Independent filmmaker Sven Wegner has been making films in and about Berlin since 2002, bringing his former projectionist and film critic’s eye to his lushly filmed works. For the August installment of our EXBlicks evenings, in co-operation with realeyz.tv, he will present a selection of his shorts, which touch on everything from failed romances to male bonding to gentrification and will screen at 20:30 on Monday, August 26 at Lichtblick Kino.
Berlin is known as a city of singles. In Ungeschriebene Gesetze, you have a pretty pessimistic view of romance in the city. Why is that?
From my experience, people are really making it hard for themselves… Like in Ungschriebene Gesetze, obviously this guy, Tom, is too much engaged in his own ideas of how love should work. That’s very typical for Berlin. But you never see people getting to know each other just on the street or in a bar. Everybody’s always with their little group. And a lot of the time, they go home very unsatisfied because again it was a night where they didn’t get to know anybody.
Do you think dating sites can help there?
They just cause illusions about people, and also make it seem like you can meet the perfect guy. You just look at it in superficial ways, at the photos or at the height, at the stuff they are interested in. I guess that’s one reason why those internet dates, a lot of them are failures, because two different expectations come together. Just take the thing as it is, just spend some time with somebody else, be interested in this person, and everything else…
Where do your characters come from? Do you see a lot of yourself in them?
Obviously it’s a lot about myself and my own experiences. Sometimes I just take a step away – this character Tom, this is more like a phenomenon I watched and then transformed. With Auszeit, some of them were my real football team, and some of the names were the names of the real people. The guests at the campsite were real guests! So there I tried to do it as realistically as I could.
In 2009’s Prenzlbasher series, you filmed a group of actors performing anarchic anti-yuppie stunts around Prenzlauer Berg. Can you tell me about the idea behind it?
Well, obviously it’s a satire about the gentrification thing going on in Prenzlauer Berg. I just had a feeling that it was time to “disturb” a little, and obviously it worked. The RBB Abendschau interviewed us, and some people took it seriously. They thought there was a political movement in Prenzlauer Berg. The CDU Weißensee put it on their website, this street sign thing where it says “Stuttgart this way.” [laughs] They were like, “If you don’t want to live in Prenzlauer Berg anymore, because we heard there’s this political movement now, then you can come to Weißensee where you can have your peace.” We wanted to have this realistic effect, not only to make a funny web-series.
Which was your favourite stunt?
I guess the dog-napping was most fun. There were some people who really thought it was a real situation. I think there were some tourists from the hostel on the other side. They were like “Stop doing that! You can’t!” It’s also interesting that all the other people, the Germans, they were just watching. Sometimes [in Berlin] it seems to be almost getting like New York, where no-one cares about anyone else.
Is there anything that you think could stop that process?
It’s difficult. It’s the direction the city is heading in, that everybody just has his small life and doesn’t really care about anyone else. I guess it’s just the development in a way. But of course you can make fun of it, maybe then people will think about it a little.
Is comedy a good way to wake people up?
Yeah. It’s somewhat like putting the “pistol” on them – making them think in a light way. That’s the idea I guess.
How easy would you say it is to get started as a filmmaker in Berlin?
Well, it’s actually not easy at all. All of my projects were self-financed. A lot of people are not willing to …to risk anything. When it comes to filmmaking in Germany, most people are very conservative.
And do you think that conservatism is recent?
I guess from the seventies on it was the case, when Fassbinder and those guys stopped filming. It has a lot to do with the film system – getting funding from the government is really hard.
Do you think there’s anyone who think has managed to get around it and make something more daring?
Maybe Andreas Dresen… He has a name now, so he can allow himself to do more edgy stuff, like with Wolke Sieben. Those Berlin school guys in a way have their own identity…actually I think that was the most radical approach. I wish there were more alternative funding systems. Crowdfunding hasn’t really worked in Germany so far. It would be really nice to have alternative concepts, because to get invested in the system, you just have to have so much luck.
Do you think Berlin’s a tough city to be an actor?
Yeah, I guess it’s just as hard as being a director. There are so many, and it’s so much about luck and meeting the right people at the right moment. This whole system that most of the big movies… Again you have Daniel Brühl for the sixtieth time. Even if they’re good they don’t really have a chance to get on these bigger projects, because nobody’s willing to take a risk.
EXBLICKS, Aug 26, 20:30 | Lichtblick Kino, Kastanienalle 77, Prenzlauer Berg, U-Bhf Senefelderplatz