Ms. Karabulut, you should stage “The Maid of Orleans” at the Cologne Theater. When was it clear that nothing would come of it?
Pınar Karabulut: Relatively short term. Everything was postponed because of the corona backlog, and some actors were no longer available. That would have been a big project, I didn’t want to make anything half-baked out of it. I didn’t want to do that to Kristin Steffen, who was supposed to play the virgin. So better a new production. When researching pieces we came across “Edward II.” The “virgin” is at the end of the Hundred Years War, after Edward II the war between England and France breaks out. In the end, I stayed in the same subject area.
Edward II caused an uprising against his rule through his love for a man, especially one not befitting his class. Why did you choose this fabric?
Because I was in the mood for a queer topic. The piece is a lot about touching, it’s a lot about feeling. I have the feeling that we humans have become softer and more sensitive when it comes to physical closeness in lockdown, at least that’s how I feel. My fear is that if everything is okay again in two years, we will have forgotten how to shake hands or hug each other. That this whole culture of welcoming and touch, which is already very reserved here compared to Turkey or other southern countries, is becoming even less.
And why not the old Christopher Marlowe piece, but the new poem by Ewald Palmetshofer?
Reading Palmetshofer’s text was like a kind of island for me, because this is really about love in its pure state. The gender attributions are actually totally irrelevant. But we at the theater use so much PoC culture and queer culture that they should be given the whole cake and not just a few crumbs, that was important to me. And then I find Palmetshofer’s handling of language fascinating: it is so explicit and modern, but it has a form of meter. And the way Palmetshofer writes about love, it is so detailed, so felt. Actually, this language needs a lot of space to fly, but now we’re compressing it into a 16: 9 format.
Instead of filming a theatrical performance, you have decided to shoot the play as a mini-series. Why?
We decided at very short notice for this slightly megalomaniac project to rehearse, shoot and produce a six-part series within four weeks. Every week a series of 20 to 30 minutes, just like it used to be on television. At the theater everything is told through text, in the film I can show a touch that is only talked about in the theater. One wish was to shoot in different locations. We will also play in the set of “The Maid of Orleans”. We had originally planned a lot more collaborations, but these no longer exist due to the tightening of the rules.
Shooting at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst in Cologne
Now you’re shooting in the Excelsior Hotel Ernst …
That works very well because the hotel is completely empty at the moment, the rooms are very large and they cooperate very well with the theater’s hygiene concept and we can act independently here. This is our Buckingham Palace now. This is where we shoot the very private, intimate scenes, but this is also where big politics takes place. This is basically our version of “The Crown”.
Do you also rely entirely on realism in terms of form?
It’s different, the individual episodes will have different genres. The first will already have a form of social realism, the second will be in the direction of mafia films, and the third, I’m not going to reveal that yet, it will be a surprise. One episode turns out to be very dance-like, which I will most likely shoot in the Kolumba Museum. So overall it will be more of an art film. We don’t have the budget or the expertise to compete with Netflix. It is pioneering work for a theater to produce a series.
You shot a 50-minute film for your “Elektra” production at the Volksbühne in Berlin …
However, we had five months to prepare the film. Now we’re really rehearsing very tightly – luckily I’ve known the Cologne actors for seven years. I know how it’s going and they trust me. It’s exciting, but of course I want to direct for the stage again soon!
Do you miss the hustle and bustle of the theater?
At the moment I only know the two extremes: After work appointments, I go into self-quarantine to be on the safe side. Now I see so many people every day again. We of course adhere to all requirements. The actors are tested every day. On the theater stage you have to be six meters of decency because of the language. The advantage of film is that one and a half meters is enough. The actors speak much more quietly, there is not so much spit. You can ventilate a lot more. Still, it’s funny when all of a sudden there are so many people around you.
What surprised you while shooting the material?
During the shoot, everything has to be prepared much more precisely, so there was less of a discovery, as it happens when you rehearse for six weeks, but more of something like discovering the new medium. You can tell much finer and more subtle. I love telling characters as complex as possible anyway, so I can become even more complex.
And the idea of trying out different genres was there from the start?
Yes, I wanted to try it out. When I watch films, I prefer old ones. But I’m also a very bad series binge watcher. The house came up with the idea of making a closed film, but I felt like telling it in episodes because it allows me to focus much more on a single character per episode. Switching myself through different aesthetics is something I like to do anyway. So that I don’t get bored.
At the moment, making plans is difficult. Do you know what’s next?
At the beginning of March I will stage an evening at the Münchner Kammerspiele with texts by Gisela Elsner, “The jump from the ivory tower”. Elsner is a somewhat forgotten Munich author. Elfriede Jelinek called her the last communist. For me she was the first author to criticize Germany. Günter Grass is hailed as the first writer to criticize Germany in the post-war period, but Elsner was not only earlier, she was also more radical. Not in the sense of brutal action as with the RAF, but in the sense of an intellectual revolution. Subconsciously, she was a feminist too. The premiere should be at the end of April, I hope.
Have you tasted blood and thought that I could work for television?
No, but I could imagine making a film one day. I don’t want to lose the theatrical component. Also now with “Edward II.” I am carefully making sure that the theater factor remains.
Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by www.ksta.de.
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