What’s the significance of all the buildings Undine mentions in the movie?
The buildings serve a very important role in the movie because Berlin is between two rivers on an island, and the city is built on dried-out swamps, so the element that Undine is coming from, which is the water, is destroyed in Berlin. It doesn’t exist anymore. And therefore Undine doesn’t have any habitats, so she has no choice but to adapt and to live on the land.
In some way, I always think that the modernization in Berlin erases history, and when there’s no history, there’s no magic, which means magical creatures like Undine won’t exist. That was the main idea of the architectural elements in the movie.
Is that also the reason why there are two locations in the movie: Berlin, and the small town where Franz’s character, Christoph, works and lives, which is still full of swamps? To show that in this small town, magic still exists?
That’s a good question. The romance and the myth of Undine is a part of German and European history. It’s a unique enchantment. But in Berlin, where modernization and civilization keep growing and changing, there’s no enchantment anymore. So I want to show how in this small town where everything is still kept as closely natural as possible, the enchantment and the charm of Germany are still there.
There’s a beautiful and romantic poem by Joseph Eichendorff that says, “You must find the right world, so everything can sync again.” To me, that line encourages us to find the magic of the world back. We live in this world surrounded by retro buildings and retro behavior and retro music, but it’s all actually just an illusion of magic. The real magic, that’s something that we have to find—either by movies or camera positions or poems or even by preserving the naturality of a city. And the Undine myth actually has a lot to do with this.
Another thing that fascinates me about the movie is how the dynamic between Undine and Johannes, in some way, reflects the state of modern dating. Is this something that you also wanted to capture when you wrote the script?
[Laughing] Funny story, when Paula read the script for the first time, she told me that she liked it so much because the story reminded her of Tinder and modern dating. And on some level, it’s true; part of Undine is about modern dating. I always think that in the era of dating apps, everything gets much simpler—you meet someone, you have sex (or perhaps not), and if you feel like this someone is not handsome or beautiful enough for you, you can keep scrolling until you find someone new. So, dating right now is like going to the supermarket.