A Counter World: Dominik Graf and "The Red Shadow"

The great genre filmmaker discusses his controversial policier that asks dark questions about the Baader-Meinhof group's infamous suicides.
Daniel Kasman

The Red Shadow

The so-called new golden age of television may be in progress in the United States, but there's one thing American TV doesn’t have: Dominik Graf. The German director of several great features made for the cinema—including the superior Die Hard-in-the-BRD Die Katze (1988), the sprawling special forces drama Die Sieger (1994), the wild DV melodrama A Map of the Heart (2002), and, most recently, the rich and exuberant Schiller ménage à trois, Beloved Sisters (2014)—can most often and most productively be found across his career making films for German television.

Consistently have difficulties with both the funding and reception of his theatrical features—no doubt due to Graf’s dense and elaborately articulated storytelling style, which fiercely intertwines the social and political urgency of his settings with the thrilling pleasures of genre cinema rooted in the 1970s’ critical skepticism of Germany’s status quo—the filmmaker has turned again and again to the freedom within constraints (of budget, scope, and, sadly, international distribution) of the national television industry. Long-running and beloved policier shows like Tatort (1970-) and Polizeiruf 110 (1971-), which allow for feature length, self-sufficient films using the series’ leads and locations, as well as one-off, feature-length television productions have provided the director with an unusual venue for his art. Graf effectively uses an industrial structure so as to have increased opportunities for production (he has already made at least 12 features since a major 2013 retrospective in Rotterdam), to hone and play with his craft, find larger audiences, and, ultimately, work with greater albeit lower-profile creative freedom.

Lower profile, that is, until The Red Shadow, Graf’s 2017 contribution to the Tatort detective series. Its broadcast prompted unusually vocal and high-profile criticism, most notably from the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (in a public speech) and former Minister of the Interior Gerhart Baum (in Der Spiegel), which took issue with the story’s suggestion that the infamous deaths of the leading members of the Red Army Faction, imprisoned in Stammheim in 1977 following a year of notorious kidnappings and assassinations, was possibly—possibly—not a group suicide (the official story), but may have been murders carried out by the West German state. 

This possibility is indeed at the heart of the story The Red Shadow tells, its dark and indeterminate core. (The film’s international premiere in a longer director’s cut was in Rotterdam’s wide-spanning program “A History of Shadows,” curated around cinematic inquiries into the accepted past.) But to reach this center the Tatort detectives (Richy Müller and Felix Klare) must journey through several circles of mystery, only one of which is entirely fictional, and a great image at that: a car wreck reveals the body of a dead woman in the trunk—a woman already dead for days and with official autopsy scars on her body: a suicide stolen from the morgue by her doubting husband. A questionable cause of death, let’s say.

It seems impossible that there would be a connection between this anomalous crime and what we see in the film’s prologue: old, masked criminals pulling off a robbery armed with a bizarre rocket launcher and decades-old submachine gun. Quick flashes match cut between the face of the woman bandit (Heike Trinker) with her red-haired younger self in Super 8 footage at the funeral for the RAF members. What's the connection to the dead body? The woman-in-the-trunk was a lover of, and perhaps killed by, a handsome but aging man, Wilhelm Jordan (Hannes Jaenicke), who drunkenly talks about his time in the intelligence service. The police, pushing further, find that Jordan's current lover might be the red-haired woman—perhaps a comrade from the 1970s. His history—skipped countries, battered women—leads to a tantalizing but inconclusive old mug shot that looks eerily like that of a notorious RAF member who in 1977 betrayed his colleagues.

Squealing to the police, this man crucially confirmed the state’s official story that the terrorists’ lawyers smuggled guns into Stammheim, thus the prisoners must have killed themselves (two RAF members shot themselves, Gudrun Ensslin was found hung by her neck, and another supposedly stabbed herself, but survived and claimed there was no group suicide pact). Does the figure of this Jordan somehow bridge old-guard terrorism in the present with dark state secrets of the past, a hidden keystone in a state coverup? Brought out of hiding by both the murder and the armed heists, questioned by the police and mysteriously watched by German intelligence agents, Jordan’s crime (or that of his doppelgänger from the photo) isn’t only the murder he possibly committed, but that his very existence is living doubt that the German government treated its infamous prisoners as they, the terrorists, treated their victims. 

