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An Interview with René Wiesner, Director of Todessehnsucht and Addio Uomo

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2016

René Wiesner on (re)Search my Trash


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You've recently made two films in Thailand, Todessehnsucht and Addio Uomo - so basic question, why Thailand, and what were the challenges filming there?


Thailand because I was there anyway and I didn't wanted to miss this opportunity to do a movie at such a special location. The shooting itself was pretty easy for most of the part. At the location were mostly monks and just a few visitors, so basically I had a free hand since, they minded their own business.


You of course have to talk about that very special location of both movies for a bit, and how did you find it, and what was it filming there?


I heard of it when I was in that area and had to explore it. Before that I was already in Siriraj in Bangkok, but filming there isn't allowed  so I could only make a few pictures. In the end I am really happy with it because the place where I shot was much more authentic and real. Being able to shoot there was a great experince. I have often been asked what the smell was. No hint of decomposing bodies but a strong smell of old books. There were many of those too so it could be easily compared to an old library.


Let's talk about Todessehnsucht first - what is it about, and what were your inspirations for dreaming it up?


The idea came up spontaneously. Of course I have shot it after Addio Uomo so I knew the location already, so I came up with an idea on my way to the location and I only used actresses and material that I had access to. I still have the note with some random points on it a.k.a. the script. I tried to make Addio Uomo relatively neutral, but with Todessehnsucht I wanted to make a movie with a positive and hopeful message, which was kind of the opposite of what most people would think about such a place. Death is just a part of life – dying is such a trivial process. So I don't have the feel that I go that far with my movie.


Do talk about your cast, how did you find them, and what was it like working with them?


More or less it was family business after all.


Shot in the same location, Addio Uomo is more or a macabre documentary - so what was the idea behind shooting that one?


As mentioned before it was my approach to show this location to like-minded people who are able to see a beauty in decay. Interestingly enough I couldn't find much about it on the internet so I felt the need to share what I have seen. I have'nt put much thought into the shooting itself to be honest. The cam run basically until all battery packs went empty and I hope this feeling somehow jumped over to the viewer. There are a few times in the finished movie in which you can still hear me breath heavily because of the temperature and also the overall situation. During the editing I decided to leave the sound in. I was stunned and I hope the audience will be too - because of the place of course.


Do talk about your directorial approach to your subject matter, and given the often very macabre images, was there ever a line you refused to cross when shooting Addio Uomo?


I didn't need to cross any lines for Addio Uomo. At least in my opinion. But I guess westerners might see that differently, which I can't understand. People here try to move everything death-related far away. Outside of the western world there is a very different world view. Death is all around and when you know that you will be able to appreciate life more. But my movies haven't backfired (yet), if anyone is offended by Addio Uomo its like he is offended by a cemetery.

For Todessehnsucht I had more ideas which I couldn't realize – pretty harmless shots but if the actress refuses to do something I have to accept it.

I would go farther in general but for these movies I got what I wanted.


As a filmmaker, do you approach making a documentary any different from shooting a narrative movie?


Documentaries and narrative movies use the same language, only different dialects. I think people have to abandon the idea that documentaries are and movies with narrative are different except of a few points. Movies are a surreal medium and because of that always subjective. Documentaries are surreal and subjective too. Everything the filmmaker, editor or anyone working on the movie does leads into a direction. You want to say or show something that is the truth in your opinion. So there is no objectivity in film and docs. So it wasn't much of a difference to me to shoot the one or the other especially since I had in mind to play a bit with it in Todessehnsucht. It has a narrative story but also mondo film, documentary elements.


Addio Uomo exists in two different edits, one by you, one by Magnus Blomdahl - so what as the idea behind that, and how do the edits differ, actually?


After I shot Addio Uomo I asked Magnus if he might be interested in editing it. He agreed and delivered me his version pretty soon. I haven't given him any instructions and so I was really surprised when I saw it for the first time. His version is very well edited and also very experimental. Honestly at first I was kind of disappointed because I had something more classical in mind – like an mondo film from the 70s. I decided to do my own version in which I tried to ignore everything I have seen from his version. Today I am pretty surprised that he was able to make such a good film out of the raw material I gave him. I stumbled upon many problems during editing and without a doubt his version is superior in this way. Over the time I appreciated his version more and more but I am still happy that I made one myself since I see it as an interesting experiment and I am still excited to hear extremely different opinions anytime someone talks to me about both versions. It would be a big waste if his version would stay unreleased.


The $64-question of course, where can your movies be seen?


I feel really lucky that I have found two great labels to release Addio Uomo and Todessehnsucht. The DVD will come from Underground Gorellectors Films and I honestly doubt that there will be a better version at any time. It will contain both versions of Addio Uomo and Todessehnsucht, three posters and a numbered and signed card. The limitation will be strong. It will also contain subtitles in a few different languages like French, English, Spanish, Swedish and more. Then there was a limited edition VHS of Addio Uomo by Rotten Cat Media. It's already sold out.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I had the idea of doing another short film this summer but the idea turned bigger and bigger. So I guess its better to get clear what I want to make with it and maybe start shooting some stuff for it instead of wasting something that could be much more than just a short film. Then there is still the idea to do my own version of Shocking Asia someday. It is in my mind since I did Addio Uomo. I can't tell yet what of this two will be my directorial feature debut.

But before of that I will probably make another short film – I would like to do something like Addio Uomo here in Germany but here it is a lot harder.


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


No, but thank you for the interview.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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Ryan Hunter and
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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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