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2021 New Jersey International Film Festival Interviews with Paradise Director Immanuel Esser


By Al Nigrin

2021 New Jersey International Film Festival Interviews with Paradise Director Immanuel Esser 

Paradise plays Video on Demand on Saturday, June 12 as part of the 2021 New Jersey International Film Festival. Here is my textual interview with Paradise Director Immanuel Esser.

Nigrin:  Paradise is an existential sci fi feature film that focuses on the three workers who are employed by the company “Styx“ where they drive from one place to the next terminating people, packaging them and sending them off. Tell us why did you decide to make this film?  

Esser: I am damaged goods as I grew up in a philosopher’s household (both my parents teach philosophy at university and I studied philosophy as well before going to film school). there were many incidents that led to this project, but the basic setting of a though experiment (a very philosophical way of looking at the world), that builds a fiction that is quite contemporary and close to our reality and at the same time there are some very fundamental differences to our world is something that interests me in art in general.  In 1896 Hugo Simberg painted a watercolor titled IN THE GARDEN OF DEATH. Three Grim Reapers in black robes fulfill the gloomy expectations of the title. But the peculiarity of this small work lies in the way they pursue the peaceful and profane activity of gardening. They are likable – but don’t lose their status as memento mori. In this way Simberg stimulates an examination of our mortality, which I believe is worth exploring. With PARADISE we approach the dark theme of death in this playful sense. We think, that the absurd is an important way of thinking and can be fruitfully used to approach existential questions. In filmic terms: looking at another fictional and stylized world and how it deals with this inevitable end of our physical being, we sometimes recognize unexpected parallels and caricatures of our own world. In PARADISE we accompany three protagonists on this mental and physical journey, dealing with other’s and their own mortality. We discover structural similarities to the efforts of own society to control the process of dying by confining it to hospital beds accompanied by the administration of drugs. And the emptiness and artificiality of their world, which initially stands in stark contrast to our world, becomes the lens for a reflective view of current developments in the world of work.

Nigrin: The three lead actors Franziska Machens as Moris, Holger Daemgen as Grundt, Johannes Kühn as Kraumann are really perfect. Tell us more about them and how they ended up being in your film?

Esser: Thank you! I love all three of them and their performances were great, yes. We took our time and many takes to get them just right. Searching for them we met a lot of actors and actresses. I had known none of the three beforehand (even though they have become friends in the process). It was a normal casting process. Sorry to disappoint - no great stories there only a lot of work. :)

Nigrin: The camera work by DP Philipp Künzli is really great. Tell us more about him and the style of cinematography used in your film?

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Esser: I had already made some tableau shorts and knew this was going to be the basic visual grammer of the film. And then Philipp and I went on location tour. We took many many many photos for weeks and had a big wall in our production office with the prints of the photos and pages from the script and began to puzzle. Most of the wide shots you see in the movies were previously taken as photographs and on that wall. (opposite to that wall was the wall from renate our production designer - with all the pictures of the objects that would be part of the film. so we were building most of the color concepts and visual aesthetics there, simultaneously)

Nigrin: Where did you shoot your film and why did you pick these locations? 

Esser: We shot most of it (apart from the night scenes and a few special locations like the lake and the lime works scene) in the region that was the divide between east and west germany. that is an area that is not that heavily built up and at the same time very geometric in terms of how streets are built and how trees are planted. and it felt kind of fitting to shoot this though-experiment film in a in-between-area with that much history around it.

Here is my video Interview Paradise Director Immanuel Esser:

Paradise will be screening with two amazing shorts The Dark Odyssey and Space Case Video on Demand this Saturday, June 12 as part of the 2021 New Jersey International Film Festival.  

Saturday, June 12, 2021 - $12=General

Film will be available on Video On Demand for 24 hours on this show date.

To buy tickets and get more info go here

The Dark Odyssey – Michael Lavine (Germantown, New York)  In this clever stop motion animation, a brave captain and his faithful mate transport a captive warrior, who holds The Inventory of The Mind, across the interstellar line. When their ship is forced to navigate an asteroid field, their mission is jeopardized. 2021; 8 min.

Space Case – Zachary T Scott (Austin, Texas) Space Case follows Bobbie Almond, a social outcast who has dreams to escape her small town life. She has a ticket to Mars! But when Bobbie's ticket to a new life gets stolen by her super Preppy sister, she's forced down a road of conformity, to be a part of the towns Beauty pageant! Will she conform? Or will she bail and follow her dreams! 2020; 18 min.

Paradise - Immanuel Esser (Cologne, Germany) For the three workers of the company “Styx“ it is everyday business: living in the company van and driving overland to get from one place and time of death to the next – terminating people, packaging them and sending them off. They live a monotone life doing their daily chores for a society that developed a pain-free system for people’s passings. Suddenly, the three find themselves confronted with their own termination and start to question and bend the rules of their world. In German, subtitled. 2021; 80 min.





Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

originally published: 06/12/2021



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