Rosa Friedrich • Director of Potted Palm Trees
“A fairy tale may tell a lot of truth despite - or maybe even because of - its use of exaggerations”
- With her film Potted Palm Trees selected for the 2020 edition of EFP Future Frames, we talked to Rosa Friedrich to discover more about it
Born in East Berlin, Rosa Friedrich studied philosophy, film studies and psychology and was teaching expressive dance and theatre before she moved to Austria to study directing under Michael Haneke at Film Academy Vienna.
Her latest short film Potted Palm Trees (Topfpalmen) is an example of Freidrich’s self-described ‘playful and exotic’ approach to filmmaking. Betti is seventeen, hearing-impaired and pregnant – and she’s attending the wedding of the man who caused said pregnancy. Amongst all this Betti’s mother just wants to get drunk and have fun. Amidst the glittering gaudiness of a wedding, resentment brews as the thin line between love and responsibility is explored.
Cineuropa: Potted Palm Trees is about adults who don’t want to take responsibility but want their kids to have responsible and better lives. Do you also see the film as a critique on individuals within society? Or maybe one on a generation as a whole?
Rosa Friedrich: That‘s a good question. I guess it might be an issue of a generation indeed. If you were educated as an anti-authoritarian, had caring parents and wealth behind you, being a child is a lot of fun and very comfortable. If becoming an adult means taking responsibility and responsibility means tough work, you better stay a child forever. But responsibility also is the key for love and is crucial for every loving relationship. So we better learn to face adulthood. If not, the next generation will have to grow up very early, when their parents are still kids.
With the film’s subject matter, it would seem easy to head down a route of realism. But you go in a completely different direction. What inspired you to take this direction?
For my work I consider realism to be a limitation. There are many expectations towards realistic films: how they should look, what they may do and what not. Besides I‘m not even sure if those standards of realism in film necessarily get the closest to reality. A fairy tale may tell a lot of truth despite - or maybe even because of - its use of exaggerations.
For Potted Palm Trees I also liked the idea of contrast. You wouldn‘t expect a tragedy at first behind this shrill-glittery surface. But I hope after this sweet candy the tragic fate of Betti, finally will even taste more bitter.
That said it’s very important for me to show real emotions and the performances of the actors. This, I guess, is the realism I don‘t want to sacrifice.
I’m interested in the casting of Maresi Riegner as Betti. What made you gravitate towards her?
As a film director I‘m always looking for faces. Faces that tell stories on a flat screen without even saying a word. For me actors aren‘t only performers: they are landscapes as well. Maresi Riegner has one of the faces you want to look at for ever, although she‘s almost doing nothing. You can‘t tell her secret, you can‘t tell her age or the era she was born in - timelessness is important for me. Also she even has something slightly alien, what suits the role very well, since Betti is living in her own world.
Besides Maresi is of course a fabulous performer, maybe one of the best, and I even changed the script twice to make it fit for her. For example when I found out that Maresi would actually be heavily pregnant while shooting I integrated the pregnancy in the story, which turned out to be a great gift of her.
You’re taking part in Future Frames: what are your hopes and expectations for EFP’s event?
To get in touch I guess. This year it will be all digital but still I would be interested in getting feedback and saying hello to some film people I wouldn‘t meet normally, but probably should. To be part of the Karlovy Vary Festival also is a great honour and I appreciate the digital representation Future Frames manages.
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