News from the Locarno Festival

Interview with Nele Wohlatz

Concorso Cineasti del presente

Nele Wohlatz



Nele Wohlatz, in El futuro perfecto a Chinese girl meets an Indian man. You are from Germany but you live in Argentina. And now we are in Switzerland, speaking English.

(She laughs) Actually I think that everyone had to learn a foreign language in a foreign country, once in his/her life. It is often a big issue, sometimes even humiliating. Actually the film is based on my experience from moving to another country (Argentine, ndr) and starting to live in a foreign language. At the very beginning we are put in the strange condition to speal our minds with the vocabulary of a 3-year-old kid. I then realized how learning another language is like rehearsing a theatre play: you need to recreate a new identity, to adapt what you are learning on textbooks for living a new life, just like putting a screenplay on scene. This connection is also the main idea of my movie.


You paid much attention not only to the content, but also to the form of your movie.

I tried to follow the path of learning a new language also from a formal point of view. At the beginning, each scene is shot only in one shot, in a very plane way, because as everybody knows when one begins to learn a language he/she knows only a few words, using mainly present tenses. Also, the visual informations are very reduced because I wanted to show the spaces in their essential function for a new arrived immigrant. Then, when Xiaobin's Spanish goes better, scenes assume a new dimension and go through hypothetical situations.


Where did you meet her?

In the language institute where I was used to teach German. I asked to meet some foreign students, and the most part of them was Chinese, then it was natural to choose somebody from that country. I did not want, however, somebody coming from a tradition similar to mine, that means from an European country. Xiaobin was perfect, because she was learning Spanish and at the same time I helped her to learn acting. It was a completely natural process, since the similarity between the two activities I was saying before. Xiaobin attracted me from the beginning, because of her story and of her presence in front of the camera. Also, she had a very essential understanding of acting. Then, it was a long process of developing.


What was the biggest difficulty you faced on the set?

The writing and rehearsing took about two years, because I had to find the right tone for Xiaobin's acting and we had to try out a lot of things. In the first year, I was giving her acting lessons, that at the same time worked like Spanish lessons to her, since the similarity between the two activities I was saying before. The second year I gave acting classes to all the Chinese Spanish students who wanted to participate, you saw them in the film. Once we found out the right tone for the acting and the dialogues, shooting was a pleasure. We started from the easier scenes, saving the most difficult ones for the end – a progression that helped us.


Mattia Bertoldi

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