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FEST Interview: Detlev Buck – Nothing is Funnier than a Man in Love

German filmmaker Detlev Buck came to FEST to present the film ‘Confessions of Felix Krull’, which is part of the Gala programme of the 50th FEST.

It is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Thomas Mann (Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull) about the machinations of a handsome and unscrupulous young man Felix (Jannis Niewöhner) in the desire to climb as high as possible on the social ladder. Working in a luxury hotel in Paris in the early 20th century, he has an affair with a rich guest (Maria Furtwängler) and then gets caught in a love triangle with Zaza (Liv Lisa Fries), a woman he loves but is willing to sacrifice to the rich and naive Marquis De Venosta (David Kross).    

This is the second film adaptation of the novel, the first was shot in 1957 with Horst Buchholz in the lead role.


What was your motive for adapting Thomas Mann's book?

- I received an offer from the producer. At first, I thought it would be a problem because Mann's language is precise, special, a bit artificial. Then I went to screenwriter Daniel Kehlmann, with whom I worked on the film ‘Measuring the World’ (Die Vermessung der Welt) and told him: ‘You are the only person who is able to do this properly.’ We worked hard on the structure of the dialogue and finally found an acceptable solution.

What intrigued you about the topic of the novel?

- It is a costume film, but the theme is eternal: the gap between rich and poor. Felix wants to escape poverty and, just like all of us, a piece of the cake of the rich. In the end, he is faced with a choice - love or money - and he chooses money.

To be precise, he is still in love with Zaza. In the last scene, she is sitting on the beach in Nice, with an aristocrat by her side, staring at the sea, while he is on the beach in Portugal and looking at the same sea, they still love each other, in eternity, but have no chance in practical life because they are both poor.

But why is money the only measure of success?

- That's one problem. Another problem is that our heroes are still the rich and famous. And as long as we don't stop following that matrix, nothing will change. Of course, that, after all, is not the most important thing in the world. Even Felix is rich in the end, but he is not happy. He is not happy because he is not fulfilled in love. Yet that makes you think about what is important in life, and that is requited love.

You said nothing is funnier than a man in love?

- That is true. When a man is in love, no matter how strong and disciplined his character is, he loses all control over himself. How many times have you just thought of someone in love - Oh my God, he is funny! Men in love are much funnier than women in love. They have a little more drama, though.

Your film is one of the few exhilarating achievements from this year's FEST selection. I think many viewers will be grateful to you for that.

- We did not make a film targeted for festivals, it is real luck that we are here and that makes me very happy. When I had to choose whether to make a film that would be selected for festivals or a story told so that people say, I was really exhilarated by this film, I chose the latter.



Knjaz Miloš
Embassy of Canada to Serbia, North Macedonia and Montenegro