×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Heinrich Breloer on Fusing Documentary and Drama to Tell the Story of ‘Brecht’

When “Brechtlaunched at the Berlinale, with a premiere attended by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president of Germany, it was the fruition of long-gestating project for German director Heinrich Breloer. He had met the associates of the German playwright decades earlier, but only now has used his trademark drama-meets-documentary approach to filmmaking to make a biopic of Brecht. As buyers come on board the Bavaria Fiction-produced series and it finds international homes, Breloer talks about making the miniseries.

Was “Brecht” many years in the making?

Back in 1977 I met Paula Banholzer, Brecht’s first love, and some of his friends from his early days. I made a documentary film about Brecht’s early years entitled ‘Bi and Bidi in Augsburg.’ Since then, while making a range of other films I found myself thinking about this story again and again.

Was it easy to find the subjects for the documentary segments of “Brecht”?

A lot of them are still alive, the people who were young a few years after the Second World War and were Brecht’s assistants at the Berliner Ensemble. They told me stories about Brecht’s return from exile in America, and about the development of a new kind of theater in the eastern part of Berlin. It also emerged that many of the questions Brecht posed in his day have lost none of their contemporary relevance 63 years after his death.

“The subheading for the film was ‘a legacy comes alive’…the genius everyone worships comes down from the pedestal”

How did you capture the story of the Brecht the man?

Brecht deliberately concealed his private life, his persona. He wanted to be perceived only in terms of his work. He loved the masks of the classics. My intention, the subheading for the film, was ‘a legacy comes alive.’ The genius everyone worships comes down from the pedestal and faces us, beyond any form of ideology, and as a constantly productive individual who was very demanding of the people around him, especially his mistresses.

What is the look of the show, with its mixture of forms?

The look arises from the montage of various materials: the high-gloss staged scenes using state-of-the-art techniques, combined with older elements from the 1970s research, and the newly-filmed conversations with Brecht’s former colleagues from the last years of his life. There’s also amateur footage, which shows Brecht in a way we’ve never seen him before. This in turn creates the look of a double exposure between drama and documentary.

In this way the film is constantly narrated on different levels at the same time. And all of this comprises the search for the Brecht that is unknown to us.

What can you do with docu-drama that you can’t with drama or documentary alone?

In his epic theater Brecht developed a kind of language and acting technique that creates distance and makes what is depicted strange, in order to break the illusion of the theater and address the audience directly. That ensures that members of the audience are prompted to think and, from a distance, become able to recognize themselves, their own failings and possibilities – in order to prompt a change in their lives and in the society outside the theater.

And you employed a similar technique in “Brecht”?

When I employ documentary material to interrupt the illusion of the high-gloss cinema elements, I am establishing a similar distance. When the fiction is broken by means of reality in this way, it can prompt the members of the audience to think. Sometimes the documentary confirms the drama and vice versa, while sometimes the documentary contradicts the re-enactments. The old Paula reads the diary written by the young Brecht, where he claims he taught her to swim and she says: “The liar.”

When I intercut a dramatic re-enactment and an interview conducted 60 years later with one of the real people depicted in that enactment, the two levels can give a particular perspective. In the ideal case magic moments can develop from the encounter between the present and the past, fiction and reality, creating an authenticity that could not be achieved with staged scenes or documentary elements alone.

More TV

  • Five Takes on Canal Plus, Federation’s

    Just Days Left to Catch Canal Plus’ ‘The Bureau’ on MyFFF

    The most lauded of titles on this year’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, UniFrance’s online showcase featured by over 50 OTT services around the world, may not be a film but a drama series. With four seasons aired, and a milestone in world sales on a French TV show, slow-boiling espionage series ‘Le Bureau des légendes’ (“The Bureau”) is [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA

    TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA West President, Dies at 91

    Prolific Emmy-nominated television writer Christopher Edwin Knopf, former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on Feb. 13. He was 91. Knopf was born in New York and attended UCLA, leaving during his senior year to join the Air Force during World War II. He finished [...]

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charges as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information in the case. Police no longer consider the men to be suspects. “Due to new evidence as a [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS Showtime released a new trailer and the official poster for the upcoming fourth season of “Billions,” premiering March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content