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Marcus H. Rosenmueller: “A lot of creative know-how” from ARRI on “Trautmann”

On Marcus H. Rosenmueller’s new feature film “Trautmann” (UK film title: "The Keeper") ARRI was involved in various steps of the project: as co-producer, camera rental, and during the post-production. In an interview, the director talks about the collaboration and their challenges in visual effects and color grading.

“Trautmann” (UK film title: "The Keeper") tells the story of the German prisoner of war Bernd Trautmann (played by David Kross), who wrote football history as a legendary goalkeeper in England. What fascinated you about this topic?

I find the subject behind the story very exciting. The superficial story is quickly told: A German prisoner of war in England is discovered while playing soccer among soldiers. He is first engaged by a provincial club and finally signed by Manchester City as goalkeeper. The fans don’t like it at all, but then, in the legendary FA Cup Final of 1956 at Wembley Stadium, Trautmann secures his team a spectacular victory—and conquers their hearts. As the icing on the cake, during the game he breaks a cervical vertebra, but continues to play injured for the last 15 minutes. He was celebrated and revered as a hero in England. Soccer is one thing, but it’s basically about more important issues like forgiveness and reconciliation.

“Trautmann” was not your first cooperation with ARRI.

That’s right. I already worked together with ARRI Media on the visual effects in “Wer frueher stirbt, ist laenger tot” (“Who dies sooner, is longer dead”). Also in 2002, my graduation film for the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF)—“Hotel Deeper”—was mixed at ARRI by the chief sound engineer Tschangis Chahrokh. What I like so much about the cooperation with ARRI is the good quality and the friendly atmosphere. Simply put, I feel like I’m in good hands there.

Your new film takes place between 1944 and 1957. How was this quite long period of time visually realized with the grading?

We also wanted to use color on our travels back in time, but without the typical historical sepia look. In the end, we were inspired by the photographs of Saul Leiter, whose pictures have this characteristic, but with an emphasis on red. When the story moved into the 1950s, we became a bit more colorful to mark the changes of time. The colors continued to intensify as the film went on and became clearly noticeable in fashion and music. Our look was based on the Technicolor aesthetics of the films of that time.

Was your visualization clear from the beginning?

For me, this is rather a kind of discovery—it developed over the course of the work. Naturally, I already had the first pictures in mind when I was researching the script. Then the idea with the photographs of Saul Leiter came up and finally I tried out a few things with my director of photography Daniel Gottschalk. That's how we got closer to the final look. Actually quite simple. You shouldn’t forget that the camera type and set design also influence the look, and the set design is also connected to costume and makeup. The slightly reddish hair color of Margaret (Trautmann’s girlfriend, played by Freya Mavor) is no coincidence.

What about the colors in the flashbacks?

Traudl Nicholson, Lead Colorist at ARRI Media, helped us a lot with her innovative ideas. She managed not to play with the usual clichés, but to make the flashbacks a little more “contrasting,” i.e. to let them burn out a little higher.

For “Trautmann” many visual effects were deployed. Why?

It was an experiment. The biggest challenge of this film was being able to create the most authentic possible realization of the soccer scenes. At first, we thought of working with mobile green screens or even moving the entire soccer field with green containers. But since we also wanted to capture the speed and wildness of the English game and convey Trautmann’s emotions, we had to get very close with the camera. Therefore, the option to use a green screen was not available and the protagonists had to be free-form selected. The second difficulty was the soccer stadiums. In Manchester the stands are very close to the field, in Wembley, there is an old cinder track around the field. So we couldn’t just shoot in an old German stadium but had to fiddle around a lot in order to get the two stadiums true to the original for the different perspectives—over shoulder, reporter from the reporter’s house, platforms over the spectators to the place with the right inclination of the grandstands. It was all pretty new to me, thank God my director of photography Daniel Gottschalk, my three set designers, my First AD, Bene Hoermann, and the specialists from ARRI Media’s VFX department around Michael Koch and Juergen Schopper were incredibly supportive. I would say the experiment was a success.

Just for one shot we had to coordinate several takes from different locations and put them together in postproduction. For example, the over shoulder shots from the sports presenter’s perspective. We have the reporter in front of us, beyond him we see the glass panes of his booth and on the other side of the glass are 50 to 100 spectators. This was an actual shot taken in the Rosenau Stadium in Augsburg. Then I shot a plate in the Karl Moegele Stadium from the same angle, because there is a cinder track like in the Wembley Stadium. Down on the field are the soccer players. The third shot was of the opposite grandstand, which ARRI installed on the computer afterwards. Everything should also look as if it had been in August. It all worked thanks to the professional work of VFX supervisor David Laubsch.

Has this experience made you more relaxed about the use of visual effects in the future?

I’m sure it has. I have learned a lot and can approach location scouting in a completely different way. For example, when extending roads. The location for the POW camp was Ingolstaedter Strasse in Munich, where a multi-lane street passes in the background. The film now shows an English landscape with sheep.

And what ideas did you have about sound mixing?

It should be as authentic as possible. From the soccer stadiums to the streets to the furniture. This also applies to on-music. The music is different in emotional, tense moments, for example the song for Manchester City. In reality, this is the song from the FA Cup—“Abide with Me”—which is celebrated as a big event by stars before every cup final. I was interested in the lyrics, which reflect exactly our theme: reconciliation and the acceptance into a family. The subjective moments of tension were supported by modern sound design.

Now that “Trautmann” is finished, how was the work with ARRI as co-producer?

Absolutely partnership-based and friendly. I am always happy to have the ARRI’s trust; I do not want to disappoint and would like to deliver a good result. We can really be proud of this film and the cooperation with ARRI Rental and the color grading, VFX and sound departments of ARRI Media. The visual effects were a big challenge, as was the sound mixing, which turned out to be really amazing. There is a lot of creative know-how involved in the project. We cooperated wonderfully and can look back on really solid work.

“Trautmann” is a production by Lieblingsfilm, Zephyr Films, and British Film Company in co-production with ARD Degeto, SquareOne Entertainment, and ARRI Media. Produced by Robert Marciniak and Chris Curling. The international team shot in Northern Ireland and Bavaria. ARRI Rental supplied amongst others the camera ARRI ALEXA XR 4:3 with anamorphic lenses from Cineovision and the Hawk V-Series. 

Since March 14, 2019, “Trautmann,” published by SquareOne and distributed by Twentieth Century Fox of Germany, can be seen in German cinemas. It will soon be rolled out internationally.

Facebook fan page about the film: https://de-de.facebook.com/trautmann.derfilm/

Photos: ARRI (1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), SquareOne Entertainment (2), Lieblingsfilm/Fabian Roesler (3)