Kurt, who suffers from an incurable disease, rebels against his body and the limits that are set for him – whatever the cost.
Kurt suffers from the rare Marfan syndrome and is almost blind. After killing his clinging mother, he goes on a journey where the boundaries between perpetrator and victim are blurred. Haunted by her calls, Kurt leaves the clients and nurses of a care home in distress. In the streets he meets Conny, a 13-year-old runaway from a broken home. She joins in Kurt’s protest against his body, not knowing what moves him or into which abyss he’s headed. How much guilt can one individual endure?
‘My Blind Heart’ is the feature film debut of Austrian filmmaker Peter Brunner – a relentless character study of a young man suffering from the Marfan Syndrome. Anticipating the film’s screenings at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival we profile the film’s Director. ‘My Blind Heart‘ screens on Sunday, January 19 & Tuesday, January 21, 2014 in Park City Utah. Apart from Slamdance Film Festival, MY BLIND HEART is selected in the main competition of INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM 2014, where it will be having its European premiere.
Find more information & tickets to ‘My Blind Heart’ at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival – HERE
The film’s protagonist struggle with near blindness but also Marfan syndrome. Can you educate our readers as to what Marfan syndrome is? How were you first introduced to it? Why did you want to include it as such a prominent plot device in ‘My Blind Heart’
The Marfan syndrome is a disorder of the connective tissue, in fact each human being has an individual connective tissue, so the Marfan Syndrome of each individual, who suffers from it, manifests itself differently. It’s a native genetic defect, the people suffering from it are threatened to die from an aorta rupture. It mainly affects the heart, the eyes (dislocation of the lenses) and the muscles (shortened muscles).
I was a “problem child”who never went to the same school for a long time, so I shared my school desk with Christos Haas, who plays “Kurt” in the movie and has the Marfan Syndrome for real, for one year. He was in a way another outsider like me.
In about 100 years, will there still be a place for a newborn baby suffering from a handicap in our culturally, technologically, and economically linear-oriented society, which constantly reaches for optimization? I leave it open to the audience to choose who is the victim and who is the perpetrator, who is escaping from whose syndrome? Is a person, who withdraws from society, crazy, or does he simply withdraw from the craziness of society?
Why did you choose to shoot the film in black & white? How does your choice of cinematography aid the film’s narrative?
Since it is an existentialistic theme, since the main character tries to live radically within a society that runs the risk of judging black-and-white regardless of his disease, and also considering the fact that the main protagonist has only left 10% vision on one eye, using black-and-white was a decision in form that supports the content of the film, and an approximation to the perception of the character.
How did this film develop from script to screen? In Austria, what are the prominent routes for film funding? Describe your casting choices and how did they come to be?
The abstract image of the almost erotic attraction between Christos’ frail body and the sturdy concrete walls of the Viennese Flak Towers was the starting point for my film and functioned like a chorus that I kept returning to. Based on this first image I wrote a vague story line about an outsider suffering from the Marfan Syndrome running inner amok. After about one year of acting rehearsals with Christos in my band rehearsal basement, we settled on the character and found the way that Christos – a nearly blind non-professional – was able to portray this character and the extremely difficult physical conditions. After that we did rehearsals with the remaining cast and clarified their characters, goals, and situations. This was followed by a time in which the script, the situations, and the shooting locations changed and adapted with the story, since we all grew together. The story found its own way. This involved a lot of improvisation within clear situations and characters. I always adapted the script to what the actors added from their own lives.
Austria’s film funding is run by state funding agencies. Since we are a film collective and not a production company, most of these state fundings were no option for us, so we had to stick to a guerilla style method. A large part of the core team (writer, director, DOP, producer) came from the Vienna Film Academy, and they used their networks for crew and equipment. Just as the form and content of the film, the production style was a counter-concept to the common way of Austrian film production. Had we stayed hard in a goal to produce the movie in a common way, the branches of our “production tree house” would have broken. So, like other filmmakers before us, we chose to work with a flexible and adaptive fearlessness against time and all the people who said we wouldn’t be able to realize it this way.
Regarding the casting process: Austria has a distinct theater tradition, which makes it – apart from a few exceptions (like Georg Friedrich) – hard to find actors who can depict emotional realism without the large gestures and expressions. This is one of the reasons why I chose to work with handicapped people. I know that it was very exhausting to work with them and to make them understand the process and the work, but I got something that I yearned for in exchange: amazing performances. Concerning Christos, it was an obvious choice, because he was the reason for the idea to make this movie. For the role of Conny we casted over 300 girls for more than half a year at schools, in the streets, and at youth centers, until we found Jana McKinnon, who is a great talent.
Can you describe any influences you drew from in developing ‘My Blind Heart? (This does not have to be specific to film). Being an Austrian production, who are some of your personal favorite Austrian filmmakers? What are the preeminent Austrian films everyone should watch?
Egon Schiele’s Man Bending Down Deeply, Beethoven’s Waldenstein, Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Crucifixion, Michelangelo Caravaggio’s David & Goliath, Andrej Tarkowskij’s The Mirror, Leonardo DaVinci’s heart sketches and Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living …
My personal favorite Austrian filmmaker is Michael Haneke.
The films everyone should watch are: Amok – 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (M. Haneke), Dog Days (U. Seidl), The Trial (G. W. Pabst).
How is the Slamdance Film Festival a good screening destination for ‘My Blind Heart’?
Slamdance corresponds with the attitude of how we made MY BLIND HEART. I like their idea of staging a family-like atmosphere where you can learn from each other, hang out and share experiences, but still have an international channel for the films they chose to be part of their family.