Rafael Maria Friebe, a warm welcome to you! Congratulations on reaching the final selection at Cannes World Film Festival with “I love you”. Would you shed some light into your title and story choice for the sake of our viewers please?
Thank you so much for your warm welcome, and congratulations on my success at the Cannes World Film Festival. This is a milestone in my life. It is truly a dream come true to be selected for the final round of the festival. It has been a long journey of hard work, perseverance, and dedication to reach this level. I am filled with joy, happiness, and gratitude for your support and appreciation. This is a powerful and moving exploration of a serious and dramatic topic. The author, Mr Tran, has done a great job in the script, giving concrete thoughts and circumstances to build the characters. My direction's goal was to create an unforgettable experience for the audience. I wanted the movie's ambience to be one that the audience would never forget. I wanted the audience to feel uncomfortable, anxious, and scared during certain scenes. I wanted the audience to feel they were in the middle of a moment full of adrenaline.
Reading the script, I felt a rush of some childhood memories and fears run through my veins like a river, and I was moved to tears. The cast and crew of the movie were remarkable. Katharina Gareis and Felix Graf are incredibly talented and brilliant actors and have put in their best work to bring the script to life, in a vigorous effort to truly capture the essence of their characters: Marcel and Carla's life would be in harmony if Marcel had not fallen ill with schizophrenia a year ago, which has been treated with tablets ever since. Unfortunately, the side effects of these tablets were so unpleasant for Marcel that he stopped taking them. As a result, an acute schizophrenic attack takes place, in which Marcel falsely imagines that he has been cheated on by Carla several times with other men.
In revenge, he has Carla bound and gagged and attacked her with a knife and with blows. However, he is unaware of this and has hallucinations that he lives a perfect loving relationship with Carla. His personality is thus split. The film shows both dimensions of this split, the real one and the hallucinated one. When a visitor, Janna, rings the doorbell, the hallucinating Marcel kindly lets her into the apartment where the bloody disaster is already taking its course.
We open on a beautiful and intense love scene. And Tada! We get abruptly thrown headfirst into a horror/murder scene. There’s a sense of seeing things from the other side of the mirror. Then, said mirror shows us exactly where we are. You had a great stint at perception and deception! Would you care to give us more detail?
It’s somewhat like philosophy: perception implies 'looking at the world through a certain lens' this is valid for a cinematographer on the one side, and for the audience and the other. Deception implies the intentional manipulation of reality through cinematography in order to induce a false meaning to reality – like schizophrenia. We open on a beautiful and intense love scene, a sort of dreamscape of emotion. The couple seems blissfully unaware of the horror that awaits them. Suddenly, an eerie atmosphere fills the room, and what started out as a blissful night turns into a nightmare.
The couple is no longer in a place of peace and romanticism, but of fear and dread. It's almost like they have stepped through a looking glass and are now immersed in horror. The sense of seeing things from the other side of the mirror is a feeling that quickly envelops them as well as the audience. People with schizophrenia often struggle to determine what is real and what is not, much like in a horror film where the reality of a situation can be substantially altered or skewed by false perceptions, erroneous interpretations of events, and intrusive, vivid hallucinations. With the combination of both meticulous lighting and precise color grading, we managed to create a unique look and feel to the film. That purposely digs into the audience’s emotions evoked, beginning to connect with their suppressed feelings, uncovering why they exist.
Marcel gets angry at his girlfriend Clara for coercing him into taking pills that have some detrimental side effects on him. We quickly understand that he has some mental illness, perhaps schizophrenia. How did you decide to deal with this topic?
As a director and cinematographer, I took great care when handling the topic. I had to consider many elements - production design, editing, camera and light, and all the other aspects of filmmaking, which contribute to making a film on a sensitive subject like schizophrenia. My ultimate goal was to create a movie that would be thought-provoking. Schizophrenia is a very severe mental disorder, and it can take a serious toll on someone's life. The visuals also reflect the difficulty of chronic illness and the presence of hope. Every scene was filmed with the utmost attention to detail and passion – we wanted to achieve a perfect blend of fear, pain, strength, and courage that makes this narrative so powerful. I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing cast and crew. Everyone came up with creative ideas to flesh out my vision for this project and help turn the incredibly interesting script – full of twists and turns - into a visually stunning result.
Scenes set in the present moment and in the recent past are intertwined. After 4 long minutes of playing with our disbelief, we dig deep into the typical dichotomy of love & hate and of love gone awfully wrong:
“I hurt you? YOU hurt me”, cries Marcel,
“Why are you doing this to me? I thought you loved me”, implores Carla, the estranged lover.
Touching on the issue of domestic violence was inevitable in your plot. How do you see it?
Indeed, domestic violence is a shattering and horrific experience for any victim and its mention in any plot or story should be taken seriously and handled delicately.
Portraying domestic violence should create an authentic and unflinching portrait of the victim's experience, without sensationalizing or trivializing the trauma… and it should also explore the relevant underlying issues of power, gender, and other underlying influences that can contribute to violence.
