Because (short film)
1990, 16mm. 34 minutes. Language: German
A Griebe/Tykwer production (Black Out Films)
by Peter Cowie.
Because runs for half an hour and turns on the arbitrary tumbling of an empty wine goblet. Thus, from the outset, coincidence and predestination have a central place in Tykwer’s cinema. An innocent man and his young son become victims of a prolonged argument between two people they have never seen. Why they happen to be standing beneath an apartment block window after midnight is not explained, nor do we need to know. Tykwer has instead drawn us deep into the incessant wrangling between Tanja and her boyfriend Martin, sending our sympathies first one way and then another, until both partners are exposed as petty liars.
Many facets of Tykwer’s talent already distinguish Because. For example, his fondness for re-winding experience, as if life were a DVD or a cassette – a theme that would turn Run Lola Run into a worldwide hit. He and Griebe take exciting risks with the lighting and décor. The walls of the apartment, for example, are as crimson as blood; so too are the bed-clothes. His dialogue, made up of deceptively banal phrases, questions and responses, has an inner rubato worthy of Albee or Bergman. Thus he peels away the veneer of hypocrisy that provokes most lovers’ discord, and reveals the self-pity and susceptibility quivering beneath.
"Tanja and Martin are a couple in their late twenties. They meet back at their apartment late one evening, in bed. Weren’t we supposed to meet up this evening? How come you got home so late? Where the hell were you? An argument ensues, an everyday fight between couples that unleashes an unimaginable destructive force. Three separate variations of the argument are played out. Each time the positions of culprit and victim, guilt and innocence, trust and despair are reversed."
Freund, der Tanja Dias vorführt
Vater vor dem Haus
Sohn vor dem Haus
Kartenspieler Rabok 1
Kartenspieler Rabok 2
Regie, Drehbuch, Musik|
Tom Tykwer, Frank Griebe
Origins of the film
Tom Tykwer on...
...film as a way of life
I’d actually made a number of films before “Because”, on Super-8. But really, I’d say the first film I made that doesn’t make me cringe is “Because”. I was 25 and beginning to be more than just a film fan. The analytical side interested me too, I wanted to understand cinema better. And I realized that films that really moved and inspired me had an inner core, or view of the world. Which had to do with identifying with the filmmakers. It was the thing that drew you to the film, as if it were an old acquaintance or friend.
True film favourites are a bit like companions in life. As with friendships, there can be a complete break. Then you emancipate yourself from one another. Or you get the feeling this is a film you want to see year in, year out. Because each time it seems to have something new to say.
... authenticity and form
A film isn’t ‘born’ until the public sees it. I reject the notion of a film that doesn’t really want to communicate with its audience – in fact is there really such a thing? That’s not the kind of cinema I’m after. I want to strive for a subjectively radical, but still audience-orientated type of filmmaking. That time when I was being rejected by one film-school after another and working as a projectionist and an intern on various film shoots was probably the most important training period of all. I could see for myself exactly what the public responded to. And as a direct result I sought out genuine material that related to my own experience. In that way “Because” was an almost overpowering and very personal – perhaps too personal – reflection of my private life, my relationship.
But I think I managed to avoid the private sphere ghetto by giving the film a very formal setting. It’s an extremely structural film. Quite a theoretical sort of film, in its conceptual intensity. And at the same time extremely personal. There are dialogues that are direct quotes from the arguments that I manufactured every evening with my girlfriend. But this personal level takes place in a framework that is incredibly theoretical, very formalistic and strict.
... the ‘prequel’ to “Run Lola Run”
“Because” is obviously a kind of prequel to “Run Lola Run”. In fact they should probably be shown together since “Because” is in a way the draft for "Lola" – which of course I didn’t know at the time. The switching back and forth between an analytical and a very convoluted emotional state that people can really identify with. I like that.
