One of the first articles we covered here at Twelve Cabins was on Lars Kemnitz’ BUNNY, a mysterious and beguiling short film that kept us gripped with its strange aura and ambiguous narrative. We then covered his follow up short Come Here, My Dear!, an equally brilliant and perplexing work which extended the mythology of his first short whilst maintaining its puzzling nature. Now we find ourselves here, today, premiering the finale of his trilogy ‘If You Had Known’, the perfect summation of Kemnitz artistic vision which begs to be interpreted in many ways. You can watch the film below and follow it up with our conversation with Kemnitz on the closing chapter of his triptych.
How did you want If You Had Known to differ from the other films in the trilogy?
The idea to turn these films into a trilogy was actually born during the process of making the second film Come Here, My Dear! originally. After making the first film BUNNY I did not think at all about continuing with the story. But then, when we shot the second film, it became obvious that there was enough potential for a trilogy. I even saw the need to add a closing chapter, because for me the second film does not serve as such. So, I started to think about what I would expect from a closing chapter and pretty soon quite a clear vision took shape before my inner eye.
I wanted to introduce a third character, a new one who becomes involved almost by accident. That is probably the biggest difference between the first two films and the third one. I wanted to introduce someone who has not been part of the BUNNY cosmos before, and who could be an emotional anchor. I thought the story would benefit from a character who is rather relatable in contrast to the other two characters who seem to have become increasingly heartless.
How did you develop the ‘plot’ of If You Had Known?
With these films there has never been a real plot as you correctly indicate. I have always been more interested in building a puzzle that consists of my many small pieces, but without knowing how to put them together in a proper way. Somehow I find pleasure in not knowing the truth myself, so I am not tempted to explain it. Even if I consider this the closing chapter of the trilogy, I wanted the ‘plot’ to be as vague as possible.
There are certain returning elements such as the briefcase, the pills, the mask—I even used a still frame from the second film as a postcard motif. I once again mixed these elements up in a new way. As a result some things feel familiar whereas others are more surprising. Most importantly, I tried to stay true to the inner logic of the cosmos I had created with the first two films. So, I always checked twice if the ‘plot’ makes sense to me in that respect. One element that appears for the first time and holds a special meaning for me is the book. I suppose it knows all the secrets, but instead of revealing them it keeps them hidden. The pages are blank and everyone is invited to write down her or his own version of the story.
It feels more melancholic than the first two films, was that intentional?
No, it was not intentional, it just happened. When I wrote the script I did not have the plan to make this last chapter more or less melancholic than the previous ones. But maybe because it is the last chapter, it turned out to have this melancholic undertone. I think there is a certain sadness as well. You can sense it in the behaviour and the actions of the characters. As if they know that everything has come to an end and they are about to disappear for good.
As you mentioned, despite it being a trilogy I really enjoyed how you continued with the ambiguity as opposed to offering a total sense of closure, what have been your favourite interpretations of these films?
Well, I think with this is the kind of film you force people to decide whether they like it or not. There is no in between. People came to me telling me that they couldn’t make sense of what they just saw. They did not find access to the film. But there were others, too, who saw things I had never thought about. For some people a lot of what is happening is only a product of imagination, taking place in the mind(s) of the character(s)—the key question here is where reality ends and imagination begins. I cannot deny that a certain percentage of the story told in these films is likely to be rather a dream or a hallucination than rooted in reality.
Another interpretation that appeals to me is that the mask itself is the reason why the characters act in increasingly strange ways. It seems to have some kind of power over them, making them execute commands. What I like about this theory is that the mask becomes the fourth character, the one we know the least about.
Once again I really enjoyed the subtlety of the score, what were you looking to evoke with it this time around?
I felt like this is a story that works best with a minimal use of music, so I focused on the sound instead to create the desired atmosphere. Accordingly, when there is music it is only to emphasise the moment, to give it some kind of impact. As with the last film, I once again had to strip my composition down to what it really needed to tell the story. The score is supposed to reflect the emotions of the characters and add to the overall feeling of uncertainty that runs through the film. But it is far from taking centre stage and thus leaves a lot of space for my cast to fill in with their performance.
What can we expect from now, post-trilogy?
Nothing is planned so far. That is because I wanted to finish the trilogy first, before thinking about new projects. And the limitations imposed by the pandemic right now make it even harder to come up with an idea that feels feasible. Towards the end of last year I was given an old 8mm camera (Regular 8, not Super 8) as a gift and I promised myself to find out how it works and to shoot something with it. So, maybe I will try that out in the coming months. There is also a short film project based upon a poem I wrote that involves a friend of mine. I guess we will dwell on it again once it gets warmer outside. I am already looking forward to spring and summer and to new inspiration.