Mélanie is a French musician in her late 30’s living as an expat in Berlin. Though she finds some success, she still struggles to make ends meet with her art and is uncertain about the security of her career. After the sudden passing of her grandmother, Mélanie is devastated and finds herself alone for the first time during Christmas, a season that she would usually spend with her. But Mélanie is not completely alone: unexpectedly, one week before Christmas, a friend asks her to care of her son, Peter “the Magician,” a strange boy who is unable to speak but is constantly filming with his little camcorder. Through the eyes of Peter’s camera, Mélanie searches high and low for Christmas plans, but all efforts fail. Lonely as she has never been, she starts to escape into fantasies, following an attractive indigenous man through the desert of Castaneda, and ends up back in reality on Christmas Eve with her mechanic, André. Together, they wander the surprisingly quiet streets of Berlin. This nocturnal journey becomes an adventure, made up of surprising encounters with fellow outsiders. As Mélanie roams the city, she discovers another kind of Christmas, another Berlin and... maybe herself.
Mélanie est une française trentenaire expatriée à Berlin. Bien qu'elle rencontre un certain succès, sa musique ne lui permet pas encore d´être à l´abri. Alors qu´elle devait comme chaque année passer Noël avec sa grand-mère, celle-ci décède brutalement. Dévastée, Mélanie se retrouve seule pour la première fois, en ce moment très spécial de l'année. Une amie lui confie alors son fils Peter "le magicien", garçon un peu étrange, incapable de parler, mais qui filme tout avec sa petite caméra vidéo. Mélanie contacte différentes personnes de son entourage pour passer le Réveillon avec eux : ses plans échouent. Plus seule que jamais, Mélanie s´échappe dans des pensées fantasques et se met à suivre dans le désert de Castaneda un bel et mystérieux autochtone. Quand revient la réalité berlinoise, c´est un autre genre d´homme avec lequel elle se retrouve le 24 Decembre au soir : son garagiste Andrey. Celui-ci l´entraîne dans les rues de Berlin, étonnamment silencieuses. Ce périple nocturne les amène à vivre une aventure passionnante, faite de rencontres des plus inattendues. Mélanie découvre ainsi des lieux insolites, un autre Noël, un autre Berlin, un autre elle-même…
Mélanie, eine junge Französin in den Dreißigern, lebt in Berlin. Als Musikerin feiert sie Achtungserfolge - finanziell geht es ihr allerdings mies. Eigentlich würde sie Weihnachten mit ihrer geliebten Großmutter feiern, doch die ist jüngst verstorben. Die Vorstellung, das erstemal ganz alleine feiern zu müssen, verängstigt Melanie. Aber die Versuche, eine Verabredung für Weihnachten zu organisieren, scheitern. Überraschend bittet eine Freundin sie, auf ihren Sohn Peter aufzupassen: Ein merkwürdiger Heranwachsender, ein „Zauberer“, der nicht spricht, aber alles um sich herum mit einer Videokamera filmt – so auch Mélanie bei ihrer Suche. Doch so verzweifelt Melanie auch Freunde und Bekannte nach Weihnachtseinladungen abklappert - keiner will mit ihr das Fest der Liebe feiern. Einsam, wie noch nie zuvor, flüchtet sie in eine Fantasiewelt, die sie zu einem mysteriösen Indigenen in die Wüste Castanedas führt, nur um schlußendlich von der Realität eingeholt zu werden und am heiligen Abend bei ihrem Mechaniker André landet. Mit ihm zieht sie durch die stillen - und nur bedingt - weihnachtlichen Straßen Berlins. Eine Nacht lang begegnet sie den eigenartigsten Menschen, an den seltsamsten Orten. Am Ende entdeckt Melanie nicht nur ein ihr unbekanntes Berlin, sondern auch ein Weihnachten wie sie es nie erwartet hätte - und ein Sück weit auch sich selbst.
Running Time: 100 min
Film location: Berlin, Paris, Poland and Mexico.
Shooting period: December 2015 – December 2016
Genre: Mockumentary – improvisation, tragicomedy
Languages: French, German, English
The film is a twisted Christmas fairytale, a mockumentary at the crossroad between fiction and reality. It begins as a tragicomedy in the week before Christmas and becomes a road movie through the streets of Berlin on Christmas Eve. Mélanie, lonely as she has ever been, crosses different worlds throughout the city. In the end, she goes out of herself, opens her mind and finally finds some inner peace.
- An experimental approach of creation and production
Charlotte decided to shoot this film 3 weeks before Christmas 2015 on a very spontaneous move. It was therefore impossible to follow the classic scheme of creation and production for a feature film: no time to write a full script, no time to find a producer nor to apply to the film funds.
