A Conversation with Michael Glawogger (Part 1)

     |    Tuesday January 5th, 2010

To begin with, a question about the film’s ending, where someone says „I am very happy” …

… Yes, some people have felt that sentence to be a mockery. I don’t agree.

You show people who eke out a miserable existence, who live in utter destitution – but not in utter hopelessness. On the contrary, they sing, dance, play soccer. They may be poor, but they’re not necessarily unhappy. It’s a less black-and-white approach than we’re used to.

There’s a brand of journalism that strikes me as being patronising. When it shows poverty, it does so from a stance that doesn’t expect to find anything except poverty. Often that only scratches the surface of people’s actual lives. There are millions of people who live in inconceivably squalid conditions, but even then their way of dealing with their problems is very similar to ours.

Are they perhaps happier than we are?

No. But happiness isn’t the point. Happiness is such a subjective quality that it has very little to do with the „objective”, external circumstances. For instance, in India someone may feel happy to get a seat on a train with open carriage doors and to be able to stick his feet out; whereas in our trains you can’t even open the windows. But you’d still never claim that that makes the Indian happier than we are. Although it does start you wondering just how many rules and regulations we have purely because someone’s afraid of getting sued by someone else.

On the other hand, journalists often set out to expose a state of affairs, to change things or to prompt an emotional response. You present a wealth of material along these lines.

The world is a horrendous place, but it’s also a good place to live – that’s what I want to get across. That may not be a particularly original perception, but I still think it’s worth recalling from time to time. It seems to me that the way we relate to „the rest of the world” is in large measure determined by fear: our knowledge of the world derives primarily from bad news, or from the emergence of a pernicious brand of tourism – that is, from the neo-colonial viewpoint of holiday-makers in resort hotels. But behind the bad news and behind the affable, exotic waiters in the resort hotels are people with the same way of contending with life and with the same dreams as us.