Julia Hummer (Nina)   Sabine Timoteo (Toni), Julia Hummer (Nina)   Toni (Sabine Timoteo)

Interview  with Christian Petzold

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Where did the idea for ‘Ghosts’ come from?

At the end of the 90’s, I read Rave, by Rainald Goetz, and a novel by Pavese, about a couple of artists who bring two proletarian girls into their studio as models. The girls spend the summer there and become slightly infected by the artistic atmosphere. When the summer is over and the artists follow the light to North Africa, leaving the girls behind, the girls fall completely apart. The first exposé developed out of these two books, the Pavese, and Rave, which takes place during the early days of the Love Parade scene. Back then, nobody was interested. Later I told Julia Hummer, with whom I made The State I Am In, about my story and she found it interesting. In the autumn of 2000, we were flying to a film festival – in London, I think – and I gave her the first twenty pages of a different story, one I’d written with Harun Farocki, about a French woman looking for her daughter in Berlin. So you might almost say, Julia and I together developed that story further on that flight to London. Then Harun Farocki had the idea of putting both stories together.

One has the feeling that there is something ‘ghostlike’ about all the characters in your film …

It’s an interesting effect ... When a film starts with two girls coming home from school, throwing their schoolbags in the corner and going off for ice cream, then they have an immediate social definition. But the girls played by Sabine Timoteo and Julia Hammer are different; they don’t have homes or a place to define them; no social definition. They are, as I explained to them, in a sort of bubble. They want to go to a casting call because they want to be seen. They want to have an identity, and they can’t identify with doing an apprenticeship or anything like that ... This ‘living in a bubble’, the effort of trying to establish contact with so-called ‘life’, that’s what this film is about. And the effect is that the other characters who come into contact with the girls suddenly don’t seem to have terrific, normal lives either – suddenly it’s not only the two girls who are unable to be part of normal life. The girls reveal the rest of the world as also being a bubble; they take it apart. You get the feeling that wherever they are, just a metre beside them ... it’s not normality, but rather the beginning of the next ‘ghost (twilight) zone’. I don’t know whether that will be the effect film will have, but considering what I’ve seen so far, I think we’re on the right track.

The whole interview... Download pdf


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