|Producers||Maria Köpf, X Filme Creative Pool GmbH, Emmanuel Benbihy, Novem Productions|
|Shooting period||6 to 9 August 2002|
|Location||Paris, 10e arrondissement|
|Production||X Filme Creative Pool as part of the compilation project PARIS, JE T'AIME|
|Premiere||12 February 2004 (supporting programme for "Love in Thoughts")|
|Distribution||X Verleih AG|
by Peter Cowie
True was initiated as a contribution to a portmanteau production, in which various directors were meant to respond to the mood and character of a different “quartier” of Paris. The project stalled, and Tykwer, having elected to do the 10th district, decided to press ahead with the story he had written about a blind student and a budding American actress. Shot in English and French, True makes the most of its locations in Paris.
The blind student is played by Melchior Beslon, who was so arresting as Otto in The Princess and the Warrior. Although it strikes us as unlikely that someone so handicapped could dash so fast through the streets of Paris, Beslon is genuinely blind in real life. His gestures and voice are compelling, and have a sensitivity that helps us empathize with his condition. Natalie Portman, well known from Léon and the recent Star Wars movies, serves as a perfect foil for Beslon. Like Run Lola Run, the film is a kinetic riff on the theme of destiny, and misunderstandings in love. The best part of True is a glorious cadenza of accelerated images, as the student recalls the relationship he has had with his girl friend. In less than three minutes of screen time, novelty becomes routine, ecstasy becomes boredom, rifts and solitude appear inevitable – until the final twist, which turns the joke on the audience. Once again – and with obvious pleasure – Tykwer has created a couple who race in tune with life, challenging their karma at every turn.
A telephone rings. Thomas starts and feels for the receiver. He is blind. The loud voice of a woman sounds down the telephone. It is Francine, his girlfriend. She tells him she's going to leave him. The receiver drops back onto the cradle. In a storm of images, his thoughts race through memories from the time they met to the moments of greatest intimacy and the moments of the little mistakes which lead to people becoming estranged from one another. But Thomas gets another chance.
Unit Production Manager
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Line Producer Paris, je t'aime
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Writer / Director
First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director
Third Assistant Director
Assisstant to Tom Tykwer
Director of Photography
2nd Unit Camera
2nd Unit Focus Puller
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Assistant Art Director
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Music composed by
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Making of equipment
Klaus Flesch, Film Kontor Services
Mel Gee Henderson
Yann Le Borgne
Jean Yves Peron
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Bettina von den Steinen
Maryse Saint Maur
Pierre Yves Gayraud
Gabriel Isaac Mounsey
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Creation of the Film
Why is it that you talk about "True" as a liberation?
When I took on this project, I was going through both a major creative, and personal crisis. I was exhausted and full of doubt. "True" was my resuscitation therapy. I wanted to see if I could still do it, and if I still had anything to say as a filmmaker - and if so, what?
The offer was to tell a short story about one of the Parisian arrondissements.
There were two prerequisites: You had to shoot in one of the Paris suburbs, and it had, somehow, to be about love. My personal situation at that time was such that I thought 'I have no idea about love, only about the end of love.' So I decided I'd have to make a film about separation. A personal, almost private film which crosses all the borders I would usually defend. Because it deals very specifically with conflicts, which were virulent at that time for me. I did nothing but translate a personal experience of separation into another story. I was stuck in a retrospective confrontation with a relationship and a period of my life. And dealing with it in an artistic way, suddenly helped me to discover places, which I'd overlooked until that point. I found a couple of answers that I'd been refusing myself the whole time. I was also still carrying the experience of "Heaven" around with me.
How would you describe that experience?
In some way, it was a monstrous event. When I started "Heaven", I thought, what can go wrong, huge parts of it are chamber drama. But we shot according to American standards, and that was new for me. There were episodes such as me shooting a scene in a room where Cate Blanchett was making a bomb. I was in the room with the cameraman Frank Griebe, the lighting man, the sound man and the assistant director, then I looked down at the call sheet and saw 243 people listed and wondered where they all were. Why 243 people? We were only shooting a character in a room, and she wasn't even speaking. But it was an American star film, and there are certain things which one has to accept. They don't really bother me, but I've realised that the superstructure is not necessary. I still wanted to be in a position to make a film where I could develop a different kind of spontaneity and speed, but it just isn't possible with an apparatus like that.
So that became the plan for "True"?
