Magnolia Pictures releases Leaning Into the Wind at Film Forum on March 9th, 2018.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How has the advancement in filmmaking technology affected you as a filmmaker since Rivers and Tides?
Thomas Riedelsheimer: With this film, I used several cameras which I did not use for Rivers and Tides. Everything got a little bit lighter and smaller. But basically, I'm still using a crane and a Steadicam which is now a Gimbal. I did films on 16mm for 15 years, so I think that my idea of filmmaking did not change a lot just because it's digital now.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How do you see your relationship with the audience as a filmmaker? What's more potent: images or words?
TR: What's interesting about filmmaking is to give a sensual experience to the audience. That's why I love the screen: they sit there and take their time & money to be in a dark room. The screen and the sound have a chance to suck people in and to make it an emotional film. I'm a cameraman, so I'm coming from the visual side very often. I don't trust words too much, so I think an image for me is much more interesting because it leaves more room for interpretation. Every single person in the audience takes their own baggage into the film and see these images. I'm trying to find the metaphor in images and to make it a sensual things---like being there.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think that nature and art reveal something about ourselves and humanity?
TR: Nature is one of the most interesting things for me as a filmmaker because it's this idea that we belong to nature. With nature, we see a part of something bigger and that's the first moment of what nature is for me. It make you humble and it makes you realize that it's not all about you. Nature just works; it works without you. It explains a lot. What Andy Goldworthy is trying to do is to understand the cycles of nature and to understand how we can live with nature. It's not about not using it. He's very much aware that people need to use nature. If you have a profound relationship with nature, you will probably not destroy it. With art, what I like about it is that it's a very interesting way to understand what's going on within yourself, others and society. I'm very much drawn into this world because it's so different from science and other approaches which is just much more profound for me---not every art and artist, but at least Andy, I would say is profound.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would it be fair and accurate to say that you're a humanist?
TR: Yes, I would say so. I love what humans can do and how they think. Filmmaking is all about humans and trying to be in relation with them and to understand them. I wouldn't like to make a film about someone that I don't like; it's always been a very warm idea of trying to understand a person. I'm really trying to understand Andy and what he's doing. By what he's doing, I understand what I'm doing with my own perception of the world. I have to say that I learned about him a lot and about filmmaking as well, so there's a lot of influence. I would say that humanism is quite a big role in that.
NYC MOVIE GURU: How did you decide what kind of boundaries to set between you and Andy Goldsworthy to not invade his privacy?
TR: In this specific case, there was something that I really wanted Andy to talk about and this is the separation and, finally, the tragic death of his wife, Judy. He was with her during Rivers and Tides and he didn't want to talk about that. It was not because of privacy or that he wouldn't trust me---he just didn't want people to make very easy conclusions. It's much more complex. I found that it's important for it to be in the film because his life in these 15 years changed. He went through something and I think that that had an effect on his work. So, we decided that he would have the last say at the end of the film whether I can use it or not and he talked about that. I totally accepted it and was happy about it.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Do you think we live in a shallow world? Is there a struggle to find spirituality?
TR: I guess, of course, it is. There is a problem with filmmakers to be able to do films like I do. I'm in a very lucky situation in that respect. I guess that more filmmakers would want to work like that, but if you start to make a living out of it, it's very hard. So I guess there is a kind of shallowness in the world, but if I look at my son and my daughter, there's a lot of interesting things coming up in this generation. They're not interested in money or working all day anymore. There's new ideas of how life can be like by sharing things and growing their own vegetable garden. So, I'm not sure whether it's shallow. Some things like television and maybe politics are shallow, but in people's minds, I would hope, there's always hope and this idea that this cannot be everything: there most be something more in life to find out about it. I have some hope in that respect.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Are we in a Golden Age of Documentaries?
TR: I think that there has never been so many opportunities to make documentaries. The equipment is cheap. There are tons of film festivals that can show the films. I wouldn't say that we're in a Golden Age of Documentaries because a lot of the documentaries that are co-produced with TV, there's not a lot of time going into the work. They're pretty fast-made most of the time. There are always great films and filmmakers, but I wouldn't call it a Golden Age of Documentaries---at least not in Germany. Maybe it's a different thing in the US and the UK, but in Germany I would hope that a lot more time and thoughts are given to the projects. Leaning Into the Wind took 3 or 4 years to come about, so time is an essential thing for me in creativity and in filmmaking. This is not something that is easy to have nowadays.
NYC MOVIE GURU: Would something be lost by watching Leaning Into the Wind on the small screen?
TR: Yes. It's not just about the image; it's about the sound and idea. What I like about the cinema is that it's like a theater. It's a space and also where people are around you. I love to be in the cinema where a film is shown to realize whether it gets silence or laughter at the right spots, so you really realize how the film has a grip on the audience. Big screens and good speakers are also nice things, but I'm a bit old-fashioned and think that Leaning Into the Wind should be watched in the cinema.