Benjamin Stromberg

I also place myself into the service of art

Interview with Director Benjamin Quabeck

“Actually I consider myself as a storyteller”, says the German movie director right at the beginning of our conversation. Except of cine films Quabeck has told his stories also in video clips, television serials and audio dramas. “The purpose of all my works was to address the unconscious of the audience and to catch them in their profoundness; to tell a story which builds up on many flats and which catches the audience in the lower flats. I wanted to turn some psychological set screws without considering myself a puppeteer. This is a mistake that is done by many people who want to tell something in a psychological way: They think they master the audience and can manipulate them. Right after the motto: “I know exactly how you guys are like”, but that’s not my point.”

Everyone who deals with Quabeck and his work recognizes quickly that his passion is the constructing of stories and this is not specific to any kind of medium or genre. First he wanted to become an actor but after a while he realized that he felt more comfortable behind the scene: “I wanted to pull the strings and to control the outcome.” Planning plays an essential role for him although it’s not an incontestable instrument: “I always have a concrete plan referring to the visual and acting implementation. I know exactly how it works for me. ”Although he has a certain imagination of the outcome he is open minded to spontaneous changes. Quite the contrary he considers that those changes are very important for building his stories. In this case intuition plays a special role. “You should not just work off your plan. The great movies develop if the directors perceive inconsistencies and take their freedom to then do it in a different way. The storyboards’ accuracy doesn’t matter here. Something is starting to resist. That can happen while writing and also while making the movie. You feel that something is wrong and either you have the power to listen to your feelings or you leave it in aspiration. This differentiation is the most difficult thing.”

For this reason the abdication of some elements, which might seem crucial, is also an important topic for the artist: “Of course it is also possible that you take wrong decisions or that you cramp on something needless which doesn’t work. Often you don’t realize the best scenes until editing. Also angriness can help in the cutting room because it preserves you from vanity and mistakes by laziness. Rather it happens in the cutting room that you take risky decisions that can surprise you as well. Ultimately you subordinate yourself to something major; in the hope to make a film that persists.” Quabeck always tries to implement this subordination collectively. Although the director is technically the head of his team this hierarchy doesn’t play an important role in his eyes: “My first value of leadership is not conducting in a vain way. All participants shall perceive that I place myself also into the service of art. This attitude means a release to many people because they realize that I don’t care too much about myself, so they do neither. I don’t permit myself any hubris.” Nevertheless he is not compliant at all and focussed on his objectives: “I am very accurate and concentrated. After the film shoot I can name precisely what I liked and what I didn’t like. It is also possible that I become louder when I notice that things don’t go well because of missing concentration or grubby work.”

This mix of purposefulness, concentration and intuitive flexibility seems to be his formula to break out of established structures. “In principle one moves in a pitched field which one tries to expand in order to create something new. At the moment when I want to tell a story I have to transfer the story into a certain universe. This universe is built up in layers. Sometimes one changes some elements […] whereby one finds other ways and conflicts. Thus you can show the people some things that they didn’t know before.”

The complete interview with Benjamin Quabeck in German language


Text by Benjamin Stromberg.
The interview was conducted by Dirk Dobiéy on 06/11/2014.
Image source: Benjamin Quabeck.

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