This doubt is what got the government so in a huff about The Red Shadow, and specifically two short sequences that show the two “sides” of the story: recreations of the various suicides, followed shortly by a (re)creation of murders. Both are pointedly filmed in Super 8 and shot with authenticity and vérité in mind: they look as if they are footage from the infamous night that Graf somehow discovered. And the official version looks as real and plausible as the rumored version. The purpose is not for The Red Shadow to claim the rumor as truth. Rather, through its nest of crimes, coverups, doubles, and history spiraling ever-away, yet still alive in the bodies, minds, and desires of the participants, its purpose is to question the official history and fiercely indicate the places of doubt, the possibilities for other occurrences, motivations, victims and perpetrators. The suggestion is hardly rare, but its revelation, unexpectedly, at the center of a Tatort is audacity: a dirty secret of state flushed out unintentionally by today’s lawmen, broadcast to far more people (reportedly 9 million viewers) than would ever have seen a film riding on this exact idea: That doubt, mistrust, and suspicion of the state is the ultimate “culprit” identified by this detective tale. 

All this is suggested through Graf’s characteristically escalating and aggregating storytelling style. With frenetic, jangled editing within and across scenes, rapid zooms and angle changes, and an almost (almost) unfollowable outpouring of facts, circumstances, locations and dialog—itself delivered at breakneck pace—one gets the sense that as the film goes along rather than narrowing focus as it approaches its true topic, in The Red Shadow instead things become less clear as we know more, the field of vision widens, the variables and possibilities multiply. “Do you want to know more?” teases a retired intelligence agent, of that deadly night in Stammheim. Graf suggests not just that there is more to know, but that the intricate veneer of the accepted world is made permeable by crime. From crime comes detection—and that can reveal history’s secrets hidden in a car’s trunk.

I spoke to Dominik Graf at the premiere of the director's cut of The Red Shadow about the film's controversy, the desire to explore what happened at Stammheim, and his use of the television industry to tell the stories he wants to film.

NOTEBOOK: You used this phrase at the film’s screening that what happened to the RAF members in Stammheim prison was “a grave” in Germany.  I would imagine that this incident, if not the RAF topic in general, was a grave you wanted to dig up in some way for a long time.

DOMINIK GRAF: Well—yeah. There were always people ahead of me, talking Baader-Meinhof and Stammheim. There was, in Germany, quite a famous guy called Heinrich Breloer. He did a two-part film, Todesspiel (1997), about Mogadishu [the assault on hijacked airplane Lufthansa Flight 181 by the German GSG 9] and Stammheim. Then Bernd Eichinger, of course, with Uli Edel and this thing called The Baader-Meinhof Complex (2008). Others. And I always thought, “well, okay then—I’ll have to wait. I’ll have to wait, I’ll have to wait.” At a certain point I thought that the film, the way I would tell it, would not get support in this industry that I’m working in. So it again came to the moment when I had to use my usual Umweg—another way—to treat also this, like all the other things I’ve done in this manner already. A smuggler’s trade.

I can’t imagine that a scene like another option of what happened at Stammheim would have been allowed. The forces that I experienced after the airing of this film were so strong, so offended. It was such an attack, making me responsible for the false history image that I’m “teaching”—I’m not a teacher, I’m a filmmaker! I don’t feel responsible, really, for what I’m doing, because I always think the first thing I’m doing is making art. The first thing you have to do is make a film the way you feel it, and not, “Oh, ah! I have a very big subject, I have to take care I don’t offend anyone.” I really don’t care. In this kind of genre—film noir, policier films—it’s the only place where you don’t have to care, you just have to be entertaining.

NOTEBOOK: That sounds a bit disingenuous, though, because surely part of the art of this picture is being able to reconstruct unvisualized history. While this may not be a pedagogic mission, part of the motivation of this story seems to be an opportunity to create new images of unfilmed things.

GRAF: Yes, that’s true. That was something I really wanted to do. When I saw The Baader-Meinhof Complex and saw this great Shah demonstration [for his visit] in Berlin when Benno Ohnesorg died, I had the idea that one could have made a living image out of it. You could have just had the policeman standing there, holding his club—I did that already in another film, in small parts: living stills, so to say. They’re standing in front of each other, the ‘68 generation, the policeman and the Shah’s people—and that would be a better image than if you showed it as an action—which is what Uli Edel did, of course. And now, I had the chance—that was of course one of the things in the film that excited me the most, to get into the Stammheim cells.

