A conversation between Christian Kracht and Frauke Finsterwalder

Like Frauke Finsterwalder's internationally acclaimed film Finsterworld, SISI & I begins as satire and ends in the deep abysses of the human soul. The screenplay for SISI & I was written by Frauke Finsterwalder and the writer Christian Kracht (Eurotrash, Faserland, Imperium). Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), who has won multiple awards, plays the leading roles as the lady-in-waiting Irma and Susanne Wolff (Styx) as Empress Sisi.

Excerpt from Sisi & I – The book about the film:

CK: There is a wonderful quote from David Bowie that you let Sisi use in your film: “The idea that everything will remain uncertain until the end is actually very beautiful.” What kind of process is it for you that tells you , something you have to pick up and use?

FF: Music is essential for me when thinking about a new film. Usually there is a song at the beginning. I heard T-Rex’s Cosmic Dancer, interpreted by David Bowie, and immediately thought: that’s Irma speaking. That’s how she has to be. And then I happened to read a Bowie interview in which he says this very sentence: “The idea that everything will remain unclear until the end is actually very, very nice.” It was already clear how the film would end for Irma. But to what extent is there a plan by Sisi behind it? To what extent does she drive Irma to take this step? And I thought: That’s exactly what Sisi has to say in this film.

CK: Sometimes afterwards it seems as if everything was possible exactly like that and that nothing happened by accident. So the lines from T. Rex to David Bowie, and then you also used a song by that forgotten Japanese rock band Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her and somehow it all belongs together and is related. All that is necessary is to follow the connections as if walking through a dream. And sometimes you don’t want to wake up in the dream because everything is so interesting and you’re just about to lift the veil to find out why everything is happening the way it is and not differently.

FF: Haha – yes. By the way, there is another Bowie quote in the film. I don’t think you know that because I tricked it in. It occurs twice in variations. Once Sisi says it to Irma and once the mother says it. In the terrible letter to Irma. It goes something like this: I put so much energy and time into this other person, and they into me. So that we have only exhausted each other. Bowie relates this to his failed marriage to Angie Bowie. There are many who find it strange that you and I work together, who find that one cannot work together with one’s partner. I can’t really think of anything better to write about. You put a lot of energy into each other in everyday life. But when it comes to working together, it’s kind of the opposite. It’s very easy. You are at eye level, you don’t have to prove yourself or hide.

CK: Yes, you like to crawl under barbed wire for hours and then face down through the mud because you know that’s how you’ll find the gold nugget. It’s also very simple: I need you because I can’t do it alone. Especially when writing the screenplay, I quickly come up against my own personal limits, which I may have set myself, but maybe that doesn’t belong here. But we talked about that before; it’s about speaking authentically. And when it comes to film, it’s very visceral. You said it before; you know within milliseconds whether it’s real and credible or not. And sometimes I’m afraid that you might find out that I’m actually quite inauthentic. But when you work together and produce something like a screenplay together, then at least for a while this fear is no longer there, because together you are putting something into the world that is beyond and above understanding.

FF: The most important thing in creative collaboration is that everything has to be allowed. The rule is: you should never laugh at a suggestion or roll your eyes or say: That’s not possible. But always pursue the matter, think it through, no matter how absurd or outlandish it seems to you. Never think about what goes down well, just say whatever comes to mind. I know that you would never judge me for an idea or a flaw in my thinking. Be unconditionally honest: yes. Getting annoyed when I use the words sloppily: yes. But you wouldn’t terminate my relationship because of an extraordinary idea. And neither do I to you. On the contrary, I’m happy that it doesn’t get boring with you. However, when I start directing at home, it gets on your nerves. Very.