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Cinema between light and darkness: a conversation with Max Jacoby, filmmaker

Published Friday December 13 2019

It was Ingmar Bergman, one of the most prolific minds in the history of cinema, who made the following declaration: “Film as dream, film as music. No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the darkrooms of our souls.” Too often immersed in the travails of our daily lives, it would seem as if we seldom have the opportunity to explore those rooms of our souls. Cinema, however, can help us open those doors.

In the continuation of a long-held tradition, last Wednesday the American Film Institute (AFI) launched the 2019 edition of the EU Film Showcase. Featuring a total of 46 films (including award winners, debut works and new productions) from all EU member states, the program brings a flavorful, eclectic taste of contemporary European cinematic culture. 

Luxembourg participates in this initiative with the film Peitruss by film director Max Jacoby. As a native Luxembourger, Jacoby says that he considered it very pleasant to make a film in his native language and to set it in the place that he grew up in. “The characters come alive much faster because you know exactly how they speak and where they live,” he comments during the interview he agreed to have with us.

A graduate of the London Film School, Jacoby explains that film school was beneficial as it allowed students to gather the technical knowledge and to gain experience in the field. “But ever since I graduated, however, I have tried to unlearn everything I learned there,” he proudly confesses. His best piece of advice to young filmmakers who are seeking to develop their own style? “Listen to other people but don’t try to please them at all costs,” he declares.

Jacoby shoots all of his films in 35mm, which he says that he prefers over digital. In addition, the photography in his films – his list of works includes two feature films, two documentaries, three short films and commercials – present a unique and strong relationship between light and darkness. “The look and feel of the film is very important to me. After all, film is a visual medium. One of the strengths of film is the close-up. It is not just about what the actors say, but also what they do not say and what their faces express,” says Jacoby.

Peitruss tells the story of Lara, a charismatic woman who is happy to have started a new relationship with Joakim. This rather mysterious man, however, will bring her back to Toni – her ex-husband – the moment he accuses Joakim of having committed a series of murders that law authorities are still investigating. With the city of Luxembourg as her major witness, Lara tries to prove her lover’s innocence yet also begins to question how well she actually knows him.

Film production as well as its distribution is rapidly changing. We also asked Max Jacoby for his opinion of streaming services that compete with traditional film screenings in cinema theatres. Could they ever be replaced? “There is something to be said for the commercial experience of watching a film together with other people in a dark cinema,” he replies, “You feel not just your own emotions but also theirs. The experience in a cinema is much more intense than if you watched it alone at home.”  

So join us at the cinema for the screening of Peitruss, which will be shown on December 16th at 9:30 p.m. and again on December 17th at 3:00 p.m. at the AFI Theatre in Silver Spring. The film will be screened in English, German and Luxembourgish with English subtitles.

Fast Forward with Max Jacoby

Dark or milk chocolate? Dark

Preferred vacation destination? Sub Sii Chan, Thailand

Three must-see films? Trouble Every Day, Late Spring and The Boys from Fengkuei

Light or darkness? Darkness

Favorite restaurant in Luxembourg? Christian Bau, just across the border from Germany

Most cherished film camera? Arricam LT

Three filmmakers that you admire? Yasujiro Ozu, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Claire Denis

Mountaintop or bottom of the sea? Mountaintop