BARAN BO ODAR
By Junsui Films | October 2011
The director of The Silence talks exclusively to Junsui Films about his critically acclaimed feature debut…
Junsui Films: Let’s start with your journey into directing.
Baran bo Odar: I’ve always liked to consider myself a very visual guy but my journey into directing was almost by accident. I certainly wasn’t one of those kids who had a Super 8 camera and shot movies in the backyard. In fact, growing up, I wanted to become a painter, but I always loved movies.
I studied directing at the Munich Film School where I truly fell in love with the craft of telling stories through pictures. I completed a few short films and music video clips which culminated in my sixty-minute graduation movie, Under the Sun (2006). The movie ended up going on a great festival tour and even won the Studio Hamburg Award for Best Director.
Following that I worked on commercials for three years before I finally shot my first feature film, The Silence.
JF: Which filmmakers have inspired and influenced your work?
Directors who have had an influence on my work include Terrence Mallick and Michael Mann, as well as many others from the New Hollywood era of the Seventies. I’m also inspired by modern directors such as Paul Thomas Anderson and David Fincher as well as Asian directors such as Johnny To, Park Chan-Wook, Bong Joon-Ho and Takeshi Kitano.
JF: Your debut feature, The Silence, is adapted from the novel by Jan Costin Wagner. How did you first come to be involved in the project?
The film’s producers were keen to make a feature film with me but I was busy writing another script for someone else at the time, so I told them if they could find a novel we could adapt and we could find a screenwriter to write the script we could do a movie together.
Over the course of a year, they sent me almost a hundred books to read (I’ll be honest, I didn’t finish all of them) and that’s how we came to find Jan Costin Wagner’s The Silence. I’m usually quite a slow reader, but the story just hooked me in right from the beginning and I ended up reading the entire book in one day. I knew immediately this was the one. I also knew I had to write it myself.
JF: How did you find the process of adapting the novel for the screen?
It was actually a pretty smooth and easy process. In fact, the first draft only took three weeks. Jan Costin Wagner writes in a very cinematic style, his chapters are almost like scenes and sequences, so that was a great advantage when it came to adapting the novel into a screenplay.
JF: How did you go about getting the film funded and distributed?
It took us around a year to fund the movie which is pretty quick. The fact we managed to get a great cast attached from the beginning really helped, especially for a ‘first time’ director. We got NFP/Warner as a distributor and were very pleased with them because they passionately believed in the project from the very beginning.
JF: The film boasts an excellent cast, including Ulrich Thomsen and Burghart Klaußner. Tell us a little bit about the casting process.
Casting was pretty easy and straightforward. Right from the off my casting director, Anja Dihrberg, said: “Let’s send this script out to every great actor in Germany” and the response was great. A lot of talented actors were keen to take on these interesting characters, so in the end I had the very welcome luxury of choosing from a host of amazing actors.
JF: The Silence works equally well as an intense character study with its exploration of the mental tortures associated with grief. Tell us about this choice of approach; were you ever worried it might alienate the typical thriller audience?
I was never interested in doing a typical “whodunit” movie with The Silence. Not to say there is anything wrong with those types of movies as there are many a great film out there that do it perfectly. But I was far more intrigued by the characters and how they would collide and clash within the confines of the narrative. I’ve always admired movies that are not rooted in a genre but instead play with it. I also trusted the audience; they’re a lot smarter than people think.
JF: What was your experience when watching the film with an audience for the first time?
Honestly, I was so nervous I almost puked. But after the first five minutes I knew I had them gripped. Throughout the entire film the audience were so quiet you could actually sense the tension. For me that’s what movies are all about and it’s that very feeling that brings me into the theatre.
JF: The Silence has been met with tremendous critical acclaim. How has the film’s success impacted your career?
It’s opened a lot of doors for me which is incredibly exciting, challenging and intriguing. I’ve been fortunate to meet great actors and producers and it’s been extremely pleasing to see that my movie has been so well received.
But I have to say from a personal standpoint the greatest experience I’ve had with the film has been the reaction from the movie going public. It’s amazing when people come up to me after a screening and tell me how touched they were by the film.
JF: Any future plans you can tell us about?
I’ve written a screenplay with my writing partner Jantje Friese called “The Hunt”, which is a kidnapper, action-thriller set in Chicago. We are also working on another project called “1899 Massacre”, a horror movie set on a migration ship in 1899 that is on his way from London to New York. All sorts of terrible things happen onboard. Imagine The Shining meets Titanic.