Stopped on Track
(Halt auf freier Strecke)
A German postal worker’s precious few months between diagnosis and death are chronicled with an acute and raw sense of honesty in “Stopped on Track.” Helmer Andreas Dresen’s latest slice-of-German-life, after such films as “Summer in Berlin” and “Cloud 9,” recounts how an apparently healthy father, and his wife and two kids, try to cope with the man’s ultimately fatal brain tumor. Pic’s standouts are the sharp dialogue, all of it improvised, and ace cast, a mix of thesps and non-pros. Dire subject matter might scare off some arthouse buyers, though fest selections and Euro cable buys are guaranteed.Like his geriatric sex romp “Cloud 9″ (whose female protag, Ursula Werner, has a bit role here), “Stopped on Track” doesn’t have a screenplay credit; the director and regular collaborator Cooky Ziesche came up with an outline of the characters and scenes that were then developed on set with the actors. The process recalls that of Mike Leigh, and the payoff is similar, with dialogue that sounds entirely natural and actors totally at ease with their lines.
Simone (Steffi Kuehnert) and Frank (Milan Peschel) are an average German couple who have just moved into a new home when they learn that Frank has an inoperable brain tumor and only a few months to live. Early hospital scene is one of the film’s strongest, with an impressively held two-shot of a silently crying Simone and a dazed Frank as they listen to the doctor’s clinical explanation.
Bulk of the pic follows the couple’s routine at home in the dark months — also literally, it’s winter — that follow after Frank and Simone finally succeed in breaking the bad news to Mika (Mika Nilson Seidel), their cute 8-year-old son, and Lila (Talisa Lilli Lemke), their diving-fanatic teenage daughter.
As the tumor grows, Frank’s behavior becomes more erratic and even hostile; he also starts forgetting things and having physical problems. This takes its toll not only on Frank but also on those around him. When it is decided the family will opt for home care rather than hospital care, the soothing presence of a kind nurse (Petra Anwar) proves vital.
As in his other portraits of lower-middle class life in the Berlin region, Dresen’s approach is strictly no-frills. Besides an ill-handled nighttime outing to a natatorium and his decision to let Frank use a camera-equipped iPhone as a sort of confessional, the director’s simple focus on the actors and what they say and do delivers impressive results. One of the strongest sequences starts with Frank and Simone simply kissing each other, and expresses far better than any type of flashback everything they used to have and will lose.
Peschel (“Sometime in August”) is impressive in the attention-grabbing role, but Kuehnert, from Dresen’s “Grill Point,” is his equal as a woman who forces herself to cope with an impossible situation. Non-pro child actors are both well cast, with Seidel especially expressive in a wordless scene in which he’s caressed by his bedridden father. Lemke’s last line is a doozy.
Technically, this HD-shot film looks fine, except in the severely underlit pool sequences. Peschel occasionally makes up for the lack of a traditional score, which might have sugarcoated the proceedings too much, by taking out a guitar and accompanying himself, as Frank, on some rock songs.
SUNDAY 15th MAY
Hollywood 1927. George Valentin is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller, it seems the sky’s the limit – major movie stardom awaits.
Press kit download (PDF)
Michel Hazanavicius talks about the origins of his film, The Artist, In Competition, accompanied by his two leading actors Bérénice Béjo and Jean Dujardin, his producer Thomas Langmann, his composer Ludovic Bource, and his director of photography Guillaume Schiffman.
Michel Hazanavicius on his choice of a silent film
“It was an idea that I’d had for a long time. Silent films are pure cinema and are responsible for producing some of the biggest directors. I knew that I didn’t want to do a pastiche as silent films are best suited to melodrama. Take the example of Chaplin: he did nothing but melodramas, but always with a comic tone.”
Bérénice Béjo on her role
“I watched City Girl by Murnau… I realised that the actors were very modern. I did research on Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson and Marlene Dietrich, who I must have watched in more than 150 clips on YouTube. I then read the screenplay whilst thinking about all these actresses. I did this until I reached the point, where during the shooting of a scene, I said to myself “I am Peppy Miller””.
