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An Interview with Lars Kokemüller, Director of Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2015

Films directed by Lars Kokemüller on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky - in a few words, what is it about?


It's a hero's journey gone bad.


What were your inspirations for writing Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky? And to what extent can you identify with Hans Wagner, actually (or with any of the other characters, actually)?


My main influence for writing Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky was a book called Cult by Ukrainian author Ljubko Deresch, who mixes Lovecraftian horror with popcultural references and social commentary on post-socialist Ukraine. I read it when I was about sixteen and I loved it. It started out as some kind of a classic story about young people at a boarding school, but then the Cthulhu-part started and it turned into this completely surrealistic tale which wasn't even narrative anymore in the end, just words, random quotes from Pink Floyd songs and stuff like that.

That, to me, is one of the most fascinating aspects of the Cthulhu-mythology: The decontruction of reality.

Actually, the song I wrote for the opening credits of the movie has a quote from the book, „Things get broken, out of control and start dancing“, which pretty much describes that.

I can identify with Hans Wagner's struggle with existential questions, the things he's thinking about in the beginning of the movie. I find stuff like that pretty scary, too. I guess that's why I made a movie about it.


Your film's narrator kind of reminds me of fairy tale records of old I listened to in my childhood - was that at all the intended effect? And was the narrator in the script from the get-go or was he only added later on? And how much fun was it writing his lines?


That is exactly the intended effect! I wanted Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky to feel like a fairy tale film, I wanted the narrator to sound like one of these friendly old men narrating fairy tales on old records, to kindly take the audience by the hand, let them relax. To me, this kind of a narrator is someone you can trust. He will tell you a nice story and in the end, you will feel good. But our narrator betrays your trust.

Having the narrator in there was one of my very first ideas for the movie.

The scene where (SPOILER!) Hobbit gets eaten was a lot of fun to write. When I was a kid and a movie got scary, my mother used to cover my eyes with her hand. I hated that. I know many people who cover their eyes when a movie gets bloody. So I thought it'd be funny to have a narrator, who describes the violence in gruesome detail, while we don't really see it all that clearly.


Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky makes at one point a rather drastic genre switch - was that your idea from the beginning, or did that just happen during writing?


That was the initial idea to this whole movie. When we decided to make a feature film next, I had no idea what kind of a story I wanted to tell. I was playing a key role in an Australian TV show at the time and I had a lot of time sitting in my trailer, watching movies. I shared my trailer with another actor, who was also a film nut, and whenever we had a break, we would watch something fun together. This was the first time in ages that I got really interested in entertaining, fun blockbuster movies again. In the years before, I had become sort of a snob; I only watched weird underground stuff and considered anything else dumb and boring. You can see that when you watch my short films.

That guy reintroduced me to the sheer fun a well made blockbuster can be and I wanted to make something equally entertaining. So I thought „What is it, that makes a movie entertaining?“ and my first idea was „It's got to be some kind of an emotional roller coaster“ - which is a cliché, I know, but it has some truth in it.

I found it hard to come up with a good story full of drastic ups and downs, but luckily I remembered a story I had written as a 16 year old. It was called „Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky“ and it had this huge twist in the middle of it.


Do talk about Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky's very own brand of humour for a bit!


I guess that's just my personal humour. I remember finding it really difficult to write the first half of the movie, because I wanted it to feel like a genereic rom-com (I love generic rom-coms! Notting Hill!!!) and I thought I needed all these dumb little oneliners, that I couldn't come up with. So I forgot that quickly and just wrote without thinking. In the end, I found it funny, the actors made it funnier, audiences tend to laugh. Success!


You of course also have to talk about the film's song-and-dance scene, and how difficult/how much fun was it to shoot?


Very difficult and very much fun. We thought we had chosen a really quiet street. We were wrong. Cars tried to run us over in pretty much every take. The drivers were really annoyed with us. I'm in that scene, too, and at one point, a woman pushed me with her car because she wanted to get through and we didn't jump out of the way when she honked.

When we finally had a take without any cars in it, we were very happy ... until we discovered, that one of the dancers, the only one not wearing sunglasses, was staring into the camera all the time. Argh!


A few words about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


The atmosphere I wanted to create is, like I said earlier, the atmosphere of a fairytale movie for children. The first concept art we made looked like illustrations from The Little Prince.

We shot most of the film on a rehearsal stage in an acting school for children, we even used backdrops made by children. Most of the special effects look intentionally dorky and there's always a certain feel of fakeness during the whole film, very much like in classic German or Scnadinavian children's movies.

