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Austrian small time crook Johnny Pichler meets a dubious 'businessman' at the Slovak border to hand over a wad of cash. Things do not go as planned and suddenly Johnny is on the run with callgirl Shirley, the money and the gangster's Cadilliac. After several fruitless attempts to sell the car, Shirley dumps Johnny, who has hopelessly fallen in love with her. Based on an address on a photo, Johnny decides to search for her in Lviv in the Ukraine. Written by
Armin Ortmann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There is something special about a month in which two full moons appear. `Blue month' was the term Johnny Pichler's grandmother used for this unusual occurrence, and neither of them suspected the significance this bit of folklore would take on for him years later. A close look will reveal a faint rounded shape between the clouds at the beginning and the very end of Andrea Dusl's first feature film Blue Moon; it signifies the period of time between Johnny and Jana's two magical encounters.
Blue Moon is the story of how a longing was satisfied and a continent discovered: a journey to the unknown East, into a nearby world hidden behind the Iron Curtain which had led a separate existence in its own bizarre exoticism for decades.
Director Andrea Dusl witnessed the opening of this new world from its very beginning, she told Karin Schiefer. As soon as it was possible to cross the border without a visa, she began taking off in the direction of Bratislava, going a little farther eastward on each trip. `It was fascinating,' she remembers, `entering an untouched world which worked according to a completely different set of laws. There were people there like you and me, but the stores sold different things, the people had different desires and different paradises in their hearts.' The idea of compressing the story of this new country and the resulting feelings into a film became more compelling with each trip, and Dusl had a highly unconventional idea with regard to the form. Eighty two-minute fragments resembling commercial spots, which she planned to finance herself, would be released under the title Around the World in 80 Days. `After six episodes,' said the filmmaker, `I realized I would have to do things differently, I crammed all the stories into a single film, and that's how Blue Moon was made.'
On the Trail of a Mysterious Woman
Johnny (Josef Hader) first meets Jana (Viktoria Malektorovych) as she accompanies a shady Slovakian wheeler-dealer near the Austrian border. She saves Johnny from a dangerous situation and runs away with him. The two characters without a past briefly come closer before she disappears just as suddenly as she had appeared the day before. Armed with a strip of photographs of Jana stamped Lviv, a city in Ukraine, Johnny begins hitchhiking eastward on the trail of this mysterious woman. In Lviv, he chances upon a taxi driver who is apparently Jana's sister. A game of hide and seek begins, sending the two on an emotional odyssey which violates the rules and regulations of the enigmatic Eastern world before the rise of the second full moon.
The story of the blue month and brief childhood memories which Johnny relates in a voice-over is the only information provided about the protagonist's past. `I wanted,' according to Dusl, `to remove my hero from his place of origin and make a completely different person out of him. That's what makes uprooted people such interesting characters, they're the only ones who can have really new experiences. My Johnny's actions in the present also tell us about his past.' Expressing himself, regardless of the language, was never one of Johnny's talents, and so a video camera becomes a kind of substitute and an instrument of reflection and communication. The resulting interplay of alternating film and video sequences creates a narrative tension between the objective and subjective views of the protagonist's experiences.
Naive and literally speechless, Johnny gropes toward the vague goal of his desires, all the way stumbling into the traps of an unknown world. However he does manage to save himself each time and quickly learns to use the new rules to his own ends. The director allowed the misunderstandings, and even more the complete lack of understanding, to remain part of this meeting of East and West in untranslated sequences in Ukrainian and Slovak. `We're all,' in her opinion, `so mired in constant comprehension. Everything is translated and subtitled. But I wanted some things not to be understood. That's the way it happens in real life: The misunderstandings which result from not understanding something are the salt of memory.'
Josef Hader, who plays Johnny, spent a few weeks putting the finishing touches on his character with the director and screenwriter. `It was very atypical,' remembers Dusl, `because Josef, in an excellent way, is not an actor. His work method is extremely spontaneous and impulsive, there was always something new, exciting and unconventional in a positive way.' And a second dream candidate was convinced: Detlev Buck, chosen for the part of Ignaz Springer, a wily East German with no visible means of support, joined the team after reading the screenplay and meeting his Austrian counterpart just once. Solely the female lead required casting in Kiev.
Traps of an Unknown World
Viktoria Malektorovych, already a star in Ukraine, conveyed precisely the power and vulnerability Andrea Dusl put into the character of Jana. For her role as a taxi driver who lost her entire family at the age of 17 when a ferry went down and who worked weekends for an escort service to make some extra money, Malektorovych learned her German lines by heart and even signed up for courses at a driving school. The fact that Odessa was chosen for the story's conclusion is in part due to the rapid changes which have followed the opening of the East. The images created in the screenwriter's head during her many journeys required constant adjustment, and were sometimes discarded as they could no longer be realized. `In the beginning,' according to Dusl, `southern Poland alone was so absurdly exotic, but now Cracow looks like Florence and has lost everything of this sunken world.' But in Odessa she found a place which had retained its magic. dessa,' continued the director, `makes one think of a place which marks the end of the world. A place where you can go no farther without getting on a ship or jumping into the ocean.'
In the first scene Jana, alone with her suitcase on rollers, descends the legendary staircase in Odessa. `I realized,' explained Dusl, `that I had to use the stairs. Everybody knows them because that's where Eisenstein shot the famous scene with the stroller, the soldiers and citizens of Odessa. It's a legend which has taken on its own life. I reduced it to what it really is, a connection between up and down. When Jana goes down them, it's like crossing a border. The stairs are for me like crossing the Iron Curtain. Standing on a staircase can change your perspective.'
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