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Taddicken on adapting Kennedy’s ‘Bliss’ – Hollywood stars matter to film festivals

US actor Willem Dafoe poses for photographers after being awarded with the Crystal Globe Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema at the 51th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic on July 1. (AFP)
US actor Willem Dafoe poses for photographers after being awarded with the Crystal Globe Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema at the 51th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic on July 1. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES, July 2, (RTRS): Variety speaks with German director Sven Taddicken about his latest feature, “Original Bliss,” an adaptation of Scottish author A. L. Kennedy’s 1997 collection of short stories, which has its international premiere in competition at Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The film, which stars Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur, revolves around a woman in a failing marriage who embarks on an unlikely romance. “Original Bliss” is produced by Frisbeefilms, Cine Plus Filmproduktion and Senator Film. Picture Tree Intl. is handling world sales.

Taddicken’s works include “Getting My Brother Laid,” his debut feature, and “Emma’s Bliss.” When he’s not making films, Taddicken teaches directing and writing at the Met Film School Berlin. He has also taught in Kenya as part of fellow German filmmaker Tom Tykwer’s One Fine Day film-training initiative in Nairobi.

Question: What was it about A.L. Kennedy’s novel that inspired you to adapt it for film?

Answer: I once listened to the novel more or less by accident while being stuck in a traffic jam on the German Autobahn. A.L. Kennedy’s story starts out as a funny odd-couple-romance. Then it gets darker and darker, and guides you through the unexpected depths of its characters: the famous psychologist Eduard Gluck and his weird sexual longings, and housewife Helene Brindel, who is stranded in a dangerous marriage with her violent husband, asking herself: Is the loss of “faith” the result of my situation — or did it actually cause it?

In the end the story releases you with such a cheeky barefaced happy ending that you never expected to be believable — but it is. I was so moved that I wrote myself a note that I would like to make a film “like that.” It seems like a crazy and fateful coincidence that Alexander Bickenbach from Frisbeefilms rang me up a couple of weeks later to offer me the chance to write and direct this novel. Needless to say that this was the most enjoyable traffic jam I remember.

Q: What do actors Martina Gedeck and Ulrich Tukur bring to this particular story?

A: They are both extremely experienced actors, in fact the most experienced actors I’ve ever worked with. They fully dedicated themselves to their characters and both gave a unique performance that is far from routine. Martina Gedeck approached Helene Brindel in a very serious and thoughtful way, which made this fragile character believable. And Ulrich Tukur approached Eduard Gluck in a very playful and charming way, which makes Gluck lovable, in spite of his uncommon interests.

Q: The book is set in Scotland — what kinds of changes did you have to make to the story for a German adaptation? I guess it helped that the main characters have German-sounding names?

A: Well, the book takes place in Glasgow, London and Stuttgart, Germany, where the two main characters meet for the first time at a conference on psychology. I changed these locations to Konigswinter (in the film an anonymous town in the west of Germany), Berlin and Hamburg, and made the story take place completely in Germany, for mainly practical reasons: In our situation this was the only way to get the film financed in Germany.

And yes, A. L. Kennedy references to the German language are quite funny, especially giving Eduard Gluck a last name that actually means “happiness” (Gluck) in German.

Q: You have made a broad range of films but relationships and intimacy seem to be elements in a number of your works — are you attracted to stories of couples coming together, of human connection?

A: For sure. I guess a question that drives me is: Do I deserve love? Or do “we” deserve love.

While working on this film I realized this for the first time. It’s the same question that drives Max, the shy car-salesman in trouble, in “Emma’s Bliss,” or mentally-handicapped Josch in “Getting My Brother Laid.” The characters I’m interested in are often in need of love and are unsure if they are allowed to receive some.

Q: What filmmakers would you say inspire you?

A: So many. I take inspiration from the old-new British cinemA: Leigh and Loach. I enjoy Almodovar’s playfulness and his love for cinema — and for “Original Bliss,” Daniela Knapp [the cinematographer] and I watched a lot of Douglas Sirk’s work from the old days. His combination of romance and violence was a big influence for “Original Bliss” and gave me confidence to touch these difficult scenes.

Q: You also teach film — what does it contribute to your professional life?

A: Teaching makes you realize what you actually know — and what you don’t know. It’s a great thing to do, and it even gave me more confidence in directing.

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LOS ANGELES: The Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which kicked off Friday, looks set to be another major success as local festgoers lineup for the popular Czech event, and Hollywood stars play a very important part in the popularity of these movie fiestas.

Last year, some 40,000 festgoers descended on the Bohemian spa town and fest organizers are bracing for similar crowds this year, in addition to some 550 filmmakers and 1,000 film professionals.

“We expect full cinemas, as usual,” said Karlovy Vary Film Festival artistic director Karel Och. “The traditional online reservations of 10% of the tickets five days before the festival proved the interest of the audience, for which we are grateful — 8,800 tickets booked in six minutes.”

The fest is set to get a dose of star wattage from the likes of Michael Shannon, Jamie Dornan, Willem Dafoe, Jean Reno and Toby Jones. “The star power and the glamour is a natural part of any A-category festival,” Och said. “It creates unforgettable moments for our audience, for our partners and for us as well.”

The fest is unveiling a new industry meeting place this year in collaboration with Barrandov Studio, the Film Industry Pool, located above the Thermal Pool. The new site will host an industry panel on July 4 co-sponsored by Barrandov Studio and Variety.

Other new developments include a new audience day. “2016 marks the first year we will screen a few awarded films on Sunday, July 10 — the day after the closing ceremony,” Och said.

In addition, KVIFF Distribution, a new joint initiative launched by the festival, local distrib Aerofilms and Czech TV, aims to reach cinema-lovers in other parts of the country with the nationwide release in July of three fest titles, Matt Ross’ “Captain Fantastic”, Gabriel Mascaro’s Brazilian drama “Neon Bull” and Bruno Dumont’s French comedy “Slack Bay.”

 

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