What are your current film movers and shakers?
Directors, such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, who have won multiple awards and continue to direct blockbuster hits, are some of the most renowned movers and shakers in the film industry. They are constantly pushing the boundaries of film making and bringing us enormous hits. One of the experimental film movers and shakers is Spike Jonze, an Oscar-winning director, actor and producer whose work often challenges traditional concepts of film. He often explores themes such as the blurring of reality and fantasy. His works often contain surreal visuals, and imaginative editing technique.
Another experimental film mover and shaker is Harmony Korine, an avant-garde filmmaker known for pushing boundaries and challenging audience expectations. His films often have a darker, more surreal undertone. Jordan Peele’s 2017 film “Get Out” tackled race and the horror genre in a thrilling way. His 2020 follow-up, “Us,” further cemented him as one of the key filmmakers in contemporary horror. Also at the forefront of the genre is James Wan, whose work on “Saw,” and the “Conjuring” film series has made him one of the key filmmakers in the horror community. Other directors and producers to watch in the horror world include Mike Flanagan, Robert Eggers, David F. Sandberg, Ana Lily Amirpour, Karyn Kusama, and Jennifer Kent. These filmmakers have made some of the most inventive and well-crafted horror films and continue to shape the future of horror films for years to come.
There are many great fantastic and horror film festivals around, such as Gerardmer in France, and the Sitges fantastic film festival. The latter is running in Catalonia, Spain, until October 15, just as we speak. Do you think “I love you » would qualify for one of those fantastic film contests?
I definitely think “I Love You” would qualify for those fantastic film festivals. This film is made with immense passion and care, and it is a great example of how a film is written and directed with a wayward sense of storytelling and character development which creates an emotional impact that resonates with the audience. The visuals are of prime importance and the title song by Vanessa Klein is exceptionally well composed and arranged. Goose bumps. Overall, this is a story that went right through me when I first read the script and this film should definitely qualify for the few further fantastic film festivals that are on par with the Cannes World Film Festival.
Please share any upcoming cinema projects you might have.
Making movies is always an exciting opportunity for me, and I have a number of ideas that I am planning to bring to life. And for more my personal thrill, I have a possible sequel to “I Love You” on the way. I absolutely would love to make a sequel to it. It has been so exciting and rewarding to get the positive feedback I have received through social media and all other forms of communication regarding my movie. I would love to further explore the world I created in I Love You and bring to life some of the questions that viewers have been asking regarding the plot and the characters.
Furthermore, I think it would be cool to delve deeper into the lives and stories of the characters I created and maybe even expand the story line to include some of the characters that viewers did not get to know in the original. Perhaps a sequel could show a timeline of how the characters have evolved since the original movie and what has happened in the intervening years. I would love to be able to explore the possibility of a love relationship between two or more of the characters or even delve into secrets that were previously kept hidden. A sequel could also explore the implications of the choices the characters made and see the impact it has had on their lives going forward. Overall, the goal would be to take the audience on an exciting journey of love, heartbreak, drama, and horror.
Finally, what is your post-pandemic vision of cinema? A brief statement.
I think there will be a shift in the types of movies released in cinemas. With the rise of streaming platforms, there has been a growing trend of straight-to-streaming releases for smaller, independent films. In the post-Covid era, I believe we will see a similar trend for large blockbuster films. The studios may decide to release movies simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming platforms, or even exclusively on platforms, in order to reach a wider audience.
Furthermore, the cinema-going may become more immersive and interactive. With advancements in technology, such as virtual and augmented reality, cinemas may offer experiences beyond just watching a movie on a big screen. Viewers may be able to interact with the film in real time or even step into the world of the movie through virtual reality.
I anticipate that movie theaters, in turn, will invest in better ventilation systems to improve air quality and reduce the risk of airborne disease transmission and have innovative seating arrangements to maximize space and minimize contact between viewers.
Overall, while the cinema experience may look different in the post-Covid era, I believe it will continue to be a cherished form of entertainment. The magic of the big screen, the shared experience of watching a movie with others, and the sense of escapism it provides will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Rafael Maria Friebe
Director - Cinematographer - Editor
Rafael Maria Friebe’s arrival in the film industry was in the directing/assistant department at UFA, one of the leading production companies in Germany, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, producing a crime series for ZDF (German television station). He has been working as an ARRI-trained cameraman with professional camera equipment, as a freelance director of photography and as an editor for a wide range of clients in the feature film, music video genre, and in the advertising/marketing industry at a global player level. Rafael can draw on decades of experience. They learn to what extent the director, and also the director of photography, work closely with the cameraman, and the editor at all phases of production and with all film and television departments. His visual philosophy focuses on creating the look and the captivating storytelling to arouse impact and emotions in the audiences’ hearts and souls.
© ITV 2023 Isabelle Rouault-Röhlich