How do you tell it? What does it have to look like? And today when you say, “let’s do it with Super 8,” then everyone says, “oh no, not Super 8, nobody has Super 8 still, that’s a great risk because you only have one this negative and what happens…” And it was quite risky, because when we shot it and did a few photos with it, also with a normal camera, but then we had to wait. We sent it to the laboratory—I think there’s only one in Europe left—and then you wait: “Has it come? Has it come back yet? No, but when does it come?” Three weeks later—a wait absolutely absurd with the kind of filmmaking we have now—and it comes back and you watch it late at night, after a shooting day, and you see these grainy images and for a moment you think, “Is this….? Did someone have a small camera snuck into the prison?” Because the actors really did look like the Baader-Meinhof people, I thought that was really one of the main reasons I wanted to do this film.

There was this story about this Jordan guy—which is true, almost all the details told, which is unbelievable! Because it’s 2017 and it’s unbelievable that there are still ghosts hanging around and have such kinds of conflict and confusion with the secret service in Germany. It’s unbelievable. I couldn’t imagine it—but okay, it’s true. And the other thing that also always interested me was the desperation of these people, left alone by their leaders, so to say. The sex between the two old terrorists was something very, very important for me. Because it gave me the chance to tell this life in the underground where you still have to cling on, still have physical needs—where you’re not yet a ghost.

NOTEBOOK: It’s a living history, still. These people are still alive, you can touch these things.

GRAF: How do these bodies look, now? They would have to look old, but I also thought they’d be quite muscular, quite strong—physically they aren’t old and sick, others are perhaps, but these two are just bodies talking to each other. That was also one thing that really interested me.

NOTEBOOK: Can you talk about the controversy that met this film upon its airing? The crux of it appeared to be that you filmed a version of the official story of group suicide in the same way—emphasizing a kind of false vérité realism—you also filmed a counter-history of the rumored murder by the state.

GRAF: I never realized they would come out of their holes, making a big fuss about these two scenes. We have really talked so much and we know there are complete dark holes in this story. But, in a way, I thought maybe they are so unsure about what happened so they have to make a big fuss talking about it. When they made the statements in Bildzeitung and even the Bundespräsident’s speech, they didn’t even say the name of the director, they only said “This Tatort.” Which is also a kind of humiliation. The thing is: “Why do you tell this in a Tatort? Why is this not a big series?” We just talked about that—because you can’t do it in Germany. On the other hand, they felt übergangen, as if I should have talked to them, I think. They were offended by not having my interest: “Please tell the story again as you’ve told it 30 times before.” But I wasn’t interested in that.

NOTEBOOK: Do you think there would have been the same controversy if it had been a film for the cinema? Is there something more insidious about this being “just television,” where the audience may not be actively choosing what to watch, they just land on a show—and suddenly their national history is being questioned?

GRAF: Right. I think that made the offense bigger, in a way. Tatort is always a kind of cheap film, not a film that comes and takes itself serious and says, “Now this time I’m telling you a real story.” No. And nobody said that before, the critics and their reviews before, which were nearly all very bad. They all said, in general, “no, you don’t need to look at that, look at documentaries—this is just bullshit. Made up bullshit.” But nobody said, “there’s this image in it, there’s a possibility told of two options of the Stammheim night.” They didn’t even find it necessary to mention this. So the people who looked at it I think were completely surprised by this scene.

NOTEBOOK: These kind of sinister stories within stories—smuggled, as you said, in a Tatort—this seems more beautiful and necessary, this method. Rather than addressing it head-on, you wrap it in layers so you can still talk about it, cloaking it in a delivery device so it becomes surprising.

GRAF: The problem is that I don’t really find these people in the Baader-Meinhoff and others surrounding them so sympathetic that I could make them as the main protagonists in a film. I would have felt lost, I think, during shooting. Who’s my main hero? Who am I dealing with?

NOTEBOOK: But you’ve said that you are part of a generation who did feel some sympathy and attraction to the romance of the RAF. Is that not enough for them to become protagonists?

GRAF: No, because I think I have to approach them through a medium. The media are the policemen, are the detectives, you know? They just have a case: they have to find out the truth about something special, and then this widens up into a cave. I like these two inspectors, I like them, I find them people I can identify with, going with them, reaching with them into the past is for me more fun.

Maybe it’s also because there was someone I knew in the people surrounding the [Hanns Martin] Schleyer Entführung [kidnapping] that I knew very well. We were in school together and were really friends; he became an actor in German movies in the 60s and then somehow disappeared out of my sight. Then suddenly in September of ‘77 I saw him as one of the Schleyer Entführer on TV and that was a real shock. I met him afterwards, even worked with him as an actor, met him now when I showed the film in Berlin—but I never would have wanted to make a film about him. I don’t dare that. I have to stay from a distance to look at them.

