• Julian Radlmaier © Faktura Film
    Laughing Is A
    Serious Matter
    DIRECTOR’S PORTRAIT

A PORTRAIT OF DIRECTOR JULIAN RADLMAIER

Julian Radlmaier © Faktura Film

Julian Radlmaier first found film in his parents’ VHS-collection and his communal cinema in Nuremberg. Immersed in Fellini, Godard et al, he moved on to film history and with understanding, “I saw how it could ask political and philosophical questions and discovered this fantastic universe. I made shorts and while studying in Berlin I had friends who became filmmakers. When I became personal assistant to the director Werner Schroeter, I knew: I had to be one, too!”

Born in 1984 to a German father and French mother, Radlmaier studied film science and art history in Berlin and Paris before entering Berlin’s DFFB, 2009-2016. His A SPECTRE IS HAUNTING EUROPE (2013) and A PROLETARIAN WINTER’S TALE (2014) and graduation film, SELF-CRITICISM OF A BOURGEOIS DOG (2017), in which he plays the lead, screened at the Berlinale, IFF Rotterdam, Viennale, Melbourne and Oberhausen and took multiple awards, including two times the ’German Film Critics Award’, and a citation for ’Best Debut Film 2017’.

“With SELF-CRITICISM , two things interested me,” Julian Radlmaier explains his everyday story of a bourgeois greyhound who starts as a failed film­maker and, via apple picking and betraying his revolutionary ideals, became a dog, “comedy and political questions. Comedy is the perfect political genre, look at Chaplin, Pasolini and Godard. When I make a film I need to find a personal approach; questioning my own place in society. Every question throws up another and a fundamental one is: How do class relations stamp our thinking and doing?“

“In my family and social circle there is such a wide range of backgrounds. One grandfather went to work in a factory at the age of thirteen, another owned one. Hence my interest in class relations,” he continues. “I looked for a film and story to depict this. Film school is totally collaborative and I found a film family there. Many of my friends act in my films. My personal world is in this film so I wanted to act in it. A personal film touches ones own life but also features the wider world. It lets me bring the micro- and macrocosmos together in a funny way.”

In 2019, Julian Radlmaier received the German Script Award for his latest feature, BLOODSUCKERS – A MARXIST VAMPIRE COMEDY, the story of a poor, Soviet refugee who wants a career in Hollywood but meets a rich female vampire on the way. They go for a Baltic sea-side holiday where he has to protect her from her pursuers but loses his moral integrity.

“It’s a continuation piece,” he explains. “The world has got darker. Would Trump be reelected? The AfD is on the rise, there were many crucial moments piling up. Are we experiencing new fascist movements? So I use comedy again, just as Chaplin and Lubitsch did with their films about fascism. I searched for a more specific approach, tried reading ’Das Kapital’, which contains lots of fantastic creatures – vampires! Hence a vampire film playing with Marxist ideas.”

Radlmaier describes his working methods as “this way and that.” He starts “mostly with chaotic ideas, which I write down till something develops. I find figures and situations and try to connect them. Fairytales, fabulous worlds. Then the dialogue: I love playing with language and writing absurd dialogue.”

Images too, obviously. For Julian Radlmaier that means “confrontation, wide shots, thinking in which space this plays, the kind of locations, then I research them. I always search for things from life, friends whom I have in my head, to work with them. I juxtapose their parents with named actors, to get a strong contrast between lay people and professionals. From the start the actors are already inspiring me and the direction of story development. It is always an interplay between real, experience and fantasy.”

“My films” Julian Radlmaier continues, “come in several languages, reflecting my own origin and social environment. I have a lot to do with Eastern Europe, experiencing it very intensively personally. Film does not have to think nationally because it is international. BLOODSUCKERS – A MARXIST VAMPIRE COMEDY is set in Germany and Russia, the lead, Alexandre Koberidze is from Georgia and an up-and-coming filmmaker himself, I really love his work. There is a utopia, a richness of languages and culture here. We should not get locked into our own identity.”

BLOODSUCKERS – A MARXIST VAMPIRE COMEDY is screening in the Encounters section of the Berlinale 2021.

Simon Kingsley