Thomas Langmann on his collaboration with his director
“With all this mania for 3D films, Michel was someone who wanted to create a film about the big names of cinema and wanted to do something different, that’s what I really liked. (…) Accompanying a dreamer, that’s the essence of my work”.
- Michel HAZANAVICIUS – Director
- Michel HAZANAVICIUS – Screenplay
- Guillaume SCHIFFMAN – Cinematography
- Laurence BENNETT – Set Designer
- Ludovic BOURCE – Music
- Anne-Sophie BION – Film Editor
- Michel HAZANAVICIUS – Film Editor
Contacts and useful links
German director Andreas Dresen has made the selection at Cannes for the second time. In 2009, he presented Cloud 9, the story of a married, sixty plus woman who suddenly falls in love with a new man. This year, he continues with the theme of untimely events with Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke), a film about illness and death.
Franck receives his diagnosis : his brain tumour means that he only has several months left to live. It is out of the question that he should stay in hospital: he therefore lives his last moments surrounded by loved ones and receiving treatment at home. Whereas some people keep a diary, Franck chooses another form of expression: his iPhone.
In order to create a maximum of spontaneity in his film, Andreas Dresen did not write a script as such. The dialogues were completely improvised by the actors. “We interviewed staff in palliative care, doctors and people who had lost loved ones to terminal illnesses. We filmed every interview, we compiled them all and then discussed them with the actors. That is how we created the characters.”
The storyline in Stopped on Track inevitably echoes Restless, which was presented at the opening of Un Certain Regard. Both films follow the last days of two characters, but in contrast to Gus Van Sant, Andreas Dresen places his fated patient at the heart of the plot. Yet both directors express a common desire: discourse about death as a means of celebrating life.
Un Certain Regard
Directed by :Andreas DRESEN
Duration:110.00 minutesThe movieVideosPhotosNewsPrint this pageSynopsis
The doctor told the truth. The days are numbered.
Why me and why now?
A man leaves wife and children behind, parents, friends, neighbours and yesterday’s lover, the people in his life.
Day by day a little farewell.
Words are getting rare, longer the silence.
In front of the window the year changes its colours.
Dying is a final work to do.
Not being alone while you are left behind alone, maybe that’s a good thing.
Press kit download (PDF)
English press kit STOPPED ON TRACK
Andreas DRESEN Credits
Andreas DRESEN – Director
Andreas DRESEN – Screenplay
Cooky ZIESCHE – Screenplay
Michael HAMMON – Cinematography
Susanne HOPF – Set Designer
Jörg HAUSCHILD – Film Editor
Peter SCHMIDT – Sound
Milan PESCHEL – Frank
Steffi KÜHNERT – Simone
Bernhard SCHÜTZ – Stefan
Talisa Lilly LEMKE – Lilly
Ursula WERNER – Renate
Mika Nilson SEIDEL – Mika
Otto MELLIES – Ernst
Contacts and useful links
ROMMEL FILM E.K. – Peter ROMMEL – Fidicinstr. 40 10965 Berlin Germany – T : +49 (0)30 693 70 78 – F : +49 (0)30 692 95 75 – firstname.lastname@example.org RUNDFUNK BERLIN-BRANDENBURG (GERMANY) ARTE (GERMANY)
PANDORA FILM GMBH & CO. VERLEIH KG – T : 0049 6021 – 150 66 0 – email@example.com – www.pandorafilm.de
FILM | PRESS | PLUS – Richard LORMAND – T : +33 (0)9 70 44 98 65 – firstname.lastname@example.org – www.filmpressplus.com
FILM | PRESS | PLUS – Richard LORMAND – T : +33 (0)9 7044 9865 – email@example.com – www.filmpressplus.com
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are amongst the most awarded directors in the Festival de Cannes’ history. Le Gamin au vélo, (The Kid with a Bike) is a minimalist story about a father-son relationship, and is their fifth film In Competition. Jérémie Rénier and Olivier Gourmet, two Dardenne faithfuls, star alongside newcomer, Cécile de France.
