Dagmar Hirtz • Director
The question of identity
by Thilo Wydra - German Film Quarterly
- Dagmar Hirtz • Director The question of identity
Dagmar Hirtz was born in Aachen in 1943 and today lives in Munich. She made her directorial debut with Unerreichbare Naehe (1984), followed by Moondance in 1995. Her first television film, Die Konkurrentin (1997), marked the beginning of Hirtz’s steady, regular work for German television, mainly for the two public broadcasters ARD and ZDF. Sie ist meine Mutter (2006), based on the autobiography Das endlose Jahr by Gisela Heidenreich, screened at the Munich Film Festival in July 2006. She has just finished filming Ich wollte nicht toeten (2007), which will be broadcast by ZDF in the upcoming year.
Asked why she turned to directing in 1983 after so many years of prize-winning work as an editor, Dagmar Hirtz answered: "As an editor collaborating with top-class directors, I learned a lot about staging stories. I gradually developed the desire to apply the experience I had gained while editing to my own independent creative work and to realize a story’s content and form according to my ideas. And I found the challenge of working together with actors, with a team of experts, very stimulating. An editor’s job is a very lonely one."
In the meantime, Hirtz has made 11 films for cinema and television. She does not write the screenplays, for she herself admits she is no author, but does consider it important to be involved in the development of the story from the first version of a script onwards. “I do not have what the Americans so aptly call ‘a storytelling mind’, but I do believe that I am a good script doctor. That has a lot to do with my experience editing films, which is the best schooling in dramaturgy.”
Hirtz´s latest film, Ich wollte nicht toeten, is about the search for truth and one’s own history. In this sense, it also takes up the theme of her previous film, Sie ist meine Mutter. Whereas the latter film was concerned with a Nazi past initially hidden from the members of a family, in her new work the history of the GDR represents a universal background overshadowing the individual’s life. The main character is a 30-year-old journalist who is tracking down a story that ultimately turns out to be her own. The personal story is defined by the historical one.
In Hirtz’s work – and she was certainly influenced by the political films of New German Cinema in its day – political issues are also social issues, like the mobbing of a policewoman (Der Tod ist kein Beweis) or a family therapist’s search for her own origins and her mother’s ambivalent embroilments during the era of National Socialism (Sie ist meine Mutter).
Asked to comment on the current production situation in German cinema and television, Hirtz says: “I think the development of German film is extremely positive. There are various young talents, and that leads to a similar diversity of films and themes. The state’s reaction is evidence that we have now reclaimed the value of German film as a cultural asset. Even though Germany television still has a reputation as being one of the best internationally, the quality is steadily sinking and with it the audiences’ and the makers’ standards. And the ‘cultural and educational task of public broadcasting’ is losing more and more ground. It is fatal to limit powerful expression and diversity within programming in order to benefit quotas. I am still lucky enough to find committed editors, for whom quality continues to be more important."
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