Detlev Buck

Detlev Buck

Weitere Namen: D. W. Buck (Weiterer Name)
Darsteller, Regie, Regie-Assistenz, Drehbuch, Kamera, Schnitt, Produzent
*01.12.1962 Bad Segeberg


A portrait of Detlev Buck, German Films Quaterly 1/2010

It is a cold autumn day on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. We are sitting with Detlev Buckin the conference room of his successful production company Boje Buck; the rooms here exude a relaxed atmosphere combining cozy apartment and functional-creative ambience. One could probably describe the top German director’s creative approach in a similar way. In terms of style, he has never allowed himself to be pinned down: while remaining highly professional, the 47-year-old works with wit, charm and always with a touch of privacy on intimate stories that often develop into crowd pullers, although first it is vital that they appeal to the director himself. “I certainly don’t make films primarily for the market; I tell a story the way that I want to. I’m concerned with my own wishes, I want to please myself. I’m not talking about a cultural obligation, but about things that are of personal interest to me.”

What might appear arrogant and haughty coming from others simply conveys a likeable honesty when Detlev Buck says it; surely something that is largely responsible for the success of his films as well. The most important thing for him – according to Buck himself – is the material and its originality. “After the success of 'Jailbirds', I didn’t think of a sequel immediately, as so many people would have done these days. I think that looks too much as if you’re not actually interested in making a good film, but are just anxious to fill your pockets as quickly as possible.” Buck – very diplomatic – also thinks that is “OK”, but it is not his way of approaching things. “I would get bored doing that. That’s why I prefer to take risks.”

Over the last 20 years, he has proven how well he can stick to this hardline approach on several occasions. His multifaceted stories have often been about groups in society that are otherwise ridiculed – about illiterates, jailbirds, folks up from the provinces, and problem children – but rather than making fun of them, he recounts the events of their everyday lives in a warm-hearted, understanding manner. Many have called him a director of the people – and Buck’s uncomplicated, down-to-earth way of communicating underlines the impression given by his films in a very likeable fashion.

The astonishing thing is that even with this kind of story Buck always meets with interest from both audiences and the critics. So he fills an important gap on Germany’s bipolar film scene. “Actually, there are only two scenarios on today’s film scene,” Buck explains when asked to comment on this observation. “Either you shoot through the ceiling, or you try to get positive responses from the critics and achieve something on a lower track: we seem to have lost the well-managed midfield.” How did that happen? “It’s because nowadays you have to deliver the goods on the first weekend,” Buck explains. “Slowly building up your success, the way we did back then with 'Jailbirds', is no longer an option at all now. Either you are right up there with the mainstream and you’re a success, or you work successively from the bottom and just try to get good reviews. Those two worlds don’t have very much in common with each other anymore – and I think it’s a real shame, as well as being boring.”

That is why Detlev Buck’s maxim is to position himself and his films in an environment, where he can combine creative and economic interests harmoniously, without outside restraints. “Actually, I have always found myself between the devil and the deep blue sea, since I have never really belonged to either of the camps,” Buck concludes and goes on to clarify: “It’s true that I pay attention to my own signature, but I don’t make films for festivals; films to satisfy the critics. On the contrary, I want to fascinate people with a kind of material whereby it isn’t clear from the start whether they will like it. I want to show them a film that constitutes new territory. That interests me more.”

So “the courage to tackle genre” is what Buck sometimes wishes for the structure of German cinema, which still demonstrates a lack of variety in his eyes: “Either you make an attempt at a comedy or the film version of a book, there’s not much else left,” says the director, summing up his observations. He goes on to underline them with numerous examples, revealing a keen interest in his colleagues’ work.

To a large extent, Buck probably owes the success of his individualism to the cooperation with his own production company, which he grants maximum autonomy. “Almost certainly, the advantage is that in my partner Claus I have a good person to consult about material that I would like to turn into a film. If you have to produce your films externally, you’ll always be as welcome as the success of your last film. And if you experience a flop, suddenly even the secretary can’t remember your name. That’s why many directors complain about a kind of homelessness, which I don’t suffer from, fortunately.”

The filmmaker also believes that the solid atmosphere of his home base has ensured that real flops are quasi non-existent in his career, despite a risky choice of material: “We don’t want to work on hot air. Perhaps it’s also because we only realize one film per year. Either a different director makes it, or I do. But the themes have got to be just right. We are like a small team of carpenters which only expects to construct one roof at a time. Then you automatically pay more attention to quality.”

This comparison with a down-to-earth profession is no coincidence: even to the present day, the father of three children travels regularly between his chosen home in Berlin and his parents’ farm in Schleswig-Holstein, and despite all the accolades he has collected in the film world, he doesn’t necessarily see himself as part of that milieu. “I want to experience something and immerse myself in new worlds that I didn’t know in that way before: that’s the real pleasure in film-making,” Buck sums up in conclusion and explains that most of his energy comes from his wide range of daily tasks.

On the way out, I ask him whether he has never felt like letting it rip just the once, saying good-bye to his principles, and making a bundle of cash. “But why should I?” Buck asks me and laughs. “I can’t imagine a better place than the one between the devil and the deep blue sea, anyway.” We tend to agree with him there, close the door – and look forward to the next twenty years of determined individuality.

Author: Johannes Bonke

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH