By Aaron Hillis
published: September 29, 2009Following her 2003 debut The Forest for the Trees, 32-year-old German writer-director Maren Ade's trenchant, funny, and sensitive Everyone Else (Alle Anderen) cuts deeper than an Oscar season's worth of emotional turmoil. It's not so much about a deteriorating relationship between young architect Chris (Lars Eidinger) and rock publicist Gitti (Birgit Minichmayr, who snagged the Best Actress Award at this year's Berlinale) as it is an exploration of their vibrant yet volatile mismatched union over the span of a Sardinian vacation. Hardly as intense as her characters, at least in conversation, Ade spoke with the Voice from Berlin about her sophomore effort, one of the must-sees at this year's New York Film Festival.
As a character study, what were your initial storytelling goals with this film?
My first wish was to tell something about a couple who didn't yet show each other who they are. I wanted to make a film about a young love, and find out something about modern relationships, where the roles are not defined anymore. I watched a lot of films about couples. I'm a big fan of Scenes From a Marriage. I saw that several times—also La Notte. What interested me was this power struggle the two have, and the shift of power in their relationship—how it's very brutal for them.
Chris's emotional responses are more of what would be seen as traditionally feminine than Gitti's are. What interests you in gender roles?
I know a lot of relationships where the man is more sensitive than the woman, and I wanted to investigate that. The problem with Chris and Gitti is that they get insecure, so they start becoming afraid that maybe the other doesn't like them in this undefined male or female role. When they meet the other couple on holiday, they see something that they think they don't have—or Gitti thinks Chris would like a woman like this.
The title Everyone Else seems to refer to the other couples that Chris and Gitti feel both different from and better than. Was this your intention?
I should have translated Alle Anderen into, more like, All the Others. There's one moment in the film where Gitti says, "I don't want to be like all the others." Out of that sentence, I got the title. They don't want to be like all the others, and try very hard to be special, but on the other side, they orientate themselves [by comparison to others]. That is very human, or what I felt as typical for my generation.
You're often mentioned as part of the so-called "Berlin School" wave of filmmakers who sometimes collaborate together. Besides being an easy journalistic hook, is there anything positive that comes with that label, or does it simply pigeonhole the work?
No, there's something very positive about it because it's a real community. We all know each other very well. We meet, we talk about films, we exchange our thoughts. Everybody is friends with someone else, so it's not that I'm friends with everybody, but with some of them. If I can ask one of them to come to my editing room and see the film, it's a big help. But it's not like we said, "Ah, we are a group." It's more a practical friendship. For this script, I worked together with [Longing director] Valeska Grisebach and with [Bungalow director] Ulrich Köhler, and I also showed the film to [This Very Moment director] Christoph Hochhäusler.
Your sex scenes are very fluid and naturalistic. How did you approach these with Minichmayr and Eidinger?
It was a very long process, so we talked a lot about it. Very early, I asked them during the casting whether they could imagine doing a very free sex scene. You see much more of him than of her, and that idea came out of the rehearsals. In the beginning, I thought, "I have to show them films, and then they will see what a good result can be, so they can be more free." But I found this was not the right way. For example, we watched Andy Warhol's Blue Movie, but it was more embarrassing for them to see together because it was too explicit. [Laughs.] They wanted to do it. They are theater actors. For them, it was not such a big thing to do. They work with their body. We rehearsed it all clothed, and then they took off their clothes and it worked—easy and fast.