“Bloodsuckers” Director Focuses on History of Soviet-era River Barge
Julian Radlmaier, who caused a sensation this year with his Marxist vampire satire “Blutsauger” (“Bloodsuckers”), is developing a romantic road movie on a river barge as his next project.
“Binnenschifffahrerin Birte” is an East-West love story that centers on an old housekeeper working in a West German hotel who fondly remembers her youth in East Germany. 1980s, when, as river barge captain, she experienced the one great adventure of her life: delivering an East German-made river barge to the Soviet Union.
“The GDR [German Democratic Republic] exported a lot of ships to the Soviet Union, ”explains Radlmaier. The film follows the skipper on her boat trip to Russia and on the Volga, where she meets a Soviet punk bassist. “It’s a love story, but through the events of the story they go their separate ways.” Still seized by the passion of her youth today, Birte tries to reconnect with her old love.
Radlmaier works with a friend to develop original 80s Soviet punk-inspired music for the film’s soundtrack. “The Soviet Union had a very good alternative rock scene in the 80s. It’s very interesting and quite unknown in the West.
He plans to shoot the film there in Russia and along the Volga.
Radlmaier says the film will mark a transition in his work. “It still has that socio-historical political context, but it will be a film more about personal emotions and less of a theoretical essay like the previous ones.”
The director admits that describing his latest photo, “Bloodsuckers”, wasn’t easy, especially when he showed it at Rotterdam’s CineMart co-production market in 2019.
The film, which premiered in Berlin and is now set at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, is not just a “Marxist vampire comedy,” says Radlmaier. “He has quite different levels.
Even before shooting the film, the project won Radlmaier the Golden Lola for Best UnFilm Screenplay at the 2019 Berlinale.
“Bloodsuckers” brings Karl Marx’s metaphor for the capitalist class to life as it spits both Western greed and Communist totalitarianism into a humorous satire that fits well with the German director’s strong suit. It follows works such as “Self-criticism of a bourgeois dog” in 2017 and “A proletarian winter tale” in 2014.
Radlmaier compares his screenplays to essays that combine different ideas and elements, from comedy and drama to philosophical and theoretical ideas. His works are also overflowing with political themes, past and present.
“Bloodsuckers,” he adds, asks questions about the crisis of capitalism, about gender, and about racist and right-wing movements.
Set in a seaside town in 1920s Germany, the film follows Ljowushka, a penniless Soviet refugee (played by Georgian actor-director Aleksandre Koberidze, a regular contributor to Radlmaier) who falls in love with a young woman. rich and enigmatic. As Ljowushka seeks to improve his life and social standing, he also begins to lose his moral compass. In some societies, says Radlmaier, moving forward often means doing things that are wrong.
He was inspired to make the film while reading “Das Kapital” by Marx.
“Marx uses a lot of Gothic metaphors because he wrote it in the 19th century, when it was very popular. So there are a lot of vampiric metaphors. (Indeed, ravenous capitalists, writes Marx, “drain the value of the labor of their workers to enrich themselves – just as supernatural vampires drain the life force of their victims to become stronger.”)
“I am interested in certain aspects of Marxist theory, which should not be confused with what we have known since the 20th century as state socialism,” says Radlmaier. “My personal biographical interest probably stems from the fact that I grew up in West Germany and the first historical event was the fall of the wall. He points out that his upbringing in conservative Bavaria contributed to his interest in Marx, noting that this tradition of thought was “something totally forbidden.” It’s the evil stuff.
This was clearly stated in the old Cold War-inspired textbooks still in use when he was growing up, which depicted the West as “colorful, there were little trees, there was the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the eastern part was just a uniform gray area, like the kingdom of Mordor or something like that.
His interest in history and politics grew after moving to Berlin, where he met many people from Eastern Europe and made new friends from Russia and Georgia. Providing more food for thought was a resurgence of left-wing ideas thanks to popular figures like Bernie Sanders and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and a new perspective that the Marxist tradition still offers potential and should not be sidelined entirely.
The promise of Marxism and the failure of communism – how the idea of creating a more just and egalitarian society turned into something of a nightmare in the 20th century – were central ideas in his works, explains Radlmaier.
Produced by Berlin-based Kirill Krasovski’s Faktura Film, “Bloodsuckers” also stars Lilith Stangenberg, Alexander Herbst, Corinna Harfouch (“Lara”) and Daniel Hoesl, whose documentary “Davos” is also screened at IFFR.
“Bloodsuckers” is sold internationally by The Playmaker (formerly ARRI Media Intl. And now part of Jake Seal’s Seal Group).