Excerpt of a letter to a German film student who needed some answers to some questions.
I never forced my filmmaking but made the necessary decisions step by step when they
were needed - a beautiful and exciting and not always successful procedure.
Style was always very important to me. A lead color for an entire film. A sparse
environment. A limited space. One song. No real score. Just the separate instrumental
tracks of the song. A lot of original sounds. Not to much dialogue. No violence.
Praise of woman. A mood between tears and laughter. Others later called it my “poetic
realism”. Light and color, motion and calm, emotion, surprise, hope, joy, being touched,
fulfillment, images that doesn’t have to be explained. This is what’s important for
my films. Some conflict, some suspense. But just very carefully used like some spice
that should never overpower the more subtle flavors.
Film for me always was something that feeds itself from other art forms, but is totally
unique, distinguished. Dialogue is not the deciding factor but the unspoken.
In America I work since 1987. Why. Because I lived for over 50 years in my home land,
and I wanted to live and work somewhere else. I came here and stayed - like Jasmin
from Bagdad Cafe. Walked away, stayed.
Without the world wide success of Bagdad though this would not have been possible
Why do I work in English now and not in German? Films in English automatically have
a larger audience. That my films still deal with German subjects has to do with us,
my wife, my son, and I, being German. A German family, with German education, background,
experiences, schooling, history, memories, and conscience. This is the world we know.
Writers should write about something they are experts in. We are experts in German
American Coffee - just kidding.
You are wondering if my choice of the word Bagdad has anything to do with the Irak.
No. We made a trip to the Mojave Desert, California, and on a regional map we discovered
the name “Bagdad”. Just for fun, we looked for it. But didn’t find it. Like so many
things in America, it didn’t last. The few buildings it had consisted of were torn
down. At a coffee break in one of the cafes on route 66, I think it was in Ludlow,
Saskia, Felix, Eleonore and I invented a little story for the no longer existing
town of Bagdad, a coffee shop story between a black owner and a Bavarian tourist.
They are so different, attracted and scared at the same time, and finally become
My stories are like fantasies, or dreams of life. Therefore my colors don’t try to
match real life but are filtered through the sieve of memory. For instance we made
the desert in “Bagdad Cafe” golden like in a painting of Salvador Dali, while in
reality the desert is mostly gray. In my film, the gold became the lead color. A
symbol for warmth. For the possibility of warmth among people. A symbol of friendship.