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Amour Fou 2014

Amour Fou | Mad Love

Amour Fou-Mad Love

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About the Amour Fou 💬

''You think you want to live, but in fact you want to die.''

Jessica Hausner

Inspired by the real-life double suicide of renowned German author Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel in 1811, this exquisite period piece is a darkly humorous postmodern take on love, life, and death.

Berlin, the Romantic Era. Desperately melancholy poet Heinrich (Christian Friedel) is in search of a woman to join him in a suicide pact. Met by constant refusals, he finally finds a willing participant in well-to-do Henriette (Birte Schnöink) who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. The resultant negotiating between the pair degenerates into a wry comedy of manners. Spring-boarding off the actual events, auteur Jessica Hausner deconstructs traditional notions of romance while offering a cleverly layered chamber piece that is at once ironic and uniquely profound.


C.P.: Originally, AMOUR FOU wasn't even planned as a film about the joint suicide of Heinrich von Kleist and Henriette Vogel. Where did the project start?

Jessica Hausner: About many years ago I wrote a draft script about a double suicide for love. But I felt that what I had written was in some way not close enough to life and was too constructed. Then about I got it back out of the drawer and worked on it again. I still didn't like it, but then I stumbled upon an article on Kleist and Vogel in a magazine. What interested me about it was that Kleist had apparently asked several people whether they wanted to die with him - his best friend, a cousin and then ultimately Henriette Vogel. I found that a little grotesque. He gave this romantic, exaggerated idea of double suicide for love a banal, slightly ridiculous side. And that was what was missing from my old drafts. The ambivalence of that which we know as love.

C.P.: You mean: is double suicide an act of love or rather the expression of two egoistical situations? Could you say it like that?

Jessica Hausner: Yes, the image of a joint suicide for love is generally a very romantic one. I was interested in bringing things back to the shaky foundations of reality, in which even dying together is, in fact, each person dying separately. A pair, but not together.

P.B.: So what interested you wasn't the historical figure of Heinrich von Kleist, but rather the double suicide, and you wrote a free adaptation of that. Could you tell us where the freedom started and where it ended?

Jessica Hausner: The love portrayed in the film is relative and actually based on misconceptions. In that respect, the key part of Kleist's biography which interested me most was the fact that his partner in death was somewhat coincidental. For me, that's the hook of the whole film, and I have changed some of the details which may have been different in the biography a little accordingly, based on this point of view.

P.B.: That also includes the fact that Henriette was ultimately not ill?

Jessica Hausner: The 1811 autopsy report was analyzed again by modern doctors, and from a later perspective it is possible to say that at the time they believed it was a malignant tumor, but from a modern-day perspective that may not necessarily have been the case. It may also have been a cyst or a benign tumor, at the time they wouldn't have known. So the assumption that what she had wasn't even terminal is a justified one. So she wouldn't necessarily have died as a result. In that respect, I condensed the facts to form a particular truth. What I wrote or showed in my film isn't false, it's just exaggerated.

P.B.: What was the reason for her ultimately not being ill at all in your film?

Jessica Hausner: To bring the entire situation to the extreme. It's about a chain reaction of misconceptions.

C.P.: As a filmmaker, what made you consider making a film on this topic?

Jessica Hausner: To me, it's a paradox to think that you can ''die together''. At the point at which you die, you are inevitably alone, and death will always separate you from the other person. Like many others, this paradox interested me. It has to be said that AMOUR FOU is not a naturalistic story. It's not about a specific ''case'', but rather it's more a reflection or an ''essay'' on the subject of love as an ambivalent feeling. In one moment you're close to another person, you're one with that person, you understand one another, and in the next moment, you notice how misleading that is. The fact that at the same time you can have the opposite feelings for the person, who may not have loved you any more for a long time anyway.

C.P.: Reflection or ''essay''. That fits with Heinrich von Kleist in every respect. An author who frequently used real occurrences to determine the emotional and societal consequences. You just have to think of ''The Marquise of O.'', ''The Earthquake in Chile'' or ''Michael Kohlhaas''...