This was a very challenging experience for Charlotte to manage in such a short time, at Christmas time, with almost no budget, and with just an idea to mobilize a small and talented crew. But she did it… and the bet has paid off: the material is promising, though funds are necessary to finance the editing and the post-production.
- About the story
The film is a type of mockumentary that combines tragicomic fictional parts and documentary parts which are integrated in the course of the story. The documentary modus is used in order to show Berlin outside of the houses on the 24th of December, at a time when most people are celebrating the traditional Christmas with their families. It also helps create a crossed portrait of different people who are not celebrating the event in the classical way.
In the first part of the film that happens from the 17th until the evening of the 24th of December, Mélanie has two problems:
- First of all, she receives an unexpected gift: Peter, the non-autonomous 20 year old son of her friend Patricia, whom she should take care of for a couple of hours since Patricia has an emergency for her work in Magdeburg. With the hat and cape of a magician, Peter is special, though we do not know exactly why. He does not speak, he is constantly filming with a little camcorder and Mélanie has to bring him everywhere she goes. Moreover, Patricia never comes back to Berlin.
- Secondly, Mélanie is not delighted by the idea of spending Christmas alone. Therefore, she tries to find a solution but everything fails: even her last minute Tinder date cancels shortly before they are supposed to meet for dinner.
At that moment, Mélanie finds herself with André, her Russian mechanic who had time to fix her car: he understands her situation and invites her to spend Christmas with him. Although they do not know each other, she has no other plans, so she accepts.
From this moment, Mélanie is carried away on the night of the 24th by the spontaneous meetings she experiences together with André, and later on by herself.
In all those situations, Mélanie is followed by Peter, who is – in fact – the weird director of the film, a film dedicated to his mother who left him alone at Christmas. In this sense, the title of the film « Ich bin an Weihnachten allein in Berlin » has a double function – for Mélanie but also for Peter.
Beyond the docu-fiction which is the core of the film, there are more quiet moments about Berlin and Mélanie’s self-reflection in this city she has now known for 15 years.
- About the casting
Since the film mixes documentary and fiction in a sort of mockumentary, the director decided to work mainly with non-actors. In this sense, several roles are made of a subtle combination between the persons as they are in the real life and their character for the story. Roustang’s method to work with them was quite simple: she created a general dramaturgic situation, brought the performers into it and asked them for a physical and/or emotional path through it, with the ultimate motto of: “Be yourself.”
Furthermore, the role of Mélanie is a somewhat angelic and tragicomic version of the director/writer herself. That is one of the reasons she decided to play the role and offered several parts to the real, local people around her, for instance the postman, mechanic, German teacher and trainer of the gym club among others.
In addition to those “real” people, the film needed fictional characters. For this, several actors including Karim Cherif, Monika Wojtilo, Maria Hengge, Mario Mentrup, Anjorka Strechel and Pierre Kiwit offered their talent and experience to support the project.
- Socio-political elements
The film indirectly explores socio-political subjects through the existential questions Mélanie is facing, including:
- The fear of becoming homeless, which is highly present in the city around her. Mélanie is confronted by this fear because she is a musician who cannot yet live from her art.
- The identity question, which is present in every film of Charlotte Roustang: in this case, this question becomes even stronger because of Mélanie’s status as an expat in Germany
Driven by these questions, Mélanie and her fellow Berliners explore what it means to be an outsider in its many forms. Alone at Christmas, a time when family and togetherness are emphasized, Mélanie looks for guidance from strangers. Through the various real and fictionalized marginal characters Mélanie meets during this time, she finds elements of answers to her questions, as well as connections with other marginalized souls.
PREVIOUS DIRECTING WORK
« Ich bin an Weihnachten allein in Berlin » (My Lonely Christmas in Berlin), is Roustang's second film made in Berlin.
Previously, she completed her third short film « The Saviour », a French-German coproduction. The film was released in festivals such as HOF Filmfest and Achtung Berlin in Germany, as well as broadcasted in 2015 on Arte, the Franco-German TV network. This film is about a psycho-trip due to some kind of burnout of the main character and had the purpose to question the conditioned models of life.
With her new film « Ich bin an Weihnachten allein in Berlin », the director focuses again on an existential topic and gives a portrayal of the diversity of people who live in Berlin, and through their individual stories, gives a portrait of the city itself with the background of the general concerns of the new European urban society. That depiction of popular life is something that can also could be seen in Ken Loach’s films. Roustang wants to show these people in interaction with others who help them with conviction, by choice. The character of Mélanie discovers another part of the society. It brings her a new approach with people.
« Ich bin an Weihnachten allein in Berlin » is in a sense the next step after The Saviour, with a lighter tone more close to the style of tragicomedy.