– The directorial duo enlighten us about society’s responsibility to reprimand the rich

Daniel Hoesl, Julia Niemann • Directors of Veni Vidi Vici

(© E Okazaki)

The feature Veni Vidi Vici [+see also:
interview: Daniel Hoesl, Julia Niemann
film profile
]
celebrated its world premiere at this year’s Sundance, in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, while it will also screen in the Harbour strand of IFFR. Produced by two iconic figures in contemporary Austrian cinema, Nikolaus Geyrhalter and Ulrich Seidl, the film by Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niemann is a biting social satire about a rich family getting away with shocking crimes.

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Cineuropa: Were you inspired by real events or real people?
Julia Niemann:
We follow the money, so to speak. After WiNWiN [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Daniel Hoesl
film profile
]
came Davos [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Daniel Hoesl and Julia Niem…
film profile
]
, and now comes Veni Vidi Vici. Over these many years of research, we met a guy who’s a billionaire and lives in Vienna. We were short on money for WiNWiN, and we asked him to lend us some. He did. We met him in his villa, where he lives with his children, and the atmosphere was very peculiar.

Daniel Hoesl: They were wearing princess costumes and tiaras. We met the mother, who was walking around barefoot, and there was a nanny. Overall, it seemed a very nice family life. Then the butler crossed the atrium, with a rifle in both hands. He was preparing for the next day, when the guy was going to Namibia to hunt in his private hunting grounds. This was the trigger for me to write the script. Moreover, from my experience as an assistant director to Ulrich Seidl, it has become very important for me to do profound research. Together with Julia, and also before that, I started meeting rich or super-rich people, aristocrats, industrialists and politicians, just to be able to talk to them, get anecdotes and get to know them. And the good thing about Austria is that it’s a small country, so it’s not hard to get in touch with these people.

What were the most important elements that your characters needed to have?
DH:
What we wanted to show is that if you have enough financial means, you can get away with anything. People told me anecdotes about what they did and how they got away with it.

You seem to teeter between fascination and repulsion towards this power. Is that how you would describe it?
JN:
I wouldn’t call it fascination; I would say it’s some kind of sympathy for the devil, in a storytelling sense. We will never be part of this social class, and we don’t aim to be, but it’s good that we have access to these people and that they trust us. Some of them also read the screenplay for this film and agreed that that’s how it really is. Of course, the film is a metaphor, and they immediately understood that because super-rich people actually know full well what they are doing. And what we are doing is letting them get away with it.

DH: We are definitely fascinated by the ambition for power and the power they actually have. This film is kind of a call for action because it’s in our hands to change things.

But the movie ends on a rather pessimistic note, doesn’t it?
DH:
I don’t read it as pessimistic; I read it as a call for action. At the end, you have to be so frustrated that you will get your arse up off the sofa and do something actively. And we have really reached that point now as a society. 

JN: It’s a wake-up call. There are many films lately that follow the logic of “eat the rich”. And maybe they feel more positive than Veni Vidi Vici because for 90 minutes, you may have the impression that you can also do it – eat the rich. But that’s just an illusion. Our film is more like “the rich kill you”. It doesn’t feel good for 90 minutes, but in the end, you might feel a little more motivated to do something to fight back against it.

Is this also the reason why you chose hunting as your main motif?
DH:
Our main character does it for his work-life balance. While other people do yoga, he goes hunting. It’s really a sport for him. But in the bigger picture, of course, it’s a metaphor for the ways in which rich people destroy lives. It’s a metaphor for actions or decisions that the super-wealthy have to take. And sometimes, it has a very harsh impact in terms of the existential consequences for a vast part of society.

Why did you choose to have someone who tells the story, and why is that person the daughter?
DH:
Actually, the voiceover was something we decided upon after the shoot. It’s to express that the film is about legacy, it’s about entitlement, and it’s about the fact that maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And if your parents are very successful, to continue the legacy of success, you always have to go one step further. And Paula does.

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