Mogens Rukov : « Limitations are always inspirations »
Transcript from the online conversation with Mogens Rukov on March 2, 2000
On pitchpoint.org (website closed in 2002), we have organized a series of virtual events on the theme of scriptwriting. Thanks to a series of 'chats', all interested people had the opportunity to benefit from advice, tips, suggestions for training and practice with film professionals.
We publish here the discussion with Professor Mogens Rukov. Being one of the creative heads of the DOGMA-Movement, he worked on Lars von Trier's The Idiots and Søren Kragh Jacobsen's Mifunes sidste sang as well as being the co-writer of The Celebration together with it's director, Thomas Vinterberg.
Edgar (Bruxelles): DOGME 95 (THE VOW OF CHASTITY) doesn't refer to how the screenplay should be written. Why?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): The laws of production will always affect the writing. Every rule of chastity was a rule for what we did in the preparation.
Tobias (Germany): Looking at the idiots and the celebration - two films that couldn't be more different, and coming from more distinct views of the world - how do you manage to disappear from these works while you add to them? Do you disappear at all? If you don't, how should I locate you in two works that are so different, in my opinion, in perspective and quality?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): It is a good question. When you are writing you are always condoning to the world view in the story. You are trying to develop the thoughts inside the story. You are not trying to add anything. You are trying to take out and slurp what is already there. That is why you have the feeling that it is two different worlds. In fact it is not! It is our recognizable world. In the CELEBRATION it is one movement - a family celebration. In the IDIOTS it is a lot of small movement of the same kind. Going to a cafe, going to a swimming pool, going to a factory, going to a restaurant and discussing it afterwards. As a storyteller you feel you have the same subject. A kind of normal reality, natural stories. For my part I have a complete trust in the directors. They will show my world.
Wulf (Berlin): How long do you think DOGMA will last?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): I hope it will stop now. I hope that it has left its marks. I advice anybody who wants to make a Dogme film to take 7 of the rules and make 3 other new.
Olivia (Suisse): Dear Mogens Rukov I have written a novel about a modern Don Giovanni, it has been translated from german into english and polished by Kenneth Atchity, former Fulbright professor in Bologna. The location is Rome and I am looking for an italian film producer. The ms is a bit scandalous, the protagonist is a film director and directs a film about the lascivious life of a renaissance pope... Can you give some me advice?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): Yes. Divide it into 40 scenes and make every scene distinctive and attractive. Keep us suspicious and make us love this Don Giovanni.
Edgar (Bruxelles): About Dogme95: did you found afterwards that some rules did not work? Which changes would you changes today? Anyway would it be possible? The Vow of Chastity is like a Bible :-)
Mogens Rukov (Berlin):No it is not a bible. But is has the advantage of any kind of good rules. It is negative. Think about the 10 commandments. As far as I know they are forbidding us everything we want. To kill our mother, to fuck ur neighbour, to steal their property. The same with the Vow of Chastity. It is prohibiting. And believe me. Prohibation arows the imagination. When you cannot go the easy way, you have to be imaginative. That was the help. Changes: Yes,now I would like to change. Because now the rules have been used. The real development is to change the rules, but you have to keep rules within a certain kind of limit. They should always be rules which are controlable. It means they are more or less quantitative. Not rules of quality. Quality is a human possession and can't be ruled.
Peter (Berlin): Dear Mogens. Why do you teach? Do you think teaching in the arts is possible? Have you ever seen results from what you teached?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): I love teaching. I deeply love it. Yes, I think that you can teach art. I do not think that you can demand people to make art. I think that you can put them in a situation where they create art. If I have seen results? It is my impression that the present state of affair of the Danish film is a result of the teaching given at the National Film School of Denmark. Yes, you can teach art if you love art and if you love your students.
Edgar (Bruxelles): Could you give me two examples of Specific Dogma Writing Rules you used writing The Celebration?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): Yes. I could give you several. One is the rule of not introducing a foreign props. We could not give the father any birthday gifts, because that would be introducing foreign props. No, the most severe thing is that we kept the feeling of location. We did not know that we had such a beautiful stair case. When we realized it we made 6 oor 7 scenes on the stairs.
