Werner Herzog's Family Romance, LLC is having a free virtual preview on MUBI in many countries on July 3, 2020. Following this preview, it will be showing exclusively on MUBI in the many countries in the series Luminaries.
My name is Werner Herzog. You are just about to watch my new film Family Romance, LLC. I put “LLC” in the title because romance has become a business in Japan. The young entrepreneur in Tokyo, Yuichi Ishii, founded an agency that sends out rented missing friends who are family members for a big wedding, or in my case, he rents out an impostor who poses for a young girl as her father that she never met.
I think it was important. There was something big that I immediately sensed: where everything was fake, everything was done by impostors, everything was alive, everything was a performance, and yet the authenticity of emotions is always there. You can feel it right away. It is so intense that professional reviewers believed that the film must be a documentary, but of course it was all staged and written, rehearsed, and stylized.
I came across the subject through a young man, Roc Morin, a filmmaker. He was one of the students of my Rogue Film School, and he struck me as a fine filmmaker but also a very fine conceptual writer and thinker. He contacted me one day and said, “I came across something incredible: Family Romance.” I found it so big that I said to him, “You have to make a film.” He didn’t feel ready to make a feature film yet. (By the way, now he is doing his first feature film, which is very interesting. He is in the middle of the work.) Since he was hesitant, I somehow proposed, out of the blue, “Shouldn’t I do the film then?” and so we did it together now. He contributed a lot of content, a lot of dialogue. He speaks Japanese—not perfectly, but he speaks good Japanese. It was a wonderful collaboration, and a wonderful collaboration with the actors in the situation we created.
Normally it was not scripted like a perfect—let’s say—Hollywood screenplay where every sentence was written out. Only a few key sentences had to be there. All the rest of the dialogue the actors had to make up according to the situation. I would invent a situation and explain it very precisely to them through a very fine interpreter. When we were shooting, I did not want to listen in through a live translation of the dialogue because I was my own cinematographer. I have been cinematographer in some of my films before, and I said, “I should do the film as my own cinematographer.” Since I was so close to the actors, as the nearest one I could always sense that this was authentic or this was wonderful, and I would pick that take. You will see in the film some of the takes were never repeated. You can sense it, you can feel it—it’s just in one take. Not like in Hollywood with 100 different cuts and angles and a reverse shot and a shot from underneath and a shot from a helicopter and things like that. It is senseless. It is a very essential film.
In a way, I wanted to return to my early filmmaking, when I was a young man. I was very young when I did Aguirre, the Wrath of God, which was an adventure. Hardly any money. The screenplay was there, but as a filmmaker and as actors living on rafts and floating on rafts down an Amazon tributary, we could never tell what was coming after the next bend of the river: was there a village? Was there a waterfall? So I adapted the screenplay according to the situation, and in a way that was what happened in Family Romance, LLC.
This article is a transcript of a video introduction made by Werner Herzog for the MUBI premiere of Family Romance, LLC.