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About this film

The sea - one of earth’s most powerful element. Both soothing and raging, it is ambiguous but lulls us in. The fascination for the sea is as old as mankind. It’s the home of mythical creatures, of Gods (Poseidon), of life and also of death. In Telemach Wiesinger and Wolfgang Lehmann’s Meer, we travel the sea alongside the coast of Normandy and Brittany. In black-and-white images, we get to know the nature of the sea, its characteristics, its moods. With a beautiful soundtrack by Misato Mochizuki, Meer takes us on a journey into the depth of what fascinates and frightens us at the same time.

Nadin Mai (tao films)

Interview with the Director
Meer is a collaboration project between you. I would like to know, first of all, how you two got to know each other.

Telemach Wiesinger: Our cooperation has a long history. It begun around 1985. Before I was working as a cameraman for his first short film in 1986, he sat on a jury panel for judging one of my first films as a director. He didn't enjoy the story, but appreciated the black-and-white camera work. The start was that I received the second price!

Wolfgang Lehmann: Yes, I was the youth jury member - it's a long time ago. I did not like the movie. Without me he would probably have received the first price. But we became very good friends and Telemach became the cameraman for three of my short films!

How did this collaboration come about?

Wolfgang Lehmann: That was obvious, we had been thinking for quite some time about making a movie together. It was just a question of time, and the topic of the sea appealed to both of us very much.

The two films we show on tao - Kaleidoscope by Telemach and Traces of Garden by Wolfgang - are very different from one another. While the former is very much based on realism and shows us clearly defined pictures, the latter is highly experimental and asks us to create the story ourselves. I would like to know how you brought your two approaches to film together in order to create a new project.

Telemach Wiesinger: We talked a lot about our co-directing our project MEER as a genuine collaboration. It was my responsibility to deliver the images and Wolfgang edited the footage. But regardless, we had huge trust in each other! He was cutting my originals, so the single frames couldn't have been restored for longer sequences or in another context!

Wolfgang Lehmann: MEER is older than the other two films. In my case, over 10 years lie between MEER and TRACES OF GARDEN. For the film MEER, the goal was to make a very classical film poem. The topic of the sea is indeed a very popular topic within film history and in art history in general. It was a natural challenge to make our own contribution to such a classical and fantastic topic.

Where was the film shot? Are we seeing the same see throughout the film, or is it a journey across seas?

Telemach Wiesinger: Mostly along the French coastline and a small island at the Western horizon. The boat trip there was my greatest experience of hunting the pictures!

Wolfgang Lehmann: If I’m not mistaken we were on the coast of Normandy and Brittany. In any case, we visited the cities of Le Havre and Brest on our trip to take a break. We shot the movie in autumn and winter, and sometimes it was really cold.

I would like to speak a little bit about the music, which had been composed by Misato Mochizuki. I find that the music is, in some parts (in particular at the beginning of the film) a counterpoint to the images. The sea appears quiet, almost peaceful, even though there are a few waves. Yet, the music has a dramatic twist to it. How did you conceive of the music when putting the film together?

Wolfgang Lehmann: From the beginning Misato was part of the work. However, she was not involved in the filming. In 1999 we visited the Donaueschinger Music Days (Germany) together, where we met Misato for the first time. A year later at a festival in Witten (Germany), we met again and somehow from then on, the work had been planned.

Misato had, on the whole, free hands to interpret the pictures. She saw the film for the first time in a rough cut in Freiburg. Later, she got new versions delivered to Paris. The dramatic beginning in music was her decision. Also, the end of the movie was re-edited after her wish. Misato is a wonderful composer and it was a pleasure that she wrote the music for us.

I personally have a lot of respect for the sea, or for water in general, and be it a small river. Water means purification to me. It means cleansing. At the same time, the sea can be so powerful that it brings death and destruction. What is it that attracts you to the sea?

Wolfgang Lehmann: I basically have a tremendous fear of the sea in particular and water in general. But I love it too. I can spend hours in the countryside watching the sea. This contradiction is certainly also part of the film. From the beginning, the sea has been a mirror of our soul and Herman Melville's descriptions of the sea in his novel Moby-Dick was an initial inspiration.

Are you planning another collaboration at some point in the future?

Wolfgang Lehmann: Yes, sure. We had already made two new attempts but unfortunately the financing did not succeed. But I really hope for a new opportunity in the future.

Telemach Wiesinger: Certainly!

Many thanks for this interview.