LWLies: The Heart is A Dark Forest was produced by Tom Tykwer. How did that relationship come about?
Krebitz: He saw my first movie [Jeans], which I produced myself, at a German film festival, and he distributed it, got it into cinemas. Since then he’s always been interested in what I’m doing; am I gonna do another movie or was it a one-hit wonder! He pushed me; he always said, ‘Come on, write your scripts, send it to me every week and I’ll give you feedback’. He gave me this feedback on my first 15 pages and I was like, ‘Fuck off! I can’t work like that!’ So then, I finished the script and gave it to him, and then he produced it.
LWLies: Will you work with him again?
Krebitz: We just did another movie together which was at the Berlinale, it was called Germany 09, 13 directors contributed.
LWLies: Like the Paris one?
Krebitz: Yes, that’s right. And I did a 12 minute film called The Unfinished. So, yeah – Tom likes what I do and I like what he does.
LWLies: What sparked the idea for this film?
Krebitz: The original story came from Medea, and some stories close to that crossed my mind when I was reading Medea again and again, and I got interested in this subject. I read about a lot of stories where women had to deal with men leading a double life, and there had been quite a shocking reaction from these women, and nobody knew why it was that hard, or why it was that extreme. So I got interested in why it is like that – why didn’t these women who were still proud to be a mother, still happy and healthy, and went on with their lives, why did they put an end to it. I found out that it has something to do with their part as a mother in society, and the big deal it is to become a mother and to deal with children and to raise them.
LWLies: The Medea reference is interesting because of all the classical tragedians, Euripides is generally considered to be the most ‘sympathetic’ towards women: there is always the question with Medea of whether she is the villain or the victim. Are you trying to say we haven’t got much further than that in our society?
Krebitz: I think it’s an archaic thing, that if you become a mother you somehow are connected to the guy you had a kid with, and there’s nothing you can do to change that, not a thousand years, not a civilization, or whatever… because there’s something magical happening and you feel, whether you want it or not, you are connected. We have to be happy that it is like that, but we have to know about it, and we have to worship these great gifts that all these mothers are giving the world, and that they are still doing it, although they could have a career and work and work and work like all the men do… well, not all the men! But at least the men that I’m talking about in this film. So, yeah, that women take all their time off and do that, and they give themselves and give their bodies to do that. It’s a big deal!
LWLies: What’s refreshing about the film is that you allude to a lot of seminal male auteurs – Fellini and Lynch spring to mind – but obviously the focus is very much on a woman’s perspective. Was that a conscious choice?
Krebitz: I always have the feeling that women don’t make as big a deal about what they are doing as men do. Men are always like, ‘Tah-dah! Tah-dah! I’m doing this! I’m doing that!’, and it’s like they make this huge deal about what women do all the time. This ‘lightness’ of women is a very beautiful thing, so why not keep that beautiful, light style, even if you talk about a very intense matter? Otherwise I don’t think it would be bearable.
LWLies: The masquerade scene seems straight out of Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story, on which Kubrick based Eyes Wide Wide Shut.
Krebitz: I was reading it while I was writing the script. The most important thing is whether what you see is what you see or is it what your fantasy makes out of it, which is a major theme in Schnitzler’s novella. So, is it really that bad that you are alone with your children, or that your husband is an idiot chasing after everyone around? Does it concern you or does it not? Or is it just the society you’re in, the way you’re brought up, our Christian influences..? So I think that it’s interesting. I was reading it [Dream Story] while I was writing the film, but I don’t think it’s a translation of the book.
LWLies: Jason describes paranoia as ‘mixing reality with fear’. Is that what you were trying to convey then? Or is that just him being an idiot?
That’s a very male point of view, on how a woman’s head is functioning, I think. The way a woman’s brain functions is different from the way a man’s brain functions, we all know that! Although there are some men whose brains function like women’s brains, of course. I think they sometimes don’t really understand what you are saying because they get all these wrong signals…
LWLies: So, what are you up to at the moment?
Krebitz: I’m writing a new script at the moment, and it’s again about a woman and, this time, not a man, but an animal.
Krebitz: It’s about a woman and an animal, and there’s nothing else I can tell you right now!
The Heart is A Dark Forest + Q&A with Nicolette Krebitz screens at the ICA on March 7, as part of the Birds Eye View Film Festival.