Child, son, kid… Parent/child relationships are at the heart of this work by the Dardennes. The child with the bike is Cyril,, who is almost 12 years old. An angry boy, Cyril is obsessed by the idea of finding his father, who placed him in a home. His encounter with Samantha, a hairdresser who allows him to stay at her house weekends, steers him away from violence. We do not know Samantha’s motivations. She is just there, full stop.
The Dardenne brothers wanted a “welcoming and sunny” actress for this role, who could embody both openness and change without recourse to psychology. They had considered Cécile de France, who is also Belgian. It is the first time they have involved a well-known actor/actress, not counting actors that have become well-known through Dardenne films, such as Jérémie Rénier and Olivier Gourmet in La Promesse. Incidentally we find these two Dardenne faifthfuls in Le Gamin au vélo (The Kid with a Bike), the former as the boy’s father and the second in a smaller role.
Loyal to their methods, the Dardenne brothers wrote the screenplay in a year. They rehearsed for a month and a half with the actors in order to “break” their habits and get them into their roles, “automatically, not mechanically”. This work with the actors is very important in creating the naturalness and accuracy in the Dardennes’ films. This work has twice won Best Actor/Actress at Cannes: for Emilie Dequenne in 1999 (Rosetta) and for Olivier Gourmet in 2002 (Le Fils (The Son)).
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne attend Cannes very regularly, every three years in fact, since 1998. Each time they are prize-winners and are amongst the few directors to have been awarded the Palme d’or twice, for Rosetta in 1999 and for L’Enfant in 2005.
The Dardenne brothers, in Competition for the fifth time with Le Gamin au vélo (The Kid on the Bike), answered questions from journalists, accompanied by their producer, Denis Freyd and their two lead actors: Cécile De France and the young Thomas Doret.
The choice of actorss
Jean-Pierre Dardenne : “We saw 150 kids, and we saw Thomas the first day. He was the fifth to audition. We saw a boy with a power of concentration, a presence. The audition took place over the phone, with two responses. Thomas managed to make the character at the end of the line exist, whereas many professional actors couldn’t do that. We said, ‘This might just be our Cyril,’ and so it was”.”
Luc Dardenne : “Cécile De France clearly has a luminous presence. It was very important for the role of Samantha, because it is not at all clear why she wants so much to help this child. There is no psychological explanation.”
Acting with a child
Cécile De France : “For me, Thomas is not a child, but a colleague, an accomplice. He was a leader on set. He is in every scene. When I arrived at rehearsals, he knew the film better than I did. He was working from a table rasa – a blank sheet that he could fill out, whereas I had to rid myself of all the things that had been accumulated on the page. My experience on the one hand, his spontaneity and his investment on the other meant that we were really equals on set.”
On points in common between Clint Eastwood and the Dardenne brothers
Cécile De France: “Talent of course, but in the actual process, they are diametrically opposed. Clint Eastwood does not do rehearsals. He doesn’t attend costume fittings. He usually takes it in one shot. With the Dardenne brothers, there are a lot of rehearsals; there were seven costume sessions, and many takes. Clint Eastwood tries to capture the spontaneity, the magic of the moment. The actor does a lot of the preparation work on his own. With the brothers, one can take the time to look for the answer.”
“It makes me particularly happy to pay tribute to an actress such as Faye Dunaway who has known how to combine glamour with vulnerability, and chicness with the ability to shock. (…) an actress who has appeared in films alongside some of the greatest actors: Steve McQueen, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford and even Johnny Depp, who you view as a prince“. From Bonnie and Clyde to Network, a film for which she received the Oscar for Best Actress, Frédéric Mitterrand went on to recall the long list of films in which Dunaway has starred, including Little Big Man and Arizona Dream. Neither did the Minister of Culture neglect to mention the first film she produced and directed, Yellow Bird. Faye Dunaway then revealed that she is currently working on directing her next film due to be released in November 2011.
The American actress, who was moved and honoured, explained that being an actress and film-maker “is a constant struggle. Making a film, organising a festival, it’s a real battle. But even though Art is a battle, it is Godlike because it is a fight for humanity”. Dunaway also took advantage of the medal-giving ceremony to express her admiration for some of her fellow actors: “Meryl Streep is fabulous. Johnny Depp is a king rather than a prince now, and Isabelle Huppert (President of the Jury in 2009), my favourite French actress, is wonderful“. Dunaway ended by admitting: “This medal means a lot to me because I have only received this type of decoration in France. Of course, I received an Oscar, but it’s not the same”.
