Interview with Michael Winterbottom im Hotel de Rome, Berlin vom 18.04.2015.
Mr. Winterbottom about female crime, the extreme media coverage on the case Meredith Kercher/ Amanda Knox and his working relationship with Daniel Brühl.
Mr. Winterbottom, are you interested in female crime?
Not in general, but maybe this case became so big because of the reason, that it might have been done by a woman. For me personally the starting point was more the big media coverage of the trial. I was meeting Barbie Latza Nadeau, the book writer of „Angle Face: The true story of student killer Amanda Knox“, which is the draft for the screenplay. By meeting other journalists, I entered a world that was about a girl who was being accused.
When you finished the film, how did you feel about the end? The case is still not finished and kind of open.
If you think of how long it was ago till we first started working on it. At that point Barbie had covered the investigation already for long and the trail for years and that is now 4,5 years ago. Its is incredible for how long it all has been going on. We’ll never going to know what actually happened that night. In the end you have this legal system when 12 people, or 6 in this case, vote on ‚guilty‘ or ’not guilty‘ and someone has to go to prison for 25 years or not. That is what interested me. Every time there is a retrail on that case, there is a different verdict.
What did you see in Daniel Brühl to give him the leading part?
It wasn’t written for a German person, it was actually written for a British person. I know the producer of Rush, I saw the film and I always liked Daniel. We met him in Brussels and we talked about it. I didn’t want his part, the filmmaker Thomas, being the good guy and everybody else being bad, I wanted tension between the characters and arguments about the case. I wanted him being in a crisis, but also the audience to want him to get out of this crisis of the lostness in Siena. I was looking for a strong character more than a nice guy.
How much of your personality and also of your fears is in the character of Thomas? For example feeling the same pressure as a filmmaker about the end of your movie?
My idea was that when Thomas is having an argument with the financiers, both sides are ennoying. It is not like he is the artist and great and they are the cynical people. I didn’t want it to be completely loaded in the favour the director against anyone else. Thomas is in a crisis, he hasn’t made a film in four years and he doesn’t know what film he is going to make next and in the end he doesn’t make a film at all. Part of that crisis is the conflict with the financiers. They are sitting there and waiting, while he is running around in Italy. But we did make this film, and this is not a documentary about a filmmakers film – it is fiction.
But the most important thing is, that he has a daughter. For me that is more important than the fact that he is a filmmaker. The reason why he is fixed on the story is, that a girl got killed and that transcends the death of the daugther. He is seperated from his daughter. Yes I have daughters and that aspect I would say is something I recognize.
Did you talk to the parents of Meredith Kercher?
Yes we talked to the Kerchers and we showed them the film. They said that during the case they wanted to remain people, that their daughter got killed and they lost this person. They felt that the media coverage missed out on that. It was always about Amanda Knox and not about the murdered girl. The most important thing in the film is in the end when you feel, that Meredith is actually gone and the family lost their daughter. In the end they felt happy that we made this dedication to their daughter and this aspect of reminder of the story.
I guess for the family it must have been hard too – another film about the murder. Maybe they just wanted to have a normal life?
Yes it was difficult of course. There have been about 10 books about her and 10 films and all this media coverage. We didn’t want to draw them into this again and at the same time we wanted to tell them what we had in mind. When we showed them the film, they felt it was a way to respect her memory and a way to remember her. But before we were not quite sure if that would work out. I think the victims get forgotten easily and most important: they’ve lost their daughter and the rest is in a sense very remote to the real terrible thing – the actual loss of the child.
The dreams of Thomas Lang, what purpose do they have in the film of telling the story?
Dante Alighieri idea about love in Divine comedy about the power of love, and also about still feeling it when somebody is absent. Loving the daughter and that love for her, although she was being killed. That is the most important thing, the feeling continues when the person is not there. That was the main point. I connected this to the world of Italy and to nightmairs. This person dies and seems to have parallels to virgial guiding in Dantes work. This is a parallel kind of world. Also I wanted to show, that the journalists, and Thomas as well, behaved like students when they went to Perugia for one year as well, there is another parallel.
How do you manage to make such an amount of movies? It seems you make one every year.
It is not that every movie is as difficult as this one. Thomas is not in a crisis because he made to many films. For most people it is more enjoyable to make a film, than not to make one and not work. It used to be the case that everyone made one or two films a year. The market has changed. It became an issue of marketing and financing why people make less movies, not beause it is that complicated.
Do you have the feeling that it became harder for Arthouse movies to be realized?
Yes space changes, the environment changes. As you get older it becomes harder, when you are younger its easier. It is easy to think, that 30 years ago it was better then now. But in this case it is probably true. Netflix didn’t exist 20 years ago, maybe that is a good thing or a bad thing. But I think independent cinema had more films but fewer cinemas to show, fewer places. But it is also about attention, there is less attention given to us. Independent cinema is not seen as so important anymore.
Would you be interested in shooting a series?
For me it is, if you are interested in a story than you should do it. But the story I would like to make, they would not give me the money for. If you look what mainstream TV is, I wouldn’t want to make that.
What are your upcoming projects?
I am doing a documentary with Russel Brand, called The ‚Emperor’s New Clothes‘. It is about financial inequality and free markets. It is about going on the streets and protest, that change is possible and change is easy.
Are you shooting in New York?
Yes, we will shoot a little bit in New York, but mainly in London.
Did you get any opinion of Amanda Knox to this movie?
Did you want to show the movie to her?
No. We were in contact with the Kercher family, but it is absolutely not the question that we were on side of the Knoxes or on side of the Kerchers. They lost their daughter in an absolut terrible way and the Knoxes lost her daughter temporarily but now she is back, thats great. But it felt for me really weird to sort of have everyone on board. The film wants to point out: this person is missing, le’ts think about this person.
Why is it so difficult to stay objectiv in this case?
It is typical if you get passionate about a story, that half of the people think this and half think of the other side. But you can’t really know. And the story didn’t seem to make sense, why did it happen? It was not so much, what they thought but what they felt. Obviously violence sells, sex sells, gossip sells and speculation sells, but then Amanda Konx name became enough to sell the story. People want maximum numbers of clicks. So you want all your stories to start with Amanda Knox, because thats what sells it. That is commercialization abuse which influences it. You want to have certain keywords in your articel.
How did you develop the role of Melanie, is she like a good ferry?
Yes, she is supposed to be someone who enjoys life. She is the reminder to Thomas that there is pleasure in life. Most of the film is about love, love for the daughter, love for the farther, the people. She is there and the reminder of the students, thats how they were, how his daughter will be. She represents all this aspects.
Mr. Winterbottom, thank you very much for the interview!