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New Jersey Film Festival Q&A with Echthaar Director Dominic Kubisch

By Al Nigrin

originally published: 02/01/2021

New Jersey Film Festival Q&A with Echthaar Director Dominic Kubisch

Dominic Kubisch’s film Echthaar is one of my favorites of the Spring 2021 New Jersey Film Festival. It is beautifully shot, really well acted, really well directed and pretty darn creepy. I immediately thought of some of David Lynch’s films while I was watching it but as it turns out Echthaar Director Dominic Kubisch was more inspired by an underrated Coen Brothers film. Here is my interview with Dominic who resides in Vienna, Austria.

Nigrin:  Your beautiful and mysterious short film Echthaar focuses on strange happenings in a 1950s beauty salon in Austria. Tell us why you decided to make this film?

Kubisch:  The idea came during brainstorming with writer, friend and co-director Christopher Palm. The idea of making a historical short film in a barber shop belongs to me, the idea of putting the jukebox in the salon came from Christopher. My grandmother was a hairdresser at the end of the 60s till to the 90s. As a child I visited her in the hair salon and was always excited of the machines they used there, the smell, and the feeling inside. Hair cutting is a very personal job, you come the people very close and knew much about their stories and feelings. All this inspired me doing the film Echthaar.

Nigrin:  The two lead actors, Franz Weichenberger who plays Victor and Sandra Hartlauer who plays Paula are terrific! Please tell us more about them and how they ended up acting in your film?

Kubisch:   Thank you, working together with Sandra and Franz was a pleasure for us. Both are professional actors, Sandra was an acting student at the moment we shot the film and Franz is a known actor in Austria in television and cinema. At the shooting the team and actors were very concentrated and at some shots we repeated it often to get this tension and special facial expression that we imagined. My grandmother was also at the rehearsals and showed Franz the essential hand grips of a hairdresser in the 50s.

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Nigrin:  Your film pays homage to the Coen Brothers's 2001 film The Man Who Wasn’t There where it also focuses on a chain smoking barber. Were there other films that influenced you?

Kubisch:   You said it, this film of the Coen’s was very inspiring. Other filmmakers which influenced us are Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock. The tension came from the Hitchcock side and the creepiness from Polanski. But also a black and white short film from 1989 inspired us, it’s Kitchen Sink by Alison Maclean.

Nigrin:  The B+W cinematography is amazing. Why did you decide to shoot it this way?

Kubisch:   With DP Maximilian Smoliner we decided from the beginning on to shoot the film like a film noir. Our idea was making a genre film with the characteristic look of black and white, hard lightning and dark shadows.

Nigrin:  The 50s pop music and the seductive flute music at the beginning set the stage for about to see. Is there any reason why you decided to set the film in the 1950s and to use this type of music?

Kubisch:   The only thing which was set first was the end song came out of the jukebox. It was a great work together with composer Jón H. Geirfinnsson and Victoria Grohs who made together with Jón the sound design. In a genre film I guess, the sound is more than 50 percent important. We figured out how the scissors has to sound, how it sounds when Paula is at the second floor of the salon and other details. Together we decided the 50s music, because that decade was the hype of the jukeboxes and so also the radio in our short film has to play this typical “Doo wop” songs.

New Jersey Film Festival Q&A with Echthaar Director Dominic Kubisch

Echthaar will be screened on Friday, February 5 as part of the Super Shorts II Program. Here is more info on this screening:

Super Shorts II

Melancholia – Michael Amter (New York, New York) A symbolic experiment contemplating the human condition's struggle with mental health. 2020; 6 min.

A Clockwork Beta – Mr. Kaleidoscope (Kingston, New York) A short portrait about artist Matthew Pleva. In his tiny workshop and showroom, Pleva creates illustrated narratives comprised of thousands of cross-hatched marks. He then painstakingly cuts out the drawings and mounts them on brass armatures, so that the drawn narrative becomes dimensional dioramas. in this short film he creates a Clockwork Orange Betamax tape. 2020; 6 min.

Flush Lou – Madison Stewart Leonard (Los Angeles, California) A daughter, mother and grandmother mourn the loss of their beloved, Lou Ackerly after he is accidentally cremated. 2020; 9 min.

I Make Good Sounds at Parties - Amanda Prager (Hollywood, California)

A lonely man attends a house party that grows nightmarishly surreal. 2020; 8 min.

Canis Major – Charli Brissey (Ann Arbor, Michigan) An artist suffering from server writers block relies on the friendship of their dog in this multi-genre sci-fi short. Based on many true stories, this video-animation hybrid ruminates the relationship between dancing and earthly survival at the "end of the world." 2020; 10 min.

How to Fall in Love in a Brothel – Sunhui Chang (Alameda, California) Set in 1960 Incheon, South Korea. As a young country is struggling through rebuilding after the Korean War, two young Koreans struggling to find their place in a hard world, find love in an unexpected and unlikely setting. Showing what is possible in life when two people happen to cross paths. In Korean, subtitled. 2020; 11 min.

Echthaar - Dominic Kubisch (Schwechat, Austria) Perry Como comes blasting from the jukebox, while the hair stylist blows smoke into the eyes of his customers. It’s the 50ies and Victor has his salon in order. Or so it seems. Because when Paula comes on as a temp, she soon senses the dark secrets he’s hiding. In German. 2020; 20 min.

Friday, February 5, 2021 - $12=General

Super Shorts II will be available  VOD (Video On Demand) for 24 hours on February 5.

To buy tickets for this screening click here


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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.



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