Nora Fingscheidt’s System Crasher premiered at the 2019 Berlinale in Berlin, Germany. The film was awarded the 2019 Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize. System Crasher (Systemsprenger) is an independent film directed by Nora Fingscheidt and stars Helena Zengel. The film is about an emotionally neglected 9 year old girl and her journey through the German Child Protective Services. While in Berlin, in our CineVino interview, we sat down with the director, Nora Fingscheidt and the film composer for System Crasher, John Gürtler.
Eric Stanford: Nora, where did your roots as a filmmaker begin?
Nora Fingscheidt: “Well, I was very interested in art and as a child, I wanted to be a painter. I also like music, but I figured out I am not talented very much in one certain direction. I couldn’t be a musician, I was too lazy to practice. I did okay.. I played cello and piano but it was not my passion. And I liked very much old paintings. When I was a child, when I went to the museum, I liked looking at them. But I wouldn’t draw for nights. But film, I really liked film and stories. And so, I don’t know.. There was this one point, when I was already in school, my big dream was to become a director. It’s just that I am not from a family with jobs that have to do with art. So, it was very far away. It was really absurd. It was like saying, “I want to be a pilot.” After school, I made my first short, here in Berlin, when I was 21 and then I realized I really like that directing is like, (Nora turns to John Gürtler) “Dirigieren, How do you say..?”
John Gürtler: “Conducting.”
Nora: “Like conducting. It’s not me doing the art. He’s making the music. I am just giving feedback and trying that it fits very well to the images. I am not doing the camera. I hate doing the camera, because I get too nervous that I am going to screw things on a technical level. But I have somebody that I trust. So, I hope it merges and fits and this is what I love so much about the job.”
Eric: Do you find yourself to be good at it?
Nora: “It is a difficult question, because I always see the mistakes in it. I like things about it, but I always see also the things that I don’t like about it. And that is sometimes an engine, and I have to keep it running. I had friends during film school, that would watch their own shorts, just for fun. And it was not understandable for me, because it was like torture. I don’t like to watch my own films, I feel uncomfortable. But, it gives me motivation for the next one. I think the next one, that is going to be the really good one.
John: “Nora is a perfectionist, but she is really good. And this is my experience with the directors I have worked with. To get people to cross a certain line of what they are good at, and reinvent themselves or do something new. There are certain people who will draw that out of you, with very high standards and passion and professionalism. They expect the same out of you. Nora is not someone who will change her mind ten times. If she says something, she means it. And if you have someone who you can actually trust, that they won’t send you around the block ten times to get the milk until it is rotten. Then that sort of challenge, and perfection on all levels is actually fine, or a lot of fun. That is when the passion of working for everyone, I think, really reaches a new level. And yeah, not everyone has a nice way of drawing it out of you or good way of drawing that type of energy out of you. So I couldn’t imagine a better person to work with in a movie. And to me that is the reason why the movie is here. It just makes sense.”
Nora: “What we tried, in all the aspects, in all the departments, to make the film a physical experience. Of course it is part of the camera, how close do you come to the subject at certain points. How much of the body do you see, like physical, skin, you see the girl, the body, the bruises and the scares. But also on the sound level.”
John: “Well, things that are basically to the human ear, you wouldn’t necessarily hear them, but you reinforced them.”
Nora: “Yes, or even push it up. Also, for the movements. Even sounds you wouldn’t hear normally, we tried to reinforce this physical experience, because there is something, like this physical energy of this child, it could drive you mad in way, but also what makes her so beautiful. Even very self destructive people have a certain beauty. So, that is what we tried to do.”
John: “Most of our heroes for example.”