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GFQ 1_2013

GFQ 1-2013 4 Jessica Krummacher’s feature film TOTEM displays a sur- prisingly subtle visual realism, while its open dramaturgy, furious physical presence and subsequent avoidance of politi- cally correct messages distinguish it from the mass of new- generation German films. The director, author, editor and pro- ducer, together with her partner, Timo Müller, plans to develop more films outside of the arthouse mainstream in artistic tandem with their Berlin-based production company kLAPPbOXfILME in the coming years. TOTEM is inspired by the authentic story of an eastern European home-help who committed suicide while living with a German family. In the form of a subjectively narrated prose text, the director develops an unusual perspective on the world as experienced by the protagonist; without a conventional screen- play, she consistently stages the inner world of this family con- stellation that lacks communication, paralyzed as it is within ritual. “I do not start out from filmic role models, I don’t find my subjects as a cineaste,” says Jessica Krummacher in explana- tion of her approach: “I much prefer to observe people, but I am not terribly interested in the factual side, which was the focus of our study course. I consciously seek alienation, exaggeration and artificiality.” You won’t find calculable plotpoints, pleasing light design and classical camera work in TOTEM. Shot with a hand-held camera, mainly in interiors with notoriously weak light, it deve- lops an oppressive atmosphere, in which the psychodrama of the exploited housemaid Fiona implodes under the egocentric family monsters. A pair of twin »Reborn« dolls, which Fiona takes care of like babies, indicate a taboo catastrophe in the life of the apathetic mother, but meanwhile the scurrilous nature of this hermetic world takes an ironic look at the family ideal of German middle-class culture. In interviews 34-year-old Jessica Krummacher emphasizes: “I am a political person.” Her parents, both part of the 1968 move- ment – her father now a professor of Political Science – con- veyed the creative pleasure in reflection on social structures to her early on. “I am interested in how such structures condition human experiences.” The film’s central set is one of those characteristic homes owned by the population of the Ruhr region who became pro- sperous but are now being increasingly strapped financially by the crisis. “I grew up in Bochum, I know where I am there,” the director says about her choice of this urban landscape other- wise sadly under-represented in German author films. “I found my actors Marina Frenk and Benno Ifland at the Schauspielhaus in Bochum. The rented, furnished house, a set that I found my- self, where part of the team lived together for weeks, had its own special atmosphere, generating an oppressive mood. During the rehearsals that certainly challenged us.” TOTEM was developed without the fetters of a screenplay, with no predictable patterns of ideas. The focus was on improvisation work between the professional actors and the children. It was in the montage (with Heike Parplies) that the director first arrived at the compact form, whose effect was compared to horror elements by many critics. Despite her emphasis on team work, Jessica Krummacher regards herself as the leading mind behind the creative pro- cess. Her motivation to continue along this path: “The stories that I relate need to be told. But if you produce a film for a total of €30,000, you do want to get something out of it for yourself. Creativity together with others is a powerful experience, and that is worth a lot to me.“ STEERING CLEAR OF THE MAINSTREAM A portrait of director Jessica Krummacher DIRECTOR PORTRAIT JessicaKrummacher(photo©TimoMüller) S.04-05_Krummacher_Layout 1 25.01.13 09:32 Seite 1