Yes. Frank Griebe, who has been my cameraman since the first short film, was an important liberator in that sense, because he was the one who said 'Yes, let's do it.' Let's film something completely differently. By that time, he'd gathered experience with other filmmakers and was getting pretty experimental. And I wanted to make a film which would put the stream of memories on to the screen, in the sense of Godard's filming the passage of thoughts. To capture the stream of memories in a very short, compact, shocking film. I wanted to depict the shock of a separation, which the film is about, like a little death. A moment in which one's whole life, - no, one's whole love - speeds past one again, and one sees what was important in it and what wasn't.
Subjective recognition of the way it was, the way one was, and what happened, filters through the sum of the images.
I wanted to show this process in "True". It was, of course, a completely extravagant venture, because we only had a little over 100,000 euros to make the film. Maria Köpf, the producer had said "come on, let's just do it." And I thought, it could be my anchor. I definitely wanted to have young actors who had an aura of "everything is still possible". People from whom, on the one hand, one buys the idea of a new beginning, but who can also transport a depth, which is rarely the case with young actors. I wanted them to already understand something very fundamental about love. And Natalie Portman, who I had long admired, was capable of it.
Can you describe her qualities in more detail?
She is one of those young actresses who has you wondering how she knows so much about what it is she's playing. And how come she is so self-confident with certain looks and their possible meaning when she is so young and can't have had the opportunity to gather the experience yet. But she is one of those strange phenomena that actors sometimes are. They have this subconscious knowledge of human life, and are ahead of us all. They already know everything actually, and it makes them old, although they are really still young. Franka Potente is another such actress. And it's weird because you can work with a physical form which promises something completely different, but can still incorporate the twenty extra years you have notched up in life. The same can be said of Melchior Beslon, who can't achieve this through his eyes, however, because he's blind. But through his blindness, he has an unbelievably intense cosmos of experience. He is an incredibly intense person, because he needs ten thousand times the amount of attention that we need to monopolise the world for himself. The two of them were an explosive team, and I thought that they might even be able to get across what symbolises an entire life for me, in just ten minutes.
A tall order.
I nearly died before the first day of the shoot, because I was thinking, how am I going to do this? And I did everything wrong in the first twenty minutes. I honestly didn't sleep the night before, and at some point I stopped trying, so I just lay there thinking 'If I can't do this now, then I really can't do it any more.' It was totally ridiculous to put myself under so much pressure. This pressure is in the film, as is the liberation which eventually came. And it really was a liberation. We proved to ourselves that everything is possible. Behind the camera, Frank Griebe was totally free from all dogmas, no setting up, no pre-lighting, nothing. We had a team of ten or fifteen people, and we ran through the city, just went into places and filmed. Of course it had been organised up front, we had reserved places and so on, but we could just go in, sit down and off we went.
And the actors pulled it off?
They didn't have a choice! The camera was already running when focus was being pulled, and that was the only preparation there was. And they were given instructions like 'jacket on, other jacket on' or given a quick ruffle through the hair, a new hairstyle in a maximum three seconds as we ran from one location to the next. Make up was touched up whilst the camera was already running. They were jumping in and out of emotions. One moment Natalie was crying her eyes out, then ten minutes later there was a laughter scene, and then both actors had to jump into a swimming pool, and ten minutes after that we were in an apartment where we'd set up a bed to shoot a sex scene. It was like being a little intoxicated, which was very liberating - both creatively and emotionally.
The words which Natalie speaks to Melchior at the beginning sound like the words of a real separation. Are they biographical?
No. Not at all. For this moment of saying goodbye, I deliberately looked for something prosaic, because it was also supposed to sound a little unreal right from the beginning. People were meant to think it sounds thought up. When you're really in the process of separating, you look at yourself from the outside and think, 'are we really doing this now? Are we really splitting up?' You look in from the outside, whilst you're plummeting into the abyss. My separations were always very different to that in "True". For example, I have never split up with anyone on the telephone. You can't really do that. But the feeling which is described in the film is very familiar to me.
Yet there is - we have to give this much away - a happy ending.
For me this is a kind of obligation in cinema. I think even if reality can't always offer a happy end, it has to be an option in cinema. Even in this short film, we went through a whole lot, and saw the two characters move through all the pits and troughs. And I think that in cinema, you can still decide how it should continue. We all know that in reality, it might not continue. Although there might have been a possibility because the man in the film recognises his mistakes. We rarely get this chance in real life, but in cinema I always tend to give one character the chance - after all, it's no coincidence that cinema is sometimes referred to as the wish machine. I believe we can confront all manner of hardships in cinema, but we should also sometimes be able to give a little comfort. I'm not suggesting that it be used as a means of therapy, but it is a place which gives one hope and opens new possibilities and chances through inspiration and reflection. That's how I want to see it. I don't want to become demotivated in life because of cinema.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung