Who inhabits Berlin’s nights beyond the world famous nightlife scene? Nachtschichten turns its attention to the night’s permanent residents: street artists, policemen, security guards, social workers, homeless people. The reasons behind their nocturnal predilections and situations vary – some have sought refuge in the night, some were chased into it – but the resulting collection of experiences is a considerate and often touching reflection on isolation, estrangement and human perseverance.
Writer/director Ivette Löcker discusses her film here in anticipation of its screening at our monthly EXBlicks (a joint cooperation with realeyz.tv) on November 14 at the Lichtblick Kino.
How did you come up with the idea for your film?
I moved to Berlin 11 years ago and I realized that nights in Berlin are different than in Vienna, where I’d lived for a long time. I wanted to find people who lived nights, who were in contact with the night, and see how that changes their lives.
What were your criteria for your protagonists?
I looked for people who do things at night that aren’t possible during the day, for example the street artists who need the cover of night, or for people who can only fulfil their aspirations at night, like the security guard who is able to lead the life she wants, with few people and more animals. I wanted to set these people against the control of the night that is exercised in modern societies by people like the police and social workers.
Your film can’t have been easy to plan ahead – did your idea change over time?
I researched for a relatively long time, almost two years, and the idea did change somewhat. At first I was more focussed on people who worked nights, examining how working schedules are transformed. Then, however, I found ever more people for whom the night is a necessity, people that no longer fit in the day and were pushed out into the night. Also, during the edit, the film turned out a lot more existential, perhaps a touch more pessimistic in tone, than I had anticipated.
Were your protagonists cooperative?
Yes, they were generally very cooperative. It definitely helped that we were very well prepared: I met with all of them relatively often beforehand and built up their trust to myself and to the project, which resulted in a much smoother process than in other shoots. There was one interesting discussion amongst the police, regarding the material shot with their heat-seeking camera. No one expected some of the material we ended up having, some of it very sensitive, and there were deliberations about what would be ethical to show in a documentary film.
Did your protagonists see the finished film?
Yes, I organized a premiere for the whole team. I think all were happy with it, the feedback was very positive. I’m very happy about the fact that people were able to recognize themselves and didn’t feel misrepresented.
So all the protagonists got together – weren’t there problems with the police and the street artists?
Two of the policemen were present and the street artists were incognito. The police actually told me they’d like to meet the sprayers, because in their normal lives this doesn’t happen and they’d appreciate the interaction, as there are some connecting factors in their approach to their respective practices – all your senses need to be sharpened. However, understandably, the sprayers weren’t interested.
What do you hope viewers will take away from your film?
I hope that viewers would be open to the perspective of the night that I offer with this film. It’s sometimes a challenge to watch as these are not easy life stories and I would like to provoke a variety of associations and realizations. Of course, ideal would be if someone left the film and thought, “I have never seen the night from this perspective,” or that something in the viewer is changed and that this results in a new disposition.