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At BIAFF 2012 AF-Film won  a 5 Star Award for Speechless (Sprachlos).

Watch Speechless here.

Would I notice if someone I knew were dead?

In the course of making a film it is vital to communicate regularly with your colleagues. Due to the fact that we live quite far apart from each other we need the aid of technology. E-Mail, chat, Skype, our own online forum and the good old telephone help us to coordinate all the steps of filmmaking. We owe a great deal to technology - it helps us to communicate. But isn't there a dark side?

The idea of Speechless arose quite coincidentally: you often hear or read about bodies lying undiscovered for weeks, months or even years in their apartments. This is obviously due to lack of social contact - always a very sad story. But that couldn't happen to you or me. Or could it?

That's where the inspiration came from. The simple question: what happens around such a dead body before it is discovered. And what would a movie about that dead body be like? Could there be any action, plot or dialogue?

By answering this question with "yes", we found our story - definitely not a classical one, so we had to think about it very thoroughly. Story development took us about nine months. At first we attempted to include a murder, a big revelation at the end, but it didn't work. So in the end we simplified it a lot.

We always knew that the camera would never leave the room where the corpse is and we had to find various ways of telling the story via elements in the environment of our dead protagonist. Elements such as a telephone or a computer - technology which is meant to simplify the means of communication. And there is a lot of communication with the dead corpse. Yet nobody realizes that their interlocutor is dead the whole time, because silence - the "speechlessness" can be a form of communication as well. That's the main idea of the film.

IM. Handy. Playlist.
Having such a different kind of a story made it very difficult to find an actor who was willing to play the leading role - a corpse. Lying on a table for about four days is certainly neither comfortable nor very rewarding for an ambitious actor. But our advertisement via www.crew-united.de - the best portal for any creative production in Germany - finally brought us somebody who shared our vision: Thomas Odenthal. We also had the help of the very talented Doris Schefer who played the ex-girlfriend and some excellent voice actors. And the son, Pietro Marion, was kindly cast by an agency specializing in child actors ( www.agentur-froschkoenig.de ). Thanks to all of these for their support!

Ex-girlfriend. Son. Body.
Being aware that during most of the movie there is no movement by any actor whatsoever we had to use other elements to tell the story. Every image has its own purpose and adds something to the story. We put a lot of effort into the search for certain images to show the passing of time for example. Soon we realized that food could rot and plants could die - so we started to buy food and kept it many weeks until it rotted. We also show a lot of details in the environment of the protagonist which reveal necessary background information. Image by image the audience puts the pieces together and learns the story of the corpse. One such piece is the son's robot toy which walks towards the audience at the beginning of the movie. Our character, being in a very depressed state of mind, expresses his desperate affection for his son by letting the toy walk. And at the same time the robot is a piece of technology.

ID. Family photo. Robot.
It was very important that all the images were filmed as interestingly as possible because of the absence of movement. That's the reason why we used a lot of heavy close-ups. Filming with the Canon EOS 5D we easily added a Macro-Objective which allowed extreme close-ups such as of the computer screen or of the toys - things you know pretty well but usually don't see from such a perspective. But we still had to add more entertaining elements, otherwise the movie would still have been boring. So we added a lot of sound effects (thanks to our professional helpers at www.formanten.de ) and some great, free music. The music showed the passage of time and provided a soundtrack we could use to establish the mood and orientate the editing. With so many still images the editing was of course key to holding the interest of the audience.

A lot of effort was put into the corpse. After some research concerning the actual phases of decay of a human body we were well aware of striking details like the change of colour, the distension of the body and of course a terrible stench. We soon realized that we couldn't reach these goals with our limited resources. Nevertheless we had the help of a very professional makeup artist, Nicole Durovic. We combined her excellent work with rather dark lighting, hiding most of the corpse in the shadows. Since we shot the film in a real apartment, we darkened all the windows and set up many light sources, some visible, some invisible, in order to have the same lighting conditions all day.

The stench was easily explained away by the ex-girlfriend having a bad cold. Even though this is a cheap excuse that is sometimes missed by viewers, the effect of the film is always as we intended: an uncomfortable murmur among the audience. Because as horrible as this ending is, it is within the range of possibility and the viewer realizes: would I notice if someone I knew were dead?

AF-Films are Adrian Copitzky, Felix Faisst and Frank Kayan
Film making is our calling.
Visit their website at af-film.de .

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Page updated on 30 July 2012
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