Annika Pinske

Annika Pinske  studied Philosophy and Literature before taking up studies in Directing at the German Film and Television Academy (DFFB) in Berlin. She has worked as a directors assistant in the theater Volksbühne Berlin and for the cinema, at Komplizen Film, serving as Maren Ades assistant on “Toni Erdmann”. Her films include the Internet sitcom Torstrasse-Intim (2008), and the shorts “Anyways” (2015), “Change” (2016), and “Homework” (2016).

Tara Karajica talks to Annika Pinske about feminism and film and her graduation film, “Talking About the Weather,” a study in familiarity and distance, liberty and compulsion, the countryside and the city. The film premiered in the Panorama program of the 2022 Berlinale and is now screening in the Europe! Voices of Women in Film program at this year’s Sydney Film Festival.

 

 

 

How did you get into filmmaking?

Annika Pinske: Through many detours. I come from a typical working-class family and I am the first in the family with a higher degree. I am a so-called educational climber. I could never have said in my early twenties that I wanted to be a director. That would have been totally pretentious. I would have been ashamed to say such a thing. Besides my German Literature and Philosophy studies, which were simply too theoretical for me, I looked for a practical alternative. It started with photography, then I did an internship at the theater and finally landed at Komplizen Film, Maren Ade’s film production company. Later, I realized how lucky I was. Firstly, of course, because Maren is an incredibly great director, but also because the company consisted of only two women at the time, Maren and Janine Jackowski. Komplizen Film was my first contact with the film industry, when I did my internship there fifteen years ago. Watching two women making the films they wanted to make, completely independently, just gave me the idea that maybe I could do the same. I simply had no female role models. Without Komplizen Film, I wouldn’t have found the confidence to apply for Film School. I owe them so much. I believe that as a woman in this industry, it’s very important to orient yourself towards other women and to relate to each other honestly as well as critically. When you manage to work together professionally in friendship, that’s the most fruitful form of collaboration.

How did Talking about the Weather come about?

A.P.: There are few positive depictions of strong mother-daughter relationships in our cultural narratives. The theme is historically so neglected that I almost felt a responsibility to make a film about mothers and daughters. All those stories of the women who came before me, who will remain hidden forever because they had no access to art and culture – a loss that can never be made up. And ever since I have had children myself, I see my own mother differently. I wonder how she and generations of mothers before her managed to give their daughters confidence without having the privileges men have. What struggles did she have? What sacrifices did she make so I can say today: I want to make films? It is, of course, not only a question of gender, but also of social status and that brings us straight to the center of the film and to my protagonist, Clara. These are just a few of the questions that were the starting point of my story.

Talking about the Weather is an emancipatory film by a woman and about women and would actually score high on the Bechdel test as no-one in the film talks about men; it talks about women. Can you comment on that?

A.P.: It’s sad that you still have to comment on this because it still doesn’t seem normal or standard. I can only say that I tried to make a very contemporary and realistic film. And, in my bubble, women almost never talk about men, but about art, culture, politics, motherhood, feminism, love, life and trivia.

The film explores a woman’s working and personal life – her colleagues and friends, her boss, her ex-partners, her lovers, her family, children, the feeling of “having it all, but not feeling it” problem present in academia, women in male-dominated professions, home, female bonds, the relationship between mothers and daughters. Can you elaborate on that?

A.P.: I was interested in the many roles that women have to „play“ and that partly contradict each other, particularly in the subject of motherhood and what society expects from them. The film is all about Clara, my protagonist. She leads us through the film and, like in a kaleidoscope, we gradually understand how many relationships, roles and demands she deals with. I wanted a contemporary and complex female character who is also contradictory and allowed to be imperfect, and who doesn‘t always have to smile to be likeable.

The film observes the gender hierarchies in the very simple everyday interactions of my characters and shows how much we are assigned to a specific role in society and how difficult it is to leave this assigned place, to break away from it and find something new. Clara has tried to emancipate herself from social expectations as a woman and a mother and, at the same time, from her provincial roots. She has achieved educational advancement, is doing her doctorate in Philosophy, and is now searching for her place in the educated middle class. She is always haunted by shame and an inferiority complex because her origin is not something that she can simply leave behind. At the same time, however, her social „ascent“ also means separation from her milieu of origin, something she cannot simply return to. Her identity is driven by demarcation, and her everyday life is marked by contradictions, torn between family, origin, and professional ambition. In the end, the questions remain: What is the price that women pay for a more fully self-determined life, and who benefits from it?

It also poses the question of what you have to leave behind for a self-determined life, especially as a woman. Can you delve deeper into that and how the film tackles gender hierarchies in everyday life and shows how women are assigned a specific role in society?

A.P.: I have intentionally turned very ordinary moments into scenes. A whole world can show itself in banal events if I manage to make it the basis of a good scene. I believe that in these banal processes and rituals, social power structures are best visible. At the same time, they are so normal and ordinary for us that we often don‘t even realize them. In my film, I tried to make the ordinary visible and tangible, to show how unconscious our behavior often is and how we reproduce and maintain certain power structures.

After all, there is no one evil patriarch who oppresses all the women, but still our everyday behavior leads to the fact that women spend more time with the children and the household than men, that they have a harder time professionally getting into management positions, etc.

