Sabine Timoteo (Toni), Julia Hummer (Nina)   Hans Fromm, Christian Petzold   Oliver (Benno Fürmann)

Interview  with Hans Fromm

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What matters most to you in your camera work?

What is most important to me, is making sure that you don’t sense the camera. I don’t want it to be too obvious that the camera is doing something to support the story. I also try to allow for a certain degree of chance; that the actors might block each other, or that an arrangement might not be set up perfectly for the camera. When the actors have to hit marks hit precisely in order to make the frame work, sometimes the scene loses something ... because the actors are concentrating on the marks and forget the lines or the acting. It’s more interesting for me when the actors have some freedom. Because then, there’s a certain degree of chance involved.

How do you manage the balance between composition and freedom during shooting?

Of course it’s always a very fine line. On the one hand you want to have a composition, to realize the images that you have in your head. So you figure out the shot so that there is a degree of freedom, so that the actors don’t have to stand exactly in one spot ... or you set up the light in such a way that they don’t have to look in just one direction. On the other hand, this is precisely what causes visual tension. You compose a shot, you very carefully consider exactly how you want it to be. Then, after you’ve watched a rehearsal, you set up the camera. You try to capture what the actors have just done. But you can’t, not one hundred percent. And it’s this ‘not-one-hundred-percent’ which finally charges the shot with reality and gives it tension. That’s when it comes alive.

In your work with Christian Petzold, you have achieved a remarkably economical shooting ratio.

I think it comes of doing relatively few takes. And of course because we don’t do a lot of coverage ... which is always a tight-rope walk. When I don’t do much coverage, I have fewer possibilities to do pick-ups, and it can happen that we have to re-shoot a ten minute take. But that’s possible, because we often only need one or two takes. It’s also because we’re relatively decisive. There aren’t any redundant shots, no conventional shot lists with two-shots, shot/reverse shots in five different sizes ... that might give the editor a flood of material, but we know that Christian or Bettina would never edit that way. So we just don’t do those shots. Of course, there’s a certain risk to it. Henri Cartier-Bresson once said ”One should never try too hard.” You could perhaps take that as a motto for what we’re trying to do here. Not desperately hanging on to something ... I find keeping a certain degree of chance in the whole thing more inspiring and interesting.

The whole interview... Download pdf

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