YIDFF 2019 International Competition
Living the Light—Robby Müller
An Interview with Claire Pijman (Director)

In Memory of Robby Müller

Q: Can you share with us how Robby Muller can be so free to be himself and to play with the camera?

CP: From the archive of Robby’s videos and polaroids, one can see that he is always looking into the camera. On holidays too he took a lot of photos and videos. It was around the time when it became possible to acquire a small video camera and Robby enjoyed taking it everywhere, making his images in a way like sketching. He likes to make images as easy as possible, like drawing, direct from the heart, without a large crew. I think he never looks back at those images. The moments of making the images is what he enjoyed and he remembers the feelings he had by making them. He always likes to have a certain emotion in his images, and he naturally translates certain moods into them.

Q: So he is constantly creating and playing with images.

CP: And also the way he looks at things. After you have seen the film, you yourself are going to look at things in a certain way. He would catch rays of light, or reflections, or little things that happened with the leaves or winds . . . He really took notice of that.

Q: Can you tell us the process of making the film? With the home video, did you make the edits or are they in-camera edits?

CP: Yes, many things were in-cam edited by him, like the sketches he made of the hotel, different situations in life, and reflections on the waters. They were edited in the camera and we left it that way.

When I saw his footage, I immediately felt that it was possible to make this film with his personal and professional footage. At that time, his polaroids were enlarged, put in a gallery, and went to an art fair for their own artistic value. So when it was hard to get funding, I went to a museum for a platform to show to people that they are more than just images. His professional footage, home videos, polaroids and pictures, these are the elements we had for the exhibition. It also provided me the chance to interview the directors, go through all the archives, look into the images, and work with them. So before getting the funding for filming, I started in this way. That made it possible for me to go to Jim Jarmusch, Wim Wenders, and Lars von Trier; those interviews are all for the exhibition.

When I went to Jim, he agreed but he was only willing to do the interview for no longer than half an hour. We did it but for me it was not long enough because there’s a lot I wanted to ask him. So I suggested we do an interview with Jim in a guitar maker’s workshop, because I knew Robby had showed Jim my documentary on this guitar maker (Talking Guitars). Because Jim likes guitar so much, we had more time and did an interview for three hours. Seeing that he was so involved with the guitars, touching and playing with them, the sound man suggested to me that if we have the chance to make the film, we should have Jim make the soundtrack. That’s how the idea started. After we got the funding, I went back to Jim and asked him to make the soundtrack, not in the normal way, but as an extra voice for Robby. That really has to add to those images. So I filmed Jim and his team at the guitar, looking for certain sound in the instrument that would suit Robby. He made the scores an extra layer that accompanies the images which went very well and contributed a lot to the emotion of the images. And finally Jim is so proud of the music that he is going to release it next year in February, a record called Music for Robby.

(Compiled by Sit Pui Yin Annie)

Interviewers: Sit Pui Yin Annie, Kato Takanobu
Photography: Ishizuka Shino / Video: Nagayama Momo / 2019-10-11