Thanks to Rubikon, Austrian science fiction is finally a thing
by Marta Bałaga
- In her debut feature, Magdalena Lauritsch follows in Julius Caesar’s footsteps, passing a point of no return
Currently in post-production and already scheduled to make an appearance at the Frontières Platform at Cannes’ Marché du Film, Magdalena Lauritsch’s Rubikon has been, needless to say, quite an undertaking for the director. “Oh my God, yes. I just finished editing, so I am a trainwreck,” she laughs. “We gave it more than 120%, all the time. Everyone is pretty tired, although now the fun part begins. I like it when things get more technical.”
Set in the relatively near future, in 2056, the film – produced by Samsara Fimproduktion – will see company employee Hannah and scientists Gavin and Dimitri (Julia Franz Richter, Georg Blagden and Mark Ivanir) busy on the Rubikon space station, researching what could ultimately help all humanity. Until they are suddenly left by themselves, with nothing but claustrophobia for company.
“It’s a contained drama,” says Lauritsch about her English-language project. “The whole story plays out on that space station: that’s it. It’s really all about being isolated. The part of the dystopia that we are creating is that the world isn’t really about countries anymore – it’s run by companies. Imagine if Apple, McDonalds and Amazon would suddenly take over. In that sense, our main character isn’t really Austrian. People speak English on all space stations, it’s just how it is, but I wanted to play with different accents. When they are really upset, they switch to their mother tongues.”
While her film won’t be all about the special effects, Lauritsch still wanted to make sure that the ones that make it into the story will stand up to scrutiny.
“We always compete with Hollywood, so once you do a space shot, it needs to hold up. Luckily, my set designer Johannes Mücke has worked there and he is the craziest creative mind I know; he is really an artist. Even my cinematographers were impressed by the size of our set, but if it’s done smartly, you don’t need a big budget. We were lucky, because in Austria people try to fund films that are different right now.”
With the premiere planned for spring 2022, Rubikon seems to be coming together just at the right time. Due to its many topics suddenly feeling eerily familiar, it earned the nickname of “the” corona project.
“Everything we have been writing about kind of came true. It’s about three people, forced to live together for an undefined period of time in an isolated space, because there is this huge environmental disaster on Earth. What happens to them, this whole dynamic, really mirrors what was happening during the first wave of the pandemic,” she says, adding that climate change was very much on her mind.
“I was stressed out, thinking about where everything’s heading, and I wanted at least one of my characters to share this fear. Then Greta Thunberg showed up, the Fighting for the Future movement began, and everyone kept saying how timely this film was. We got the money, started to shoot and then coronavirus came. On set, my actors had to deal with similar situations as their characters. They didn’t know when they would see their families again either.”
Which is why, she observes, it wouldn’t seem out of place to say that the coronavirus actually made this film. “It showed us that in a situation of crisis, we are not equal. Maybe we can use this as a starting point and change? I really hope that we won’t come back to what was before.”
As they say, alea iacta est.
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