Roland Reber is an interesting director in that he expects and actively encourages creative input from his cast to help shape a film around a theme. While this approach of ‘workshopping’ is more common in theatre, it is unusual for cinema. We have all heard horror-stories by actors about working with directors who keep tight control of their production (like say Antonioni, Bergman, Fellini, Ferreri or Fassbinder), but this is something you’re unlikely to hear from Reber’s close-knit cast and crew, many of whom have worked together for well over a decade. One can therefore reasonably assume that they get along rather well.
About his productions:
Ever since Roland Reber left the German Arts establishment to venture into making films, he and his core team have been running their own independent production company WTP International, making feature films and shorts without public grants or TV funding. I came across his work only last year, watching his 2009 film, “Engel mit Schmutzigen Flügeln” at a friend’s place. The film was daring and positively twisted – enough to want to explore Reber’s filmography. Along the way, I realised his cast are actually multi-faceted and an integral part of the crew as well – apart from acting, they take on tasks as diverse as editing, graphics, cinematography, production, even marketing and PR.
Their films are regulars in the festival circuit, but they certainly deserve to be seen by a wider mainstream audience because of two reasons – even though they have an unconventional method of filmmaking, their storytelling itself is as conventional and approachable as can be, and their themes and subjects, while twisted and at times even shocking, is nevertheless entertaining and of general interest to most people. I’ll start with one of Reber’s first full-length features, “Das Zimmer” [Eng. Title: The Room]. which can be classified as a psychological romantic-thriller, about exploring hidden fears and desires.
About the film:
The film borrows metaphors from Amduat, an ancient Egyptian text, as Sophie, an Egyptologist, narrates a personal experience to a student-intern – an experience that led her to a better understanding of not only the aforementioned text, but also her own self that was hitherto hidden behind ‘secret doors’. The events are told in flashbacks as Sophie gives an account of a summer job she took up during her student days.
After responding to an ad, Sophie is offered the job of looking after a property in a remote village for six weeks. The contract contained two preconditions – to ensure they stay in property during the night, and to keep away from one locked room. But upon arriving at the property, she’s surprised to find another guy Christoph there – he’d also been offered the same job. Realising the property owner had done this deliberately, she reluctantly accepts the fact that she’ll be spending the remainder of the days there with a stranger. As they settle in, bizarre things begin to occur in the house, which not only draw the couple closer, but also turns their attention towards the forbidden room. Perhaps someone is observing them from there – or perhaps it’s their own hidden rooms that need to be unlocked…
The film flows smoothly like a well written novel – in fact it could have worked pretty well as a novella. Sophie is played by Mira Gittner. Ms. Gittner also edited the film, and shares the cinematography credits alongside Reber. The sound track is uncomplicated and well done, adequately aiding the film’s flow. The only weakness I find is in the screenplay (or lack of). But overall, it’s an unpretentious but well constructed film, and Reber is honest in dealing with his subject. The DVD extras include some interesting interviews with Roland Reber and Mira Gittner about the shaping of the film, giving us an insight into their working methods and the creative freedom his cast and crew enjoyed during the production. Recommended Viewing.
The compilation below was made from a Box set, but the film is also available on its own from Amazon.de.
Dialogue Sheet in English
(for those who can’t follow German)