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November 13, 2008 11:40 AM
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indieWIRE INTERVIEW | Dreaming Kawabatas: "House of Sleeping Beauties" Director Vadim Glowna

A scene from Vadim Glowna's "House of the Sleeping Beauties." Image courtesy of First Run Features.

Based on Yasunari Kawabata's novel, Vadim Glowna's "House of Sleeping Beauties" follows Edmond, a man in his sixties whose wife has recently passed away, and who is told about a secret establishment where men can spend an entire night in bed alongside beautiful, sleeping young women who never awaken. The German film is being released stateside by First Run Features, and opens at the Quad Cinema in New York this Friday, November 14. indieWIRE talked to Glowna about the film and its U.S. release.

What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?

My first feature film was "Desperado City" about my youth in Hamburg-St.Pauli where I grew up. It was a hommage to these people in my beginning about that redlight-district, the prostitutes and pimps, the harbour and the Beatles, the gangsters and the kids who learned their first important lessons on the street. The film won 1981 the "Camera d'Or" at the Cannes Film Festival and many others. My second film "Nothing Left To Lose" was shot 1983 in El Paso, Texas. About two Jewish families who escaped Nazi-Germany and got stuck somewhere in the desert and never made it to California.

As an actor, I appeared in more than 160 films. In the US the most popular and known film might be "Steiner - The Cross of Iron" by Sam Peckinpah. He was a great master to me and I learned a lot working with him. Maybe in some ways I'm obsessed like him to do films and live.

As an actor you are challenged with every part you get offered. One of the most difficult roles I did was Johann Sebastian Bach in "My Name is Bach" or "Jagged Harmonies". I'm not a musician so I had to learn instruments the hard way. A coach teached me for more than half a year to learn piano, spinett, organ and flute. Day by day because I was so ambitious to make possible that the camera could pan from my fingers to my face and back to give a convincing impression that I handle the instrument really by myself.

How did the idea for "House of Sleeping Beauties" come about?

A friend gave me Kawabatas' novel "House of the Sleeping Beauties" to read. I immediately thought what a strange and touching story about eroticism and death, about love and guilt, a desire for forgivingness and redemption, about transitoriness and loneliness. A subject so rich in all human facettes. I was dreaming along in the character and fate of Edmond.

Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film...

When I told Raymond Tarabay, my business partner and managing director, the story, he loved it and agreed and we decided to work on the film right away. From the idea to the first day of shooting it took only 2 and a half months. I didn't ask anybody to coproduce because I knew people in the business would say I'm crazy again. I put my own money in it.

It was clear that I couldn't translate Kawabatas novel one-to-one into a European way of viewing or feeling. Japan is a very specific cultural circle of culture with a different grown society. So I renounced to take most of Kawabatas memories und put instead stories and episodes of my own life into the script.

It was daring and I wouldn't recommend other filmmakers to go the same way. But when you are so convinced of what you have dreamed of then you have no way out then you have to do it, also to convince an audience.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the film?

One big challenge was the financing but I was lucky to gather most of my friends and technicians I worked with in the past for little money or on deferrement. Another problem was to find the cast of the young beauties. Because the young women had to expose themselves completely. First I was afraid I had to cast ladies from the porn business but then it turned out that a lot of actor students were interested because they liked the script and they trusted me. These young ladies are working now on stage and in films in Germany and internationally.

What is your next project?

Right now I'm working on a project called "Che is Alive". The killing of Guevara by the CIA in the Bolivian jungle 1967 was a fake, they needed him for other purposes.

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