NOTEBOOK: Is that why the protagonist of the story in the film, Jordan, is this person not quite committed to one side or the other? He’s kind of a terrorist, he’s kind of a… 

GRAF: Traitor. 

NOTEBOOK: Yes. As with the title of the play you show in the film, he’s a “servant of two masters,” he’s of two minds, he doesn’t know where to place himself.

GRAF: Yes, he’s even crying! He’s in such a pressure, again, torn between his traitor soul, which he obviously has—he’s an asshole, a terrible man, in a way. But he’s also lost in the still-lingering love of the old terrorist woman. That is a situation I can tell—but only if it makes the plot in the middle of the film. For the surroundings I think I need these kind of people, the policemen who are thinking about it, who are talking about it, having ideas of what could have happened. But it’s coming from the outside to the inside. 

NOTEBOOK: The scene in the middle where we see the two possible occurrences in Stammheim: these five minutes are not the reason the movie exists, it’s the centerpiece, yes, but the stories surrounding it are also important because there are always people and their stories peripheral to momentous events and secrets.

GRAF: Yes, I’ve always loved these kinds of stories where you start with something small and strange—like this woman’s corpse in a shattered car—and then like with a screwdriver you go deeper and deeper and deeper and you find something and you absolutely didn’t know that you would end there. And when you dig so deep that you come into Stammheim night, then the film goes [makes repulsed reaction] “Ugh!” [laughs] and goes back, “now we’ll finish the other story.” That is a movement of narrative that I like very much. 

NOTEBOOK: At the screening you had this great phrase that the policier is a story through which you can tell anything about the world. Including, in this film, two other layers of true stories, not just the Jordan character, but also the existence of an older generation, still alive, still active criminals.

GRAF: That is combined—they didn’t really have to do with the Jordan character, but we thought—the writer and me—that we could put them together in a way: they are all old people [laughs]. I think they have their nest somewhere in Holland and come over the border. They also did the same thing, doing with these absurd old panzerfaust, and they are quite fit, you know? They had five big scores, I think. One time they even shot the panzerfaust—that was too expensive for us [laughs]. But they didn’t get into the safe, sealed money car, so they just flew. It’s an absurd incident which was in the last two years very often in German newspapers, but I thought that one could link this together. Also, you always think of these people when they are young—when they age, what happens to them when they get older? It’s like with rock musicians. Do I really want to see Mick Jagger still on stage? Here you have terrorists going back on stage and saying “we still can do it.”

NOTEBOOK: The crimes this actual group was doing, was it for money or ideology?

GRAF: Absolutely only money [laughs]. I think they lost their ideals and they just don’t have any money.

NOTEBOOK: The Jordan character was a real person who was a lynchpin in confirming government’s story that the Stammheim deaths were suicides, is that right? And the mug shot photograph is of a man with whom he exchanged positions, the double taking Jordan’s prison sentence while he fled the country?

GRAF: He really went to court instead of the other guy who we called Jordan—who was in South America already—and confirmed this story of the lawyers smuggling in guns in file folders. I think this is made up, it’s so silly, yeah? The first time you see what they’re talking about [plays with a folder]—something like this? You see this in documentary footage. They had to confirm the state version of how the weapons got into the cells and he even went to jail for it—in exchange for the other guy. It could have been that the original guy, our Jordan, told the story as they told him to tell it, they put it down, then they went to court—but in court it wasn’t the same guy, it was a different man. It’s also a film about camouflage. That is strange, this is kind of a carnival. I want to do something about the Siegfried Buback case, which was another famed mystery of ‘77, and there you have a female murderer, Verena Becker, who shot the state attorney from a motorcycle, and then two weeks later she robbed a bank in Cologne and had an artificial mustache—which is why I gave the female terrorist in this film a similar disguise. It was all, in a way, a carnival-joke. But that makes it all sympathetic for me.

NOTEBOOK: Also ghostly: All these disguises, doubles, missing persons, false identities. A mystery in which when you think you find the key person, that person evaporates.

GRAF: Yes, [overlaps his hands] the key image is of the policemen putting the two photographs of the men together over each other. The moral problem of the whole thing is the question the old police guy puts, “Why does the state use the same tactics as the terrorists do? Why do they have to approach each other?” In the end, they are both criminals. That is strange. But I think every secret service man would tell you they don’t have another, or a different, way. But why do you use people, as in the NSU [National Socialist Underground] case in East Germany, why do they use people to commit murder and still they cover them up? It’s a system for itself, it’s like a counter world.

