Ahead of the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, director Gaston Solnicki stops by to talk about A Little Love Package.
The film is a subtle and witty homage to the Vienna that discovers bygone splendour in ordinary things.
What are your memories of your first visit to Vienna? And how has your view of the city changed over the years?
I went to Vienna for the first time with my family in 1982. I was 4 years old, but it made an impact. In my personal cosmology, the East always had an important part, even before I knew it. When talking about Vienna, one can have the feeling that it hasn’t changed much. I made friends and discovered new places. I enjoy very much every time I visit, but I haven’t considered moving there yet.
In that family trip we saw Amadeus in the Cinema, one of my favorite films. It is all very mixed for me, the music, my family’s past, and the Viennoisseries.
A Little Love Package film takes place at the end of an era in Vienna – 2019 and the banning of smoking in all public places. What interested you about this moment in time?
I happened to be in Vienna presenting a 2 minute short which had began with a picture I took of the floating statues in Notre-Dame de Paris, two days before the fire. The news about a law finally forbidding smoke captured my attention. I don’t smoke, but I saw the end of a long tradition and a certain lifetsyle.
I often embark on projects through the window. I don’t write scripts, and such events can often be a kind of key. I don’t often know what I’m filming or how I will use it, but I do have a clear longing to shoot. I believe in spontaneity as a source of good things. And I can’t really weave many ideas before I film.
As you allude to, I understand much of the film is improvised and you didn’t work with a script. Can you tell us about your experience working with Angeliki and Carmen?
It was wonderful. They were very courageous to embark in a project like this. Perhaps they thought that at least they’ll spend some nice time in the museum’s and cafe’s and gave it a shot. But then everything was closed.
We still managed to enjoy ourselves. I think it’s important to create a strong group. To eat well, and to have fun. Angeliki and Carmen were really clever throughout the shoot. There isn’t a script, it’s really all improvised. I was very surprised to see how much they could bring to the film. Their performances don’t feel improvised at all. Most of our problems are related to logistics. But once we arrived to a location and started filming, it all went very smoothly.
You filmed during the pandemic and the day of the terrorist attack in Vienna. How did those two forces affect your filmmaking process and the film itself?
It was very tough to film at this time. Really we had a lot of things to deal with. But I know that the film was also possible to be made a certain way, because of the pandemic. The way certain doors opened, it wouldn’t have happened in a normal context. Empty museums and cafes, streets with no cars. I can’t afford to cut a street or close a museum.
Since the begining of lockdown, I had a strong drive to go out and shoot. The terrorist attack happened on our second day of filming. We weren’t far away at the time it happened. It really strengthen the dreadful atmosphere. It frightened everybody and challenged us even more. The synchronicity was surprising. One of the teenagers we were filming was so shocked, she withdrew from the film, but she changed her mind a few days later.
What did you learn about Vienna while making the film?
It’s a city I’m very fond of. I connect directly with it’s different temporalities.
What are your hopes for the film at Berlin and beyond?
I hope it goes well and it can find its way. I’ve never been to the Berlinale, I’m very curious. I’d really like to have the possibility to screen it in many theaters around the world. I enjoy seeing films on my TV. But this film and it’s sound design, it is really made for the Cinema.