ZWEI FRAUEN

SILENCE LIKE GLASS

DIRECTED BY:
Carl Schenkel
SCRIPT:
Carl Schenkel, Bea Hellman
ZWEI FRAUEN poster

The film, like Bea Hellman's novel, was based on her personal experience with cancer and tells of the relationship and psychological ups and downs of two young women who share a room in a cancer treatment clinic. In 1989 my only hospital experience had been at the 401 Army Hospital where, for a dislocated knee, they put my whole leg in a plaster cast. It was in 1968, when the junta as colonel Papadopoulos said, “put the whole country in plaster”.

In addition, the story ή is set in an American hospital, part of which, including the operating room, I had to build on a sound stage. Bavaria’s intention was to make a movie that no American doctor would notice was filmed outside the U.S. So I went to New York to get a close look at Mount Sinai and the NY-University Hospital, and the pediatric clinic of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Not only was the cast all American, the operation was done by a surgical team from the American Military Hospital in Munich. Fortunately I was able to consult them throughout the production for information and advice. At the end they brought their own surgical instruments to operate on the pig belly they had ordered, because as I learned, human tissue closely resembles the piglet’s. I also learned that hospital equipment and medical instruments are supplied by just a few German and American multinationals, which, probably due to BAVARIA, were very co-operative.

PLOT

PRODUCTION DESIGN

The clinic I had to set up developed into a battle of materials, budget, suppliers and ongoing dilemmas. I found two thick LEITZ folders, one with pictures of my research at hospitals and the progress of set construction, and the second with market research– then done without Internet –and correspondence with suppliers, budgets, offers and memos (not to write the whole deplorable word) to Bavaria, with which I had a peculiar relationship, something between designer, contractor and client. I had to co-ordinate its subsidiary "Bavaria Studios", which would build the bearing structure with manufacturers-suppliers of the partitions, stainless steel surfaces, panels, door and window frames and fittings, suspended ceilings, lighting, flooring, indoor and outdoor plants and finally glass frames, doors and surfaces. The client was the producer of the film, Bavaria Film Produktion, with which I had a contract to carry out the project within a specified time and budget, I have scanned a 12-page self-made, Lotus 1-2-3 budget for ASIDES, showing the full extent of my drama. In this phase the only help I had was from Bonnie Salzmann in New York, who would supply us with everything from pictures of the city for backdrops and electrical switches to coin-phones and signs for New York taxis.

SET CONSTRUCTION

DRAWINGS+SKETCHES

Glass, beyond its other literal and symbolic meanings, is a cold and transparent material, but may also reflect like a mirror. In spite of all that we decided to try it, not to illustrate the English title, but to have depth where there would be walls, and luminous surfaces at night. Before we arrived at the concept I made a few sketches for Carl, with whom I had worked only a couple of times on commercials. The most important thing was the agreement of Dietrich Lohman, director of photography and associate on several films, who certainly saw that he would face a lot of problems lighting the set. On the other hand my design forced him to have only two basic lightings: day and night, and perhaps some dusk with autumn foliage behind the balcony. This came at a cost because it would require a large number of lights on the ceilings, but it would save us a lot of time during the shooting.

WORK PHOTOS

FRAMES+STILLS

ASIDES

The specific asides could perfectly well be omitted: a set construction budget in German, an article about Martha Plimpton, and a frame from a close shot of Jamie Gertz, or a shooting schedule. I’ve digitized much of the material on this site, asides and others, so I'll be able to refer to them or just to have easy access if I ever want it, e.g., to remember what I did in the winter of '88, since my memory, despite the B vitamins, is playing strange games.