Sinje Köhler • Director of Viva Forever
“Real friendships have a solid base that won't alter with age, something that stays forever”
by Teresa Vena
- The German director’s debut explores the dynamics behind long-lasting friendships
German director Sinje Köhler's first feature Viva Forever [+see also:
interview: Sinje Köhler
film profile] premiered at the Filmfest München. This mix of drama and comedy centres on five women who have been friends since they were teenagers. The film deals in a fresh and authentic way with the insecurities all women will experience at some point in their life. We talked to the director about the concept for the film and how the actresses ensemble came together.
Cineuropa: How did the idea for the film come about?
Sinje Köhler: In 2017, I had to decide what I wanted to do as a graduation film and I liked the idea of having female friendship as a theme. I wanted it to be about women who are all in their late 20s, as I find this an interesting age range. I wanted to show the dynamics and structures of such a friendship, which can be painful and beautiful in equal parts.
How did you develop the different characters? How much of your personal experience is in them?
To develop the characters, I had many conversations. I wanted women who had similar problems and many things in common. Each character corresponds to a different basic type and embodies different emotions. All of them have similarities with me, even though the plot is not autobiographical. I too know what I would call the “impostor syndrome.” That means to have the feeling that what you achieve in life is not only dependent on your own abilities. Many women feel this way, as I have noticed in my environment. Women are put into different pigeonholes and try to break out of these strict boundaries. I explore this in the film. I looked for intersections between the women and wanted to explore what such a long-term friendship could look like. I also wanted to talk about different concepts of life and show that they all have their right to exist.
How did the ensemble of actresses come together?
Until we found the right constellation, we had a very long casting process and looked at a lot of women. It was difficult because many were great, but they all had to fit together and still be well differentiated from each other. In the end, we cast the ensemble as a whole. Still, each one has her own strength and power. On set they showed their energy and a natural dynamic developed.
How did the actresses prepare for the roles?
Because we looked for the actresses for so long, we were prepared in the best possible way. We had a modest budget and therefore the preparation was essential. We had many conversations, went through the script in detail and also met on various evenings before the shoot, as friends would do, in order to trace the feeling of a friendship a little.
Why did you choose to set the film by the Lake Garda?
I know the place well. The region has something old-fashioned about it, there is a certain nostalgia for the “dolce vita.” It's mainly older people who stay there, so it's not known for partying. It is a place that has fallen out of time. And this is why I was able to concentrate well on the five girlfriends. It was also convenient because it's not very far away from Germany. Italy is the main holiday destination for Germans, so I was able to make an additional connection to Germany.
What is the most important thing you want to convey with the film?
Real friendships have a solid base that won't alter with age, something that stays forever. The trust and the love remains. As friends, you can learn from each other and accept that, over the years, you may be at different points in your lives, but this doesn't have to be the end of the friendship.
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