Hans Weingartner’s films focus on young people determined to make a difference, talking about and trying out ideas for a better world. The director and producer has not only shaped German-language cinema; he has also conquered silver screens around the world.
By Eva-Maria Verfürth
“You have too much money,” Jan, Peter and Jule scrawl on the walls of luxury villas in protest of the injustices of capitalism. While their activism doesn’t change the system, at least it instils a bit of fear in the rich “fat cats”. The three young adults are the central protagonists in Hans Weingartner’s 2004 feature film Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators), which has been shown in over 50 countries and is a cult classic in Germany. The issue of fairer world serves as the central theme that informs the Austrian director and screenwriter’s filmography.
Weingartner completed a degree in neuroscience before studying film at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. His final project was also his first cinematic success: the budget for Das weiße Rauschen (The White Sound, 2001) was small, so Weingartner shot many of the scenes in a students’ flat share. Just few years later, the film’s star Daniel Brühl, a relative unknown at the time, also took the lead The Edukators, which was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Weingartner’s latest film, the road movie and love story 303, opened in German and Austrian cinemas in 2018.
Director Hans Weingartner at the premiere of “303” | Photo: © picture alliance/Eventpress
Utopian visions of a more just world“I wouldn’t call it an expression of left-wing ideals. But I do feel driven to say something about the world,” Weingartner said in an interview. His films depict people thinking about a better world, discussing alternatives, and trying to make a difference. While the protagonists in the Edukators are ultimately unable to overthrow the capitalist system they despise, television producer Rainer, who tries to rid the media of the scourge of trashy television in the satire Free Rainer – Dein Fernseher lügt (Reclaim your Brain, 2007), is more successful. By the end of the film, his utopia is becoming a reality as lurid shows and soap operas all across the country give way to well-researched documentaries and educational and cultural programing. In the 2018 road movie 303, two students talk and argue about love, life and society while driving a motorhome from Berlin to Portugal. Weingartner sees it as the logical continuation of the Edukators, where the protagonists ultimately fail in their mission. “303 is kind of my attempt to say ‘let’s think this thing through again: where did we go wrong, and what principles do we have to change?’”
Social outcastsAlong with utopian visions and critiques of the system, Weingartner’s films also look at how we as a society deal with people who are mentally unstable. After his 2001 debut, the White Noise, in which the central character struggles with schizophrenia, Die Summe meiner einzelnen Teile (Hut in the Woods, 2011) focuses on a young mathematician suffering from psychosis. Critics were especially impressed by Weingartner’s “unusually empathetic perspective on mental illness” in both films.
In his own words“I just can’t believe how stupid humanity is, how determined we are to systematically destroy this planet. And honestly, it wouldn’t be that hard to come together and find a way forward. It’s like a giant brawl that breaks out at your local club: the entire clubhouse is being torn apart, but you can’t seem to stop. And the clubhouse ends up destroyed.”