With “Run Lola Run” there are these short interludes in the realm between life and death, which are essential to the substance of the film. Where we see that the two leads are in fact normal lovers who engage in these totally neurotic arguments. And that’s the connection to “Because” – these scenes are also tinted red. And all the rituals are the same, which of course is the miracle of love relationships. It’s during these at times absurd dialogues that precisely the things you love about the other person come to light. Even when they get to you, even when you reject them.
...patterns in relationships
Those typical patterns of behaviour between man and woman are probably an inescapable part of normal relationships. Obviously it’s a subject that preoccupies me a great deal, the possibilities inherent in – and naturally the impossibility of – love relationships. Particularly when there’s a bit of a history behind them, when it’s not just about falling in love but how you’ve grown to love somebody. And the automatic responses and destructive tendencies have crept in. In that way “Because” is almost like an axiom for the other films that followed. Also in the struggle for both authenticity and artificially constructed forces.
... Rosa von Praunheim
A very, very important influence in this process was Rosa von Praunheim, no matter that his style of filmmaking is very different to mine. I met him through showing many of his films at the cinema. He was one of the filmmakers who pushed me to think in a particular direction. He impressed on me that it wasn’t enough to imitate, but that I needed to focus on subject matter I was familiar with, to discover something unique. Which obviously you don’t find just lying around, or in Hollywood or in Japanese samurai films. You need to look within yourself.
...a good piece of advice
Rosa once belted me round the ears with a screenplay of mine, a great big screenplay I’d been working on for the best part of a year. His comment was: “What’s all this got to do with you? The woman is a hairdresser and the man is an animal-trainer. What’s all that supposed to be about? Why don’t you write about something you know? Look around you, look at your relationship, your girlfriend. You two fight all day long. You go to parties and argue, and everybody watches. That’s a film.” So that’s how “Because” came about, a film about a couple fighting. To be honest, I transcribed the conversations my girlfriend and I had in bed. I’d get up in the morning or even during the night and write down what we’d said, just to get some dialogue where I could say – that rings true, that’s authentic. And the weirdest thing for me was to see the effect it had on the festival audience – dark as the film is and although so many things went wrong. The crucial thing for me was the film’s veracity. I see that even today. Although we made all sorts of mistakes, the authenticity is there. At this distance I can see it rang completely true and that communicated itself to the audience immediately.
... the first reactions
It had honestly never occurred to me that the film might be funny, but in fact the audience killed themselves laughing. I thought “Because” was first and foremost a serious drama. But the audience got a huge kick out of the couple with those surreal and all-too-familiar exchanges. It was screened at the Hof Film Festival, which was incredibly stressful because it had always been a kind of film mecca for me. At the time it seemed even more important than Cannes (maybe that’s not so far from the truth). I thought, I'd either get slaughtered or it will be the start of something big. In the end it was somewhere in between. It wasn't really such a triumph because the thing was in fact just an eccentric and rather too dark half-hour film. But people laughed and applauded and were really into it. It was a big turning point for me. They obviously appreciated that the film knew what it was talking about. That they were being taken seriously and encouraged to identify with the film. From that point on I knew that each film I made had to have this impetus.
Frank and I completely underestimated the technical and logistical aspects of the production. We drew up a shooting schedule for seven days. After ten days we still hadn’t finished. And on top of that we then had to do extra filming three months later. It all got more and more expensive. In the end I think the film probably cost around 50,000 marks, which at that time was an inconceivable amount of money. Frank Griebe and I were both only earning about 1000 or 2000 marks a month as projectionists. We took out a loan, and I was paying it back at about 1000 marks a month. The situation was ridiculous really, but we didn’t care. We just wanted to film. And “Because” was the acid test as to whether we could get it even halfway right. We made every mistake in the book. We did the catering for the whole crew and the apartment we filmed in was, naturally, my own. And we though it was cool when films were shot dark, really dark, like “The Godfather”, to name one. But then we’d sometimes misjudge the sensitivity of the film stock and in some places the film disappears completely into darkness.