After participating in the Cinéfondation’s Atelier in 2005 for Daratt last year, Mahamat Saleh Haroun was awarded the Jury Prize at the Festival de Cannes for his film Un Homme qui crie (A Screaming Man). Today, he is a member of the Feature Film Jury. An interview.
Following on from your prize in 2010, you are now a Jury member this year. How do you feel about this experience?
I feel very good about it. It is like being selected a second time! The country, which I represent, echoes the concerns of a large festival such as Cannes. It’s a strong message that’s being sent to Africa and the world over: when certain things from this continent captivate people, or tell something about Africa, we want more. This should encourage a fair amount of people and young directors. My presence at Cannes sends a message of love to the people working in cinema in Africa and tells them they haven’t been forgotten.
What memories do you have of the Cinéfondation’s Atelier?
We were looked after, guided in order to meet people. It was a bit like a beginners’ stage, a sort of initiation. We had access to everything, we met members of the Jury, they were very attentive to us and that helped a lot. This enabled us to meet people and once this had happened, I was able to move forward very easily in making films. These encounters have only strengthened with time and that is how one creates a network. The Atelier is a great catalyst.
There are certain recurrent themes in your films, notably the political situation in Chad. Do you think it is easier to treat certain subjects using fiction and cinema?
Yes, it seems to me that with fiction, the author injects a part of themselves, a part of their memory, into it and I really like that. For me, all creations are political, they cannot be isolated from the environment that they were created in. I really like politics because I like manual work and it seems that cinema has slightly moved away from representations of work. Work is where things happen. That therefore leads me to social and political issues.
In 1999, your first film “Bye Bye Africa” dealt with the subject of African Cinema. What do you think of the state of present-day African Cinema?
I’ve filmed the state of cinemas in Chad and in Africa. Things have got worse, numerous countries no longer have any cinema theatres, with the exception of countries like South Africa, Mali or Burkina. The good news, however, is that after the selection of Un homme qui crie (A Screaming Man) at Cannes and the Jury Prize, in January a cinema was re-opened in Chad and named “The Normandy”. It was renovated by the authorities who deemed it necessary to have a place to be able to watch the films. Renovation work is planned for other cinemas too. An audio-visual fee has also been voted in. This is a tax taken from the mobile telephone communication sector to help in the production of films. It’s good news. Therefore, the state of cinema has changed. We also have a film school which is due to open in 2013 in partnership with La Fémis Film School in Paris and other European film schools.
What inspired you to make films?
It was the inaugural image: the face of a beautiful Indian actress in a film, the title of which, I don’t remember. It was my first time at the cinema. The cinema, which must have had about a thousand people in there, was very big and had an open ceiling. For a few seconds I thought the woman was smiling just at me. This smile, this happiness, touched me to such a degree that I started to make films. A while later, when I analysed my films, I realised that I had always reproduced a reverse shot, like the one I saw at the very beginning, with a character looking at the camera. The encounter with this beautiful, exotic woman lead me into the cinematic world!
Do you have any other sources of inspiration?
I am inspired by life! I read a lot of novels, I have senses which are open to everything around me. Phrases or encounters can open a new door for me. For example, one of my projects for next year came to me via a boy I met. I watched him put on a show, he was handicapped and he danced, he just came on the stage and when I saw him – I had a story and I didn’t know how to begin it – he had inspired me.
Is it important for you to transmit a message through film?
Yes, the transmission of a message is the act of creation within oneself. To make a film is to transmit a message, emotions, life almost, I’d say. There is a type of eternity in this transmission. It’s an antidote to death. To transmit is to construct a memory which enables a continuity of things and keeps things alive. It is memory that enables us to tell a story. Therefore it is important that we consider this transmission like a wind, as Sotigui Kouyaté described it, a wind which blows open a door or lifts up a curtain, so that another wind can follow it… It’s the movement of life. To transmit your message, is to sign your name forever in eternity.