happy. It will hopefully make the film circularize among film professionals and in the long term among a broader audience. 

This is your debut short film are there any nerves setting in ahead of the festival?

Of course. There is always a little voice in your head that whispers that you may not have the skills to become a director. This fear becomes even bigger when festivals do not show much interest in your film. So, on one hand, the selection at Short Film Corner is in a way appeasing, on the other hand, it makes you nervous and asks where it will go from here.

How did the project come about?

 

For several years I wanted to make the first film. Back in school, I had already shot some small films with the help of my friends but without any screenplay nor budget. And after my studies in philosophy, history, and literature, I was keen on making a real film, with real actors and a real story. But it took some time to find a proper subject matter. And when I had found it took another year to finish the screenplay. 

Paris,_1969_-_Lena_Labusga_©_Alexander_G

Tell me a little bit about Paris, 1969, what can we expect? 

As the film's title suggests, it is a historical drama. It tells  - loosely based on facts - the story of later left-wing terrorists Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader, and their mates and their trip to Paris in 1969. The film is quite classical in its form: it has actors, a storyline with the main conflict, and a realistic set design - nothing too experimental. 

What was the inspiration behind your film?

I have always been fascinated by period pictures. I like the idea of recreating a certain epoch. Almost everything you see in the frame was put there by purpose. It has to serve the story and the world you create, i.e. the set decoration, or at least it should not disturb it. Somehow this is not far away from science-fiction filmmaking, I think. Science-fiction is also a genre I am very interested in. You create non-existing worlds in both cases.

What was the most challenging scene for you in this film?

Technically the most challenging scene is a very small one in the film. We shot a scene with a car driving on Avenue Foch and on Place Charles de Gaulle where the Arc of Triumph stands. If you know Paris you know that it is a very busy roundabout. We shot it a Monday morning at 6 o'clock. But it was too late and rush hour had already started. In addition to that, our vintage car had technical problems and we almost had an accident. It was very stressful. In the end, we could use only seconds from that shooting and the editor had to "cut around" modern cars entering the background. Luckily, it works quite well in the final picture.

Paris,_1969_-_Armande_Boulanger,_Charles

In another way, the most challenging scene was the huge dialogue scene in the middle of the film. I do not find it easy to write and direct a scene where everything seems realistic and not to theatrical, but at the same time not flat and redundant. Dialogue is not conversation. I hope we made it well.

Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?

Of course. When I look at the film I see many smaller and bigger mistakes that I committed during the writing and the directing process. For example: With Mathieu Kauffmann, the wonderful and very talented director of photography, I discussed the look of the picture and we decided to make often use of the dolly to avoid the handheld camera. Some of these tracking shots were situated at the beginning of a scene. They were very nicely done. But to accelerate the pacing of the movie we had to cut some of them out. It was the right choice for the editing but I should have anticipated this during the writing process. I could have written more precise and better transitions between the scenes.

Have you always been interested in filmmaking? 

Yes, it is something I wanted to do since my youth.

"A film is a collective piece of work and as a director, I think, you are the person who brings all the crew and cast together."

What would you say has been the biggest lesson you have taken from making this film?

It has taught me to what point making a film is difficult. There are so many things that can go wrong during every step of pre-production, shooting, and post-production. And making a film means a huge effort for you as a director but also for everyone who is involved. And even more so if everybody works voluntarily without getting paid. Making a film is great - but exhausting.

Now you can be reflective what advice would you offer a fellow filmmaker?

It is crucial that you find a team with whom you share a certain vision and with whom you like to work. A film is a collective piece of work and as a director, I think, you are the person who brings all the crew and cast together. When you can rely on your team it takes much stress from you away. And you might get many good ideas and propositions from your team members - perhaps better ideas than your own. It is important to be open to these influences and, at the same time, not to lose track of your own vision. This is not always easy but nonetheless the right way to do - at least for me. 

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from your film?

I hope people will have a good time watching my short film. I think films should be entertaining. They can do it in many different ways: some represent a form of escapism, and this is fine for me, some are more intriguing and make you reflect. What you find entertaining and what not has much to do with taste and habituation. I would be glad if Paris, 1969 (and my future films) were able to appeal to different audiences and work on different levels.