No matter if it is a man or a woman, to become aware of these unconscious behaviors, to emancipate oneself from them in order to change something is incredibly difficult. Everyone who has children surely knows the moment when you suddenly sound like your own mother or father. It’s so deep inside of us. I hope that film can be a medium to become aware of these processes. I have to be that optimistic, otherwise all the time I invest in it is very questionable. Cinema, for me, is about developing awareness – that‘s what I expect from it.

Can you talk about the decision of presenting the men as extras without introduction and explanation?

A.P.: I would rather say supporting roles. After all, they are not extras. And, I tried not to merely use the male characters as antagonists. They are multi-layered and understandable in their behavior, but they are in supporting roles because this film belongs to its women. And, as I said before, I think we do need more films by women with women to straighten out the many Hollywood clichés and stereotypes. Keyword: Bechdel-Test.

Can you talk about the casting and shooting processes?

A.P.: We shot half of the film in Berlin and the other half in a small village in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, in Eastern Germany. It is set as a contrast of two worlds even though they are only 100 km away from each other. In both worlds, I had to be careful that they don‘t become clichés in such a comparison. That was quite challenging.

I think back on the shoot with nostalgia and pleasure. It was one of the most exciting times. There was a certain point when I realized that there was no going back now. It was scary and totally satisfying at the same time. You make yourself very vulnerable when you do something full of enthusiasm. It was a very new and beautiful experience.  I am very grateful to be able to experience such moments.

I did an ensemble casting, and Anne Schäfer convinced me the most. She was one of the few actresses who, in connection with her mother, didn’t fall back into behaving like the little daughter, but stood up against her mother as a grown woman. That was extremely important for the film. One of Clara’s longings is to encounter herself in a new and different way and to stop being stuck in old patterns. Anne somehow also has this very recalcitrant quality. I had the feeling that perceiving differences means as much to her as it does to Clara, and to work with that appealed to me. The role it took the longest to cast was Inge, Clara‘s mother, and I’m incredibly happy with Anne-Kathrin Gummich. It really wasn’t easy to find someone to play this “simple” woman so cleverly and with a tremendous sense of self. I do love watching her in this film. I shot all my short films with Emma Frieda Brüggler, Clara‘s daughter. I discovered her when she was ten years old, and I’m still amazed by her lively way of acting and timing. Emma has never taken an acting course. She is a natural talent and I love working with her. I have to interrupt myself because I could go on and on about my actors. I just love them all and I am so grateful to have made my first film with such an amazing ensemble.

What were the challenges when making this particular film?

A.P.: I decided to shoot the film with the resources of the Film School, with little money, without an external production company together with my fellow student and producer, Luise Hauschild. And, that gave us all the freedom to figure out how we wanted to work. There was only the pressure we put on ourselves to create the best film possible, but few outside constraints. It was not without risk to shoot like that, because we had very little money available. But I think this experience of setting the parameters ourselves was very unique and very important for everything that is to come.

Can you talk about the title, “Talking about the Weather”?

A.P.: For me, the title simply represents Clara’s longing for real contact, real conversations, without these phrases about weather and food and how the journey was.

Are you a feminist? If so, how does this inform your filmmaking?

A.P.: Absolutely, yes! Most of the heads of department were women and I don‘t know the exact percentage of women in the team, but it was at least 50% – more likely above. I don’t think that my protagonists always have to be female. Actually, I have a great desire to deal more with the subject of masculinity, but right now I still feel this responsibility, because there are still too few films by women about women and women still talk too much about men in films!

What subjects interest you and that you would like to tackle in your work? What would you like audiences to come away with after watching your films?

A.P.: My wish is that regardless of origin or social background, viewers will be able to relate to our protagonist, Clara, with all her shortcomings and realize that everyone tries their best, that we all fail every day, and that it can be comforting to know that we are not alone in this. I’m generally interested in understanding: Who am I? Where do I come from? What kind of society do I live in? What is my role in it? Do I want to take on this role? What traces do I leave behind through my decisions? What is forever gone and how do I deal with it? As I said, it‘s about developing an awareness, because cinema can do that. I’m not interested in solutions. My films are more like a search, also for what female storytelling can still be.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

A.P.: For sure I have to say Maren Ade, simply because she influenced me the most. I love the vividness of her characters and how precisely she directs them. I also love all of Kelly Reichardt’s films for the same reasons. All the documentaries by German director Helga Reidemeister are also a must-see. But the film that impressed me the most as a young girl is A League of Their Own by Penny Marshall. This film was so different at that time and kind of important for me. I haven’t seen it in many years now, but I should do it again very soon.

There has been a lot of talk about the situation of women in the film industry these past four years. What is your take on the matter? How is it in Germany?

A.P.: We have definitely benefited from the #metoo debate in Germany and there is an awareness of the issue, but on the whole, there is still so much to do. It wouldn’t even be enough to say that now we’re giving half the money to women and we are far from that. The whole industry has to become more family-friendly if we really want to see more female stories. Many of the women who studied at my Film School disappeared as soon as they got pregnant and that tells us a lot about equality in our society. There is much to catch up on, so many female stories have already been lost. Irretrievably so. Every time I think about it, I get so sad and angry. But something is in progress and it is now our responsibility to keep it going.

What are you working on next?

A.P.: I’m now shooting four episodes of a German TV series in the next two months and after that, I’ll continue writing my new script. I’m not sure where it will take me yet. As always, it starts with questions and a search, never with a plot that I could pitch in one sentence. I want to find out something about myself while writing, surprise myself, otherwise I’ll get bored.

 

 

Photo credits: ©Alina Simmelbauer.

This interview was conducted in partnership with:

and

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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