“I want to address the stereotypes that East Germans have faced after the fall of the Wall”
The protagonist of Annika Pinske’s feature debut, Talking About the Weather, has tried to emancipate herself from social expectations as a woman and mother, and at the same time from her provincial roots. She has left her village in East Germany behind and is pursuing her doctorate in Philosophy, and is now searching for her place in Berlin among the educated middle class. Nevertheless, she is always hounded by shame and an inferiority complex because her origin is not something that she can simply leave behind. At the same time, however, her social “ascent” also means separation from her milieu of origin, something she cannot simply return to. Her identity is driven by demarcation, and her everyday life is marked by contradictions, torn between family, origin, and professional ambition. In the end, Pinske poses a question that the film’s audience must answer:
What is the price that women pay for a more fully self-determined life, and who benefits from it?
– What is the movie about in your words?
– The film is about home and origin and asks what you must leave behind for a self-determined life,especially as a woman. It is also about mothers and daughters and their relationships, about women in male-dominated professions and the struggle for recognition.The film observes the gender hierarchies in the very simple everyday interactions of the characters and shows how strongly we are assigned to specific roles in society, and how difficult it is to leave this assigned place, to breakaway and find something new. This longing has to do with separation and boundaries, and there is as much pain as there is promise. I love these contradictions in life. They are kind of my creative engine.
– What can you tell us about the main characters in the movie?
– It’s all about Clara, my main protagonist. She leads us through the film, and like in a kaleidoscope we gradually understand how many relationships, roles and demands she deals with. I wanted a contemporary and complex female character who is also contradictory and allowed to be imperfect, and who doesn’t always have to smile to be likeable.
There are so many demands, desires and interests to contend with. Her educational achievement also means separation from her family background. She cannot simply return home and be part of it. At the same time, Clara also struggles to find her place in the educated middle class, because origin isn’t something you can simply cast off. She is a seeker, and she will probably remain one… Particularly interesting I find her relationship with her PHD supervisor Margot – because it’s not about sisterhood, it’s more like two individuals meeting and support and criticise each other. I think that’s very important as a women to orient yourself towards other women in an honest way and not seek for sisterhood or for the approval of men.
– You mentioned Clara’s background in provincial East Germany. In what way does the post-reunification period influence your protagonists?
– There is a sense of insecurity in Clara related to her social status, her gender, and her origin. I may have to talk about myself at this point, because this is an experience I share with my protagonist. I would say that I only became East German through contact with West Germans. Before that, it didn’t matter to me at all, but as soon as I left Frankfurt Oder, my hometown on the German-Polish border, I constantly had to explain where I was coming from. I was suddenly confronted with all kinds of stereotypes about East Germans – sometimes packaged as compliments, because I was not seen as East German at all. Inresponse to this, I asked myself how West Germans imagine someone from the East to be like, something that can make you feel insecure and absorb you. In addition, there are prejudices about the working class, too, and I can’t even say exactly which prejudices belong into which category, but they do something to your self-confidence. I also believe that Clara’s professional ambitions are a kind of a reparation for her mother. When the Wall came down, Inge lost her job and had to endure the humiliating procedures at the employment office. Her life up to that point were suddenly seen as worthless in many, often demeaning, ways. I believe many post-reunification children know and share this experience. I would like to go beyond the stereotypes and instead address the experiences of East Germans who lived through this rupture in their biography. I believe that this is something totally foreign to the people in West Germany. And here there is really something to learn from East Germans. I think the common narrative has always been the other way around.
– Gender relations play a large role in yourfilm, but are almost exclusively addressed through your female characters. How would you characterize the role of the men and the concept of masculinity in Clara’s life?
– I don’t think there is a single role for the men in my film because I show many – and quite different – types of men. At least I hope that I myself managed to escape the usual stereotypes to the best of my ability. Certainly, one could say that most (not all) men in her environment treat Clara with a certain self-confidence that Clara lacks or that she questions again and again. I needed that because I simply believe that patriarchal patterns still repeat themselves and women simply have to work out that self-confidence. But I tried not to merely use the male characters as antagonists. They are multi-layered and understandable in their behavior, but they are in supporting roles because this film belongs to its women.
– What was special about the production?
– I decided to shoot the film with the resources of the film school, with little money, without an external production company together with my fellow student and producer Luise Hauschild. And that gave us all the freedom to figure out how we wanted to work. There was only the pressure we put on ourselves to create the best possible film, but few outside constraints. I think this experience of setting the parameters ourselves is very unique in this industry and very important for everything that is to come.
– Talking About the Weather relies very much on its performances. How did you cast your protagonists?
– Luckily we had the support of casting agent Simone Bär, who deeply understood the film from the very beginning. We mainly focused on Clara and Inge in the part of the casting process we did in person as our resources were limited. We had great actresses in the auditions, and it is great fun to think about the different directions your story might take based on your decision for or against a particular actress. I did an ensemble casting, and Anne Schäfer convinced me the most. She was one of the few actresses who, in connection with her mother, didn’t fall back into behaving like the little daughter but stood up against her mother as a grown woman. That was extremely important for the film. One of Clara’s longings is to encounter herself in a new and different way and to stop being stuck in old patterns. Anne also somehow has this very recalcitrant quality. I had the feeling that perceiving differences means as much to her as it does to Clara, and to work with that appealed to me.The role it took the longest to cast was Inge, and I’m incredibly happy with Anne-Kathrin Gummich. It really wasn’t easy to find someone to play this “simple” woman so cleverly and with a tremendous sense of self. I do love watching her in this film.
I shot all my short films with Emma Frieda Brüggler. I discovered her when she was ten years old, and I’m still amazed by her lively way of acting and timing. Emma has never taken a nacting course. She is a natural talent and I love working with her. I have to interrupt myself because I could go on and on about my actors. I just love them all and I am so grateful to have made my first film with such an amazing ensemble.