On one hand, to me, that makes the movie nice and fun to watch, while, on the other hand, making it even more disturbing.


Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


We were casting this movie for quite a while, as I recall it. We had real trouble finding Hans, and we were originally auditioning Hubertus Brandt for some other part. The rest of the crew were against him playing Hans because they thought he wasn't likeable enough, but I had just watched Mary and Max, so I sort of liked his ears. He turned out to be the perfect Hans, and, almost more importantly, the perfect lead actor: He was so much fun on set, entertaining the whole crew every day!

Many of the others had already been in my short films – people I knew from drama school. For many parts, I already had the actors in mind when writing them – „Hobbit“ for example  is played by Ulrich Bähnk, who was one of my teachers at drama school.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such and the on-set atmosphere?


We had a minimal crew, not even a 1st AD, and no permission to shoot on our outdoor-locations. It was exciting, stressful, chaotic and a lot of fun!


A few words about critical and audience reception of Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky so far?


Critics seem to like (and understand) it, some of the reviews are unbelievably good. Audiences, however, often seem quite disturbed. The humour is well recieved, the accident seems to confuse people, after the scene in which Hans cries, there's usually silence. In Q&As after screenings, it always takes a while until someone asks a question. I guess, people need time to process the movie.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I made two more feature films after Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky - Emma hat Flügel, believe it or not, a romantic comedy without any horror elements, and Cordelias Kinder, which can almost be considered a sequel to Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky as it features the same mythology and even one of the characters has an appearance. Cordelias Kinder is a lot darker than Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky, but the ending is a little less depressing.

My next film is called Zeckenkommando vs. Cthulu. It's a slacker comedy about a loser punkband that has to save the world by fighting Cthulhu. Yes, I do like the whole Cthulhu myth. Plus, I try to have all my movies set in the same universe and link them somehow.


What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


According to my mother, the first question I ever asked when I started talking, was: „How does one make a movie?“

I can't remember a time when I didn't want to become a filmmaker. I attended my first film festival at the age of nine and won a price for a rather disturbing animated fantasy short film. During the Q&A afterwards, a man asked me, a nine year old boy, how I would feel if someone would take a cue from my little film and kill somebody. I answered „I don't understand that question“ and went on making weird movies.

I studied acting in Hamburg and I have played some roles in TV and theater. Kathrin, our DOP and editor, studied media.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Why Hans Wagner Hates the Starry Sky?


With Radikal & Arrogant, I made three short films, 20, 35 and 45 minutes. Espacially the first two are pretty radical and disturbing and I love all of them.

Before that, film was my hobby. I got my first video camera when I was six. When I was about 13, I started playing guitar in a punkband and became more interested in music than movies for a while, but at 15, I began making a typically German amateur fun splatter comedy with my friends. It was awful, but I actually learned a lot about easy-to-do DIY special effects and editing while we made it. Plus, it was a nice hobby, fooling around in the woods with tons of fake blood every weekend.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I'm pretty driven, in the worst way. The moment I finish writing a script is the moment I start panicing – I'm always very afraid of failing. The movie has to get made – quickly. So, I guess I'm always asking a lot from everyone, but they keep coming back for the next movie and I'm not paying anyone, so it must be some kind of fun to work with me.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


When I was a kid, I couldn't say the complicated German word for „director“, which is „Regisseur“, so I told everyone I wanted to become Steven Spielberg. So, he's an inspiration.

During my time at drama school I became obsessed with the work of Christoph Schlingensief. I'd never have started Radikal & Arrogant without his inspiration.

Also, Lloyd Kaufman, John Waters, Edgar Wright, Joss Whedon, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, George Lucas, Aaron Katz, Joe Swanberg [Joe Swanberg interview - click here], Takashi Miike, Peter Jackson, Alfred Hitchcock, Jon Woo and many others inspire me a lot. I get easily inspired …


Your favourite movies?


A few of my all-time-favourites in no particular order:

Annie Hall, Manhattan, (500) Days of Summer, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Indiana Jones 1-3, Quiet City, Drinking Buddies, The Avengers 2, X-Men: First Class, Dead or Alive, In My Father's Den, Return of the Jedi, The Princess Bride, Stardust, Peter Pan (2003), Almost Famous, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Let the Right One In, Where the Wild Things Are, Terror 2000, Hellboy II, Spider-Man 2, The Graduate.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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Most German comedies are unwatchable, I can't stand horror movies that are just looking for the most revolting thrill, and I find James Bond films terribly boring.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Nope. I really liked your questions.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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Michael Haberfelner


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