Jessica Hausner: Exactly. A specific example is used to showcase a general human situation. But for me, in all my films actually, but this film, in particular, it's not so much about a specific historical case but rather about the various different variants of an assertion, in this case, love.

C.P.: In AMOUR FOU, the highly elaborate dialogue borders on the absurd. It's absurd if a man simply turns to people and says ''would you be interested in taking your own life with me?''

Jessica Hausner: I was looking for a form that also had something artificial about it. So the story doesn't stick to the biographical facts - it's not a biopic - but merely based on an example. Géraldine Bajard, who worked on the script with me, and I developed it together in a sort of ping pong system. Dialogue, linguistic cascades which continue to increase. For example when Henriette is hypnotized and formulates a deep insight into herself in the most beautiful, complicated German, at the same time that's also a joke. Clearly, almost nobody would speak in such an elaborate way under hypnosis, right? I was also inspired by the great scene in Woody Allen's film 'Zelig' in which he is also hypnotized, and in response to the question of why he always takes on the shape of others says ''I wanna be liked''. He really hits the nail on the head. He simply tells the truth without beating about the bush. It's the same with us and Henriette Vogel, she just says what's wrong: she's worried about daily life.

C.P.: Obviously you've also studied texts from Kleist's time extensively to get this special tone right.

Jessica Hausner: It was reasonably lengthy and meticulous research, we read a lot of correspondence from the period. Diaries and so on. Obviously spoken language is not passed on, and with a diary or letters, you're as close as possible to dialogue. I transcribed some of the sentences I liked to practice the language. I also took some full sentences from Kleist's letters. Only a few stayed in as we worked on the scrip, but the linguistic style influenced it.

C.P.: Henriette Vogel - what do you think is special about this female character?

Jessica Hausner: Not a lot of material about her has survived. A few letters, a portrait or two of her. But I had the impression that if a woman allows herself to be seduced, under whatever circumstances, into committing joint suicide with a man, that indicates at least a certain passivity - that she may be easily led or swayed or at least that she appears to be. I am particularly interested in female figures who appear to be good at the start and then as the story develops you notice that they are contradicting everything you thought about them in a relatively stubborn, obstinate manner. At the start, a woman like that appears to be soft and nice, and then you figure out that she's squeezing her hands into fists in her pockets. Henriette Vogel was probably one of these types of women.

C.P.: AMOUR FOU is probably your most comic film to date, as strange as that sounds based on the topic. Could you see yourself making a real comedy in the foreseeable future?

Jessica Hausner: Well, what is a 'real comedy'? I like laughing about a realization. You laugh because you suddenly understand...

C.P.: A laugh of enlightenment?

Jessica Hausner: You laugh because you suddenly understand what a tiny speck you are in the universe, or how laughable some things are, and significant things suddenly crumble into the banal. It's also liberating in terms of coming to the conclusion ''okay, I recognize that I'm part of a big, fat nothing. What of it?!''

C.P.: A laughing grain of sand.

Jessica Hausner: Yes exactly, something like that.

Claus Philipp, born in Wels in 1966, was a film critic for many years and was later head of the culture section for the Austrian daily newspaper ''Der Standard''.

Amour Fou Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Jessica Hausner

Writing Credits

Jessica Hausner (Screenplay)

Géraldine Bajard (Dramaturgy)


Christian Friedel

Birte Schnöink

Stephan Grossman

Hana Sofia Lopes

Katharina Schüttler

Sandra Hüller

Sebastian Hülk

Alissa Wilms

Marc Bischoff

Nickel Bösenberg

Andreina de Martin

Paraschiva Dragus

Rosa Enskat

Holger Handtke

Peter Jordan

Vincent Krüger

Thomas Wehling

Eva-Maria Kurz

Barbara Schnitzler

Cornelius Schwalm

Gustav-Peter Wöhler

Marie-Paule von Roesgen

Christina Landshamer

Gerhard Gdowiok

Cinematography by

Martin Gschlacht

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Countries: Austria, Luxembourg, Germany

Amour Fou Official Trailer

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