Austrian filmmaker Julian Pölsler on using the legend’s work in his film, The Wall, and meeting Shah Rukh Khan.
How much have you retained from Marlen Haushofer’s novel, The Wall?
I took a lot; primarily because the film’s voice-over (VO) has three levels. There is the normal VO, which uses the exact text from the novel. The second level is the music; I’ve used Bach’s compositions, but not only as music. It is used as a language. Silence is the third.
What made you pick Bach?
I was sitting in my editing room when Michael Haneke (Palm d’Or-winning Austrian director of Amour) visited me. He asked, ‘What kind of music would you like to have?’ and I didn’t know. Michael never uses music in his films and he wanted me to also not use music. But I wanted to. Except, Bach’s work has such a special structure, it feels like he’s telling you a story or giving you a message.
You’ve worked with nine cinematographers on this film.
I was shooting over 14 months. We didn’t have the budget to hire one artiste for that long. So I decided that with every season — spring, summer, winter and fall — I would change the cinematographer. I needed two for each season and the ninth person was me, the supervisor.
Is it being remade in English?
The film was successful at the Berlinale and it sold in 12 countries, including US and England. The VO is being translated into English, yes. It’s not a remake, but I would not mind one at all.
Have you watched any Indian films yet?
I know Bollywood films very well. Every time it gets cold and dark, I watch those films. They are so strange. I remember I just met a famous Indian actor at the Berlinale 2011. I walked into a hall and girls were screaming, ‘Shah Rukh Khan!’
What is the Austrian film industry like?
Austria is very small. Mumbai has 20 million people and all of Austria has only seven million. But because we have the same language as Germany, there are many co-productions. There are many talented filmmakers coming out of there, because in Austria, making money isn’t the only aim. It’s better to sell oil if that’s what your aim is.