a film by Ludwig Wüst

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Film critic Otmar Schöberl interviews Ludwig Wüst:

When has the work on Koma started?

In March 2006. 'Koma' indicates the main characters’ condition – especially Hans, who gives a frail image of the head of a family and of a father: he is a taxi driver, but you never see him driving a client, it’s his birthday, but he doesn’t participate in the party, and so on. It’s one single contradiction. Eventually he recieves a completely negative ‘confirmation’ for his life, that almost gives him reason to kill himself, which in the end doesn’t work. This father has to awake form his coma and go through different hells, his underworlds, to get where he actually belongs.

 

In spite of the rather dark theme, Koma is a film of warm colours – except for the sequence before the end in the apartment, which is designed in rather cool shades.

Look-wise I wanted to design the film almost like a documentary, but not in the dark, by now ‘typically austrian’ colours. That would have been legitimate, but I wanted to avoid it. In the early morning the sun should be shining through the window. The man should say goodbye to the woman with a kiss on the cheek. All that was very important to me. The audience should not turn away immediately. And when the first barrier in the prologue is overcome, one can find a way to stay in it. But there are still some other barriers. Five minutes before the end there’s the last one, which, I believe, is the most difficult.


I found it nice though, poetic.

Absolutely!


The father revives in an apartment, which is filmed in cool colours, in a desolate place. Then the end leads back to nature.

Exactly, and that’s very important. After they both have found each other there’s a picture of mergence. And then already the epilogue comes: the walk into nature is actually the entry into paradise, a completely mythological image. The two are now not from this earth anymore. They are already... somewhere else. By their common death, offender and victim sustain the idea of immortal love.


Has it been shot cronoligically?

It has been shot completely cronologically. I do that most of the times. It’s awfully exhausting. But I want to place people in living spaces and fear spaces, euphoric spaces as well. And there you can’t have a cut. They have to go through it, and they have to overstrain themselves. On the set, there are no questions. The whole film was shot at the beginning of July 2008 in seven days. That was possible only because we have been working on it weekly since February. In the first week we shot each take with a little video camera, also to be able to set the shooting schedule for the coming week with great equipment. Only the sequence in which the father drills the hole took us eight hours. The last act, from the father’s departure until the end of the film, was shot on one single day: from seven o’clock in the morning until midnight. I hardly understood how it worked myself. But it did, and it was wonderful. All in all, seven days of rehearsal, seven days of shooting.


The rotten, the moosy, the water- these elements call Tarkowskij to mind; other elements, the ellipses for example, remind of Bresson.

Bergman, Kieslowski, Fassbinder, this triangle was important- or quad, including Passolini, who shows that violence in its abstract demonstration has an even more massive effect. Tarkowskij’s sensuality of the pictues was interesting: the water, the shower scene... The apple of knowledge, of which the father almost suffocates, is a quotation from Bruno Dumonts ‘L’ humanité’. At any rate Bresson was important, ‘Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut’ especially for the cellar scene, when the father prepares the hanging with meticulousness – in a plan sequency. Or at the ellipses, the omittance of the gaps. It’s quite simple: the man recognizes the woman in the nursing home, she recognizes him, cut, she’s lying next to him. There’s a lack of time and information why she’s with him. She is just simply there.


The story is subordinate to the film, not vice versa.

Yes, I believe in general that the film has gained an incredible dynamic since its starting shot in Febraury 2008. I’m accompanying it now and I observe what it still needs. But actually the film itself is the director. It already has a life completely of its own. In his last interview about ‘Sarabande’, Bergman described how the film is saying goodbye to him as it learns how to go, walk and speak. That is a very difficult process, which one as a director can only accompany. But the film is already on its way.