A Conversation with Michael Glawogger (Part 3)

     |    Thursday, der 7. January 2010

Is Toni the Hustler one of the characters closest to your heart?

He was one of my most exciting experiences, but also one of the scariest. He kept on saying I was his friend, but I was never sure what he really meant by that. He was Afro American, he was a friend and a junkie. It got terribly involved. At all events, he took me to the very limits of the film. He said to me: You’re just taking advantage of me. You turn up, take my life, go off, and that’s the last I’ll ever hear of you. I hate you for that already. But at the same time he knew perfectly well that he had me over a barrel – he could ring me at four in the morning and I’d come. There’s a massive contradiction there that reaches right into the issues of making films. It shows up where the limits are. You tell a story, but instead of telling it you should really be doing something to help him. But what? How can anyone help him? Here’s a person, about thirty-five years old, addicted for about twenty – what chance does he have in life? Very bright, very smart, but no qualifications. Even if he wasn’t an addict, in New York the best he could hope to be is a hotel porter. And he wouldn’t stick that for a day. His whole environment, his way of life – I got very close to him, but I couldn’t see any hope.

In your earlier films, like „Cinema in the Mind” or your short films, you frequently experimented with film footage …

Yes, I always liked the idea of using film material like paints. I used to buy Orwo films whenever I went to Eastern Europe – they hardly had any colour. There are sequences in „Cinema in the Mind” which were shot using film that was ten years old and had long since run out.

There are still traces of your fondness for experimenting in „Megacities” – like the episode with the Bioscope Man in Bombay, where you run the images backwards, for instance.

Incidentally, the Bioscope Man was an extraordinary incident. In a city of 15 million I came upon him three times by pure chance, and each time I lost sight of him. And there’s only one Bioscope Man in Bombay.

Then you got children to retell the story of his film …

… and then I got one child to retell the story of my own film as if it had been in the Bioscope Man’s machine, and afterwards I shot that story. Perhaps that’s the kind of playfulness I still enjoy.

How did you choose your stories?

I just took what interested me. I followed my intuition. If you can’t get close to people, you can’t make films.

Did you never wonder whether it would ever add up to a film?

Yes, I often asked myself that question. With a film like this, you have to find out how it works. It has a life of its own.

And when did you find out?

Maybe I never did.

The interview was conducted by Veronika Franz on behalf of Austrian Film News.