Edgar (Bruxelles): There are some rules in screenwriting. Moreever, you add your own rules with Dogme95. My question is: Why did you decide to reduce the number of possibilities allowed in writing? Why did you put limitation in your inspiration? For me it's sounds very strange...
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): Very simple. Limitations are always inspirations. Yours severely Mogens Rukov.
Michael (Suisse): Hello Mogens. The way you talk about the incentive capacity of prohibition, you make dogme sound like a replacement for totalitarian situations, i.a. Spain under Franco which produced very interesting films just BECAUSE it was difficult...
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): I completely agree with you. And that is the sadness of humanity. I am sure that you would like to expand on this; I would too. We have to find a way in which people of a liberate civilization could gain the same amount of inspiration as we have during prohibitions. Believe me, I like your question very much and deeply agree with you.
Peter (Berlin): Dear Mogens. Would you be able to tell me three directors and possibly three films that have been made between 1997 and today that will survive the next ten years? (and by survive I mean that anybody will care in ten years and that they won't sem completely outdated in 2010)?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): I think it is an interesting thought. I think you put a question out of a certain sadness which I could share with you. I would like to be able to say for sure that I have seen such films. I have not.
Edgar (Bruxelles): How are you really working on scripts? How do your "final script" looks like? Is it close to the shooting? For example, could you tell me how you worked on The Idiots? How many versions? How long did you wrote on the script?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): I did not write the IDIOTS. I talked with Lars a couple of times to clarify the storytelling. The last we talked was a day before he started writing. There is only one version of the script. Lars wrote it in 3 and a half days. To write a script should be short. To know what it is about can take a long time.
Béatrice (Lyon): Do you have a documentary background to write screenplays like Festen or The Idiots?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): Yes. Life!
Alexis (Berlin): Hi Mogens, I heard you are working on a romantic comedy located in Berlin. is this true? I would like to know more about it.
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): It is true. It is a Russian woman coming to her love here having difficulties because he does not recognize that he is in love with her. Than she has to manage. When he is ready to love, she found out that it was not worthwile. He dies because of that and she has an evening of memory. As a very good singer, she makes a monument for him. Monuments are very good for men. Living people are very good for women.
Wulf (Berlin): Don't you think that writing means that you have to do a lot of stupids steps. And that it needs more than one draft?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): It should not need more than 3 drafts and you should make it very fast because the move of writing will be transferred into the movement of the movie. I talked about this with a good friend, the writer of 12 Monkeys and Blade Runner and we agree. Write a few versions and write fast.
Béatrice (Lyon): In order to catch life in a movie the way you did in "Festen", you maybe used some tricks: did you used some tricks of the documentary film trade, or don't you care of them?
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): I do care. But the tricks we used were the tricks of the trade. We made good scenes. A good scene is a scene where you have a DECLARATION about what this scene is going to be about, a simple CONFRONTATION, a good LOCATION, and a satisfying ENDING. The documentary look is taken from memory. Which memory? Our memory of celebrations.
Peter (Berlin): What exactly do you mean by animalistic expressions and repetitions? The expressionistic film in my opinion showed an almost child-like desire to test a new medium. But other than that? Fassbinder on the other hand made it to re-introduce passion into german films as a topic. I don't quite get the "animalistic" thing.
Mogens Rukov (Berlin): By animalistic I mean a deep human desire. When it is concerning a character in a film, it means that the character is more characterized by the desire than by the plot. The americans say, plot is character, character is plot. We say: whatever plot you take, the character will burn through it.
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Proposed by FOCAL and the Master School Drehbuch, pitchpoint.org (closed in 2002) was a web site which combined script development and marketing. It was a market-place for materials which helped young authors and producers in the publication and acquisition of film, television and multimedia material. Pitchpoint.org was the meeting point for authors and producers in search of partners in Europe and around the world