NOTEBOOK: Call you talk about how to create your mise en scène on a film like this? For example, who did you conceive the action sequence at the end between the special forces and the robbers?

GRAF: For a scene like that, we have one day to shoot it. I put down all the cuts, all the positions I would like to have. In that case, I even didn’t know the location, because we found it very late during the filming. But I already want to see in my mind what kind of cuts I would like to have and from which positions I can shoot. You have to then apply this to the real location, and at the real location, for instance, there was this strange bridge where people were walking over, and we had a good day with the sun, so I used the shadows.  If the sun wouldn’t have shone that day, I would have found out something different to show the danger that there was surrounding the terrorists. You do it with two or three camera teams at a time, and you have to be [laughs] very, very quick. Really very quick.

NOTEBOOK: I’m surprised to learn you conceive of the cuts in advance, because I think of your films as incredibly densely edited in a way I would assume is not pre-planned, but rather arrived at in post-production.

GRAF: You make a list of the shots you would like to have, and then you shoot them and you shoot each of them as if they were covering the whole thing, so that you have an enormous bag full of material, which is sent to the editing room. And then in the editing room, of course, there are completely different cuts happening than we thought in the beginning. It’s more that you must decide the positions in advance, where you have to go from an upright position, you have to say, "give me something from 10 meters above," because this is not something you can decide the day you’re shooting. You have to organize these positions. But in the end, it’s a dance in the editing room.

I also have the music mostly directly while I’m shooting—I’m working with two composers who are already composing the music while we are still preparing the film, so that while I’m shooting I’m constantly thinking what could it sound like. Or, for instance, I wanted a song for the beginning, something that gives you a feeling of lost freedom and an old battle, so they start with that and from such a core idea they expand over the whole thing. It’s very important that during the editing I can put the music on it which is already done—I don’t have to use something from other films that I like, and the poor composers have to approach this music. I can use the original music. The real happening is in the editing room. 

NOTEBOOK: I know for your films a great deal of research goes into the production and dialog. This film having a historical component, how did you approach the re-enactment of—actually, that’s not the proper word…

GRAF: That’s what it is. 

NOTEBOOK: It seems perhaps morbid to seek authenticity in those scenes, but also necessary, otherwise it doesn’t make sense to include them.

GRAF: I think the authenticity is, it’s a bit like... Hotte im Paradies (2002) is also approaching a milieu I don’t know, really, and I tried to bring in through these MiniDV cameras a kind of documentary feeling—but that is a fake. And I think the fake documentary in these moments is the most important thing, that you built a situation which in the image feels like it really has happened but is artificial. Somehow you feel the artificiality. I think there is a gap between the images, which try to show themselves as authentic as possible, but are too set-up. So it’s not really a documentary, it’s something else. These situations where I try to cover reality—you always have to find a different idea, because you have to surprise yourself. When you see the rushes, that you are surprised: “Ah ha, that looks quite realistic,” but then you have acting in it, you have actors and you feel like this acting is [slaps hands together] against this material, in a way. This is something I like. It’s important in this film, because the whole Baader-Meinhof thing has this kind of theatrical surrounding, the false beards, the camouflage. It’s documentary against mise en scène. 

NOTEBOOK: But is that much different than the normal film that you’re making? Isn’t the “documentary” the police milieu and activity, the locations you’re using, that you are approaching with a certain kind of factual realism—against the artifice of the acting, editing, and storytelling? Is this not the same thing but on a different level?

GRAF: But in these films the normal scenes, so to say, are choreographed—and you see that. There are a lot of tracking shots, there are much less zooms than I normally use. Because I thought, if I have all this material—mixed documentary, real documentary, false documentary—if I zoom in my usual way that this would confuse things. So the moment, the present, is quite clear. The images are quite clear, there are lots of tracking shots, which you can see are not cut or edited in their length, and when it comes to the history part then it cuts, cuts between documentary, photographs, Super 8. The truth is that with faked reality you don’t choreograph things so precisely. There can be things hidden, you don’t see them. In these scenes, I’m just watching, and sometimes I’m telling the cameraman to try this or that, but it’s not that planned. In this film, this is the extreme difference between how I directed these two different layers of the film.

NOTEBOOK: When shooting these Super 8 re-creations, did you feel like that this was something eerie, almost like you were crossing a taboo or trespassing somewhere you shouldn’t be? 

GRAF: ...yeah. The two that I really had that feeling were in Gudrun Ensslin’s cell. [Breathes out slowly] That was really… I felt strange then. It was a cellar, where we shot it, and I was sitting outside in the corridor because the cells were so small. You don’t have a video monitor, because it’s Super 8, so you don’t see anything. So you can just… Yeah, I felt strange about that. Because she [the actress, Sophie Lutz] was really good. She really did it very well. This actress also said this Gudrun Ensslin sentence at the beginning of the film. She also comes from Swabia, and she can take on this little Swabian accent, as Ensslin sounds really very similar to her—and then she gets killed, in that way. Yeah. That was quite… I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t even sure in the moment we shot it that we could use this. Yeah, there is a taboo. But the whole murder scene is a taboo. I could have taken it all out, maybe. But when I saw, when it was first edited, I thought—No, we need to air this, we need to open these doors, these doors into different possibilities to look at our history. It’s not sure, it’s not that far away. It’s my history, so to say. It’s my generation I’m talking about.

NOTEBOOK: Is there a “house style” for Tatort or Polizeiruf? When you are filming a story inside these pre-existing systems, are there aesthetic or narrative requirements you must satisfy?

GRAF: No. It’s always a cooperation with the writers, of course. Mostly I’m happy to cooperate with Günter Schütter, still, my favorite. But he’s doing quite little. He’s concentrating...he tries to do feature films but they don’t get money. So he’s also concentrating on Tatorts and mostly Polizeiruf. I think his way of writing suggests styles and aesthetics which are, may I dare say, not used in modern cinema. Nobody else goes back into these kinds of...it’s 70s-style, in a way, it has to do very much with those police films, but I think it is a meta layer where they really take place, because of his writing, which is absolutely not 70s, it’s completely different: The people are different, the social situations that he’s describing are different. It’s as if you implant an aggressive poliziotto style of the 70s into an actual, now happening, German crime psychological situation.

NOTEBOOK: Do you feel that your work in the German television industry gives you a combination of industrial structure and creative freedom that mimics the old Hollywood studio system? 

GRAF: Yeah, I want to use this structure. It came to this. When I was at film school and I started to make films I also thought, “One day I’ll make movies, big movies”—and I made some big movies. But it was so hard to get them—Die Katze, Die Sieger—through an extremely gegenwind, a counter wind in the German branchen, the industry. There was no alternative. I had to tell all these things in Germany, in German, so I had find a way to do these films. In a way they are my films, like holiday movies, that I put one after another together. I think there is not one in the last 20 years that I feel like it something I made because of money or something. Not one. There may be some not as good as others, but every one of these films has its history, how it was developed, in which combination, with which author, with which TV redakteur. There’s a great Nicholas Roeg line at the end of an interview, “I still wonder why they let me do this.” So that is the core. That is the thing—you have to try to make them support things that afterwards they say [cringing] “How did that happen?”

NOTEBOOK: What makes it easier to get projects off the ground on television? 

GRAF: It’s so much quicker. You have one TV producer. You have less money, of course, and less time, but the decisions are made, actually, by only three people. Mostly this means you don’t have to go get subsidies somewhere else, because from then on it becomes difficult. Feature films—I’m planning one now, again—is such a frustration. I didn’t choose this profession to make one film every five years. This is not my way. I always thought of this kind of professional, going through and having a filmography like one of these old-time Americans studio directors.

NOTEBOOK: Has working in television made not only you work faster but your films move faster? They always seem very rapid to me. 

GRAF: Yes, the speed of working made me sure that I don’t think too much. I have to have the film finished by a certain time, so my decisions have to be very, very quick and they can’t really be revised. So it is a game, I think, with myself—I don’t get into a situation where there are too many possibilities.

NOTEBOOK: But when I watch your films I see so many possibilities: So many images, so many ideas and facts that are thrown at you. Then the story starts to take form, but even the method of the story is to increase in gravity, attracting more stuff. I get the sense that in each film you want to put in it as much as you can, bursting, full of possibilities.

GRAF: I think I can, quite well, adapt to production situations, adapt to having less money and less time, worse locations—but I think I always find, like a mouse you put into a labyrinth, I find my way out. You can’t catch me, really—as a mouse, you know [laughs]. The films are also like a labyrinth. Already in school I had a teacher who told me, “you are working like a mole. One doesn’t see you, and then suddenly there’s a pile.” I thought that was funny, but it fits, it’s true. I have to work in the underground—I don’t want too many people to always stand beside and give their opinions—and suddenly there’s a pile.

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