The Imperfect Storm

Fox and His Muse: Fassbinder Star Hanna Schygulla Revealed

There's another film of his I love, In a Year of 13 Moons, and that too is about unmotivated feeling, unmotivated love. Is it possible for you to see these films again or don't you like to?

It's a film I don't like, this one . . .

In general, do you like to see the films again?

Schygulla on Fassbinder: "He was looking for something beyond comprehension."
photo: Robin Holland
Schygulla on Fassbinder: "He was looking for something beyond comprehension."

Some of them.

It must be very strange. I was with Bulle Ogier when she was seeing Rivette's L'Amour Fou 25 years after she'd last seen it, and she said it was very upsetting. It wasn't just "oh, I was younger then." What you keep in your head is one thing, I imagine, but then to actually see it again must be very complicated.

I find it the other way around. I was often upset about doing a film and then seeing it.

And now it's easier?

Now it's like a fallen leaf. I pick it off the ground and look at it.

I know Béla Tarr and I was fascinated that you chose to be in a film of his. Was that a good experience? He said for him it was a wonderful experience.

Werckmeister Harmonies?

No, working with you.

I find that very strange.

Because it wasn't?

No, no. I was fascinated by Sátántangó. I thought, finally, a filmmaker breaking with all these illusions . . . things just take the time they take, and you discover so much by looking. This film threw you back to yourself because you had the time to meet yourself. I wrote him saying, "If ever you have a need for somebody like me, feel free to ask me." So that he did. And then I went there and I was disappointed because it makes me talk about him in a way I don't want to. You probably like him . . .

I don't love this film as I do Sátántangó . . .

No, I'm not talking about his work . . .

You are rather hidden in the film. There's a moment early on when you're outdoors and it's rather dark, and you know, where are you? You're not there in the way you should be.

That's not even the point either. I thought he would take things such as life makes it happen. But he's shooting it again and again and again, and he's wasting all this material because every shot is six, seven, eight minutes and people are so badly paid. Everything just goes into his obsession and nothing is for the people who work for it and they work so hard. If you really take the time to give that timing to your film, then you should be able to pick up the moment and not obstruct everything and if there is a little thing that doesn't work while the camera is turning around here . . . he's a perfectionist and that doesn't interest me in life.

But it's strange to learn that Fassbinder could shoot a film like Petra von Kant—which to me is almost like Mozart—in only 10 days. Most of his films don't have that look, but what you're saying is Fassbinder is getting this effect almost spontaneously, working of course with actors who knew what he wanted.

Fassbinder wasn't a perfectionist.

But he could make something perfect.

But only because he would follow his instincts. He wouldn't let doubt go in between. He was also in a hurry. Something in him was always like a driving force to get it over with already and on to the next thing. Perfection didn't interest him. He was setting up the chemical situation, and taking what comes out of it. That is worth keeping in mind for anyone doing whatever he is doing . . . if you write something, try not to interrupt the flow of what you want to say by putting a doubt in there or wanting to make it better than it came out. It's the biggest lesson I learned.

But he was surrounded by people who understood what he did. There are directors like Bergman and Fassbinder and Mike Leigh, who use the same core group of actors, and that provides a very deep experience for an audience. It's part of the magic of the work.

I love how many people have come up to me and said, "Oh, you were great in Lola," and that was Barbara Sukowa. It all comes now into one female. . . . Almodóvar is doing the same thing with the actors.

Yes, and although he has a totally different temperament, he is probably the filmmaker who's the closest to Fassbinder.

He once came up to me when he wasn't famous yet, and said, "May I introduce myself? I am the Spanish Fassbinder."

I'm sure he was being as ironic as he was truthful. But maybe he was inspired by Fassbinder, that you shouldn't say, this is the film that says everything, you just do another one.

And he's getting deeper and deeper now.

He's changed a lot, whereas Fassbinder was good from the beginning. I remember this because I was an unofficial adviser to the New York Film Festival when it was essentially Richard Roud and Amos Vogel. I went with Richard to Munich, where we saw Love Is Colder Than Death. I told him, "This is great, take it." He said, "It's sort of like Godard." And I said, "No it's not." Maybe it was the jump cuts.

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