In 2008, Lukas Rinker went on a ride that shaped his destiny. The 22-year-old was working as a cycle courier and had to drop off a package at a film production company. Spontaneously, he asked, “Do you take interns?” After looking him up and down, the recipient answered, “Yes”. This one word enabled him to participate in a total of 16 festivals as a director in 2022 – most recently at Tallinn Black Nights Festival, where his feature-length debut HOLY SHIT! was frenetically applauded by the audience. But one thing more than any other distinguishes him from many young German directors: He makes genre films.
This one word enabled him to participate in a total of 16 festivals as a director in 2022 – most recently at Tallinn Black Nights Festival, where his feature-length debut HOLY SHIT! was frenetically applauded by the audience. But one thing more than any other distinguishes him from many young German directors: He makes genre films. “If I were allowed to work in the way I want, I would never end up in the A section of a festival,” he says. HOLY SHIT!, is set in the tradition of ‘confined spaces’ thrillers such as BURIED, except that Rinker locates the action in a portaloo. The protagonist, pierced by a metal rod, awakens there from a swoon and realises that he only has 30 minutes before an adjacent building will be blown up. “One world sales was interested, but he wanted me to take out the humour to reach bigger audiences.” Rinker remembers. He remained true to himself, however, and a € 300,000 debut film grant from the federal state of Hessen and funding from Studio Hamburg and The Playmaker Munich gave him the freedom to realise his personal vision.
His tastes were shaped by the action and horror films of the 80s and 90s, from ROBOCOP to RE-ANIMATOR and BRAINDEAD. Like Quentin Tarantino, he built up his cinematic know-how by working in a video store and studying films until midnight. Admittedly, this kind of film is not en vogue in the German cinema mainstream. “The film goes down tremendously well at European festivals, but as long as it doesn’t bear a label like ‘the latest undercover hit from Canada’, it doesn’t stand much chance in this country right now.” Lukas Rinker has met a number of international producers on his festival trips, who are all keen to see his next script. Currently, he is developing three or four exposés. The positive response to HOLY SHIT! has had a lot to do with the low-budget project’s craftsmanship. “People praise the timing, the editing, the storytelling. That makes me proud, and I am beginning to believe that I do have some talent.” His maxim has been “don’t bore people”. “There is not a page in the script or a minute in the film where nothing is happening.” Despite the limitations of the setting, he also managed great variation in the visuals of his film: “We storyboarded it completely. We didn’t want to get repetitive, but to constantly change the settings, colours and moods.”
He did not learn his profession at a classical film school. After his nine-month internship, during which he got to know all the facets of image film production, he enrolled in a media design degree programme at Mainz University of Applied Sciences. In its experimental laboratory atmosphere, he discovered another credo: “just do it”. Instead of dwelling on a single project for months, he shot one short film after another. “It’s only when you keep trying things out that you can see what does or doesn’t work.“ In 2016, his graduation film was a four-minute fictional trailer for the weirdly provocative action horror satire LASERPOPE. Twentieth Century Fox Germany even wanted to produce the associated feature-length film. The project fell through for strategic reasons, but Lukas Rinker had been bitten by the bug: “I realised that it’s possible to make films from a start in Mainz, without any Film School training.”
To earn a living, since then he has “shimmied” his way through “empty image films” and “soulless advertising films”, But the international response to HOLY SHIT! encourages him to concentrate on his true passion. His dream projects still include the LASERPOPE movie. “It needs to become the German ROBOCOP.” Like his great idols, Lukas Rinker has the potential to break the boundaries of genre cinema, since he is not interested in action and horror per se. “I want to address things where I see injustice – just with the twist of the genre.” And he understands that it’s not about pure thrills. His absolute favourite film is Roberto Benigni’s LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL: “It tugs at all the emotional strings. I laugh and then shed torrents of tears. It’s precisely that emotional touch that makes a terrific film.”