Premiering at the Venice Film Festival on Thursday, director Julia von Heinz’s “And Tomorrow the Entire World” tracks a first-year law student’s growing engagement in a Mannheim-based anti-fascist collective. Scion to a conservative and aristocratic family, the young Louisa (Mala Emde) seizes left-wing agitation with a convert’s zeal, pushing her fellow activists to take a series of drastic measures in order to combat far-right violence. With the term “Antifa” becoming a catchall boogeyman for right-wing governments worldwide, this grounded Venice competition drama couldn’t be timelier.
Variety spoke with the director ahead of her film’s premiere.
What was the impetus for this film?
In the 90s, when we saw the first neo-Nazis in Germany, I was a very politically engaged young woman. Then I became a mother of three, I became a director, and I worked a lot. I always looked for possibilities to use my work to stay political. This offered such a possibility. As a filmmaker, I still want to have a voice in that dialogue.
What do you think draws the main character, who comes from a very different background than her fellow activists, to the cause?
There’s always a bunch of motivations when people join a group like this. Louisa comes from quite a privileged home, and she might feel guilty about it. She feels even guiltier when she notices that [she’s spared] from police attention. Her friend tells her that nothing can happen to her, that she’s safe thanks to her parents. Because she feels she must prove something, she goes further [than her peers]…
On the other side, there’s also the political motivation. She sees the rising fascism, and the connection between the neo-Nazis, the police and the army, which is also a strong motivation for her. And we see that left-wing groups can offer young people a kind of family.
Are you concerned about the growing agitation against antifascist groups?
My biggest worry is right-wing violence. If you saw pictures of the Reichstag last Saturday, or think back to the Synagogue shooting in Halle. We had nine people killed. I’m so much more afraid of those people than I am of Antifa…
So I think it’s so dangerous that politicians try to criminalize it. We need antifascist voices! So how can they criminalize these people? I hope to show that they are not criminals; this film shows that they are very different from violent Nazis.
In some scenes you parallel the senses of community both the far-right and far-left groups find with one another. Could you tell us about that choice?
I wanted to show the parallels, and to show that they couldn’t be more different. At the left-wing center we see people of all natures and backgrounds, we see queer people, people trying to make the world a better place. They sing an old partisan song about fighting Nazis. Of course, we very consciously chose to show another center, and another bunch of people singing a song. But what you see there is hate. There are only white people, people with connections to weapons, people [we’ve seen do disgusting acts earlier in the film]. And they’re all singing a song that is totally against humanity. So they do the same, but it’s so different.
We see that in Germany today. They are so convinced that they are the resistance, that Merkel is the Stasi. What’s frightening is that they are very united; I strongly wish that left-wing groups could unite like that as well.
Could you tell us about the film’s tight focus, where the camera stays fixed to Louisa’s point-of-view?
We were very strict about that concept, and thought about it a lot. We hoped that this would help viewers identify with Louisa. With my camera operator, we developed the concept that it would be like a third-person-shooter video-game; you only see what the character does as you walk with her. We only have her perspectives, we move with her, and we focus on her, and how she reacts. There is only one objective view, where she is very small in a wide-shot. It’s at a moment where she’s lost her strength, so I chose that shot to say that now we don’t know what to do. She feels small and powerless [and the shot reflects that], but then she strengthens up again and we resume.
In recent years, filmmakers like Maren Ade, Nora Fingscheidt and yourself have represented German cinema on the festival circuit. Do you think there’s a new wave of German female directors?
I’m part of the Pro Quote Regie movement, as are many of those directors. We fight for parity in Germany, so that women can direct half the films made here, which is far from the case right now. Sometimes I feel that because there are so few of us, we have to be twice or even 10 times as good. We talk so much with each other, and try so hard to make good and important work, so perhaps you can feel that energy in the films.
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