My Brother’s Name Is Robert and He Is an Idiot press conference with Philip Gröning, Julia Zange and co-stars
The running time of a movie that deals with the notion of time itself was always going to be a talking point, and it was something that director Philip Gröning spoke about ahead of the feature’s premiere at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival. At 172 minutes, and dealing with some abstract themes, Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot undeniably requires an active commitment from its audience – not that this is a negative. Though it’s difficult to simply sit back and watch passively, this luminous-looking picture has its rewards. Julia Zange plays Elena, who spends a weekend largely sitting in a field with her twin brother Robert (Josef Mattes) as she prepares for a philosophy exam. The interdependent bond between the pair slowly cascades into an unexpected, dark place. The auteur talked about how the hefty running time was necessary to give an experience of time for the viewer, and to create a space for that experience.
In terms of his creative starting point for the project, Gröning remarked: “Each film is of course a piece of art in time, and a sculpture in time. And I think that time is what differentiates us from other beings in that we can feel time, and this was my inspiration.”
With regards to the need to explore time through a set of twins, the director stated: “They have their own twin time, one could say, and to leave that twin time is different. It’s more difficult for them to come out of that childhood than it is for other people, perhaps.”
But given that he’s made a movie exploring this concept, does Gröning have an idea of what time actually is? “Like most people in the last 150,000 years, I don’t have an answer for this, but it’s something I think about a lot. As people, I think we can only think in time. Even if we only think about two plus two equals four, this is already a chronology. We don’t think that anything can exist or happen outside of time, but what is exciting about philosophy is not the answering of the questions, but keeping the questions alive.”
German actress Julia Zange was tasked with some heavily philosophical dialogue, and it made its mark on her: “I think that there were a lot of things I identified with afterwards. There are a lot of very useful ideas about time. One of my favourite things was when they talked about hope being the basis of time, and this was something that really spoke to me. When you’re feeling absolutely hopeless, time seems to stand still. Time is a very individual experience.”
Mein Bruder heißt Robert und ist ein Idiot does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews and interviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival 2018.