Behind the Scenes
Where the buck stops: Diving into ‘My Kingdom Come’
My Kingdom Come is a film rooted in mythology and Biblical texts that uses the symbol of the serpent as the ultimate being taking responsibility for his actions, and turns that towards a young man’s struggle to break through and become the best in his sport.
Director Walter Stoehr’s portrayal of a young basketball player’s journey is unlike anything we had seen before. Fortunately he had a few moments to share his thoughts and shed light on the incredibly fascinating world of My Kingdom Come.
Filmsupply: Where did this idea come from?
Walter Stoehr: Two years ago I heard an old recording of a speech philosopher Alan Watts was giving. I was struck by the way he used the story of creation to bring his point across. He argued that we are always passing the buck. Of all characters in the story only the serpent stood its ground and did not give in to blaming someone else for its actions in the face of impending punishment. That resonated with me and the connection to sports was made immediately.
I also remembered that in John Milton‘s opus Paradise Lost Satan, who later – as the serpent – plays a role in Adam and Eve‘s fall from grace, is the protagonist of the story. Due to the way Milton tells this story you kind of empathize with him. Of course his deeds are far from admirable but he fights to improve his situation in the face of great adversity. It‘s a fascinating story and I wanted to translate that into a short film about overpowering circumstances the protagonist has to cope with. I wanted it to take place in the bleakest of environments and have our protagonist (Boris), the protagonist, rise, overcome his fears, leave the past behind and bring his own personal paradise into being. “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..” – As written in Paradise Lost.
I wanted to have these elements applied to a story about modern day basketball youths creating characters whose actions resemble those of the characters involved in Genesis. Unlike in the biblical story, the serpent is described positively in the film. It is the only one not blaming others and taking responsibility for its own actions. In the film the protagonist’s behaviour resembles the snake’s actions in that he does not make any excuses. He does not pass the buck like everybody else.
The world of the films is very conceptual, how did you build that?
While writing the script I simultaneously started designing the world. I wanted Boris to inhabit the utmost uninviting place you can imagine. Bleak concrete walls, no plants or greenery at all. No sunshine, no birds, no sky, no way out. A prison where the only escape would be pursuing his passion: playing basketball. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to feature the key ingredients of the story of Genesis and have those elements translated into the world of the film. The snakes were used as an extrinsic device to get Boris to (re)act. He is the only one who “sees“ the animals, and every time they appear he does something that brings him closer to his goal to play basketball and stand up to the players who bullied him before. Through the voice over and his transformation in the end we understand that Boris is presented as the equivalent to the serpent in Genesis. The snakes that appeared were always part of him. He is the one who consciously or unconsciously pushed himself to achieving his goal.
I knew the color red would play a role as I wanted to incorporate the forbidden fruit in this world as well. Red apples and Boris‘ red Basketball were the way to go. Location scouting started early on. We knew that we had to complement some shots with matte paintings in order to marry the locations together, so we had to plan for that. I was extremely fortunate to have Khalid on board as a collaborator. Early on we discussed our visual approach. We wanted the images to be simplistic and decided on finding beauty in minimalism. The color palette would be a reduced one but featuring the strong red I mentioned before. Khalid brought his unique style to this project and was an integral part of bringing this idea to life.
How were you guys able to pull this off?
The challenges on this film were manifold. We were on a tight budget and had only three shooting days in locations that were very far apart. We had live animals on set and naturally their well-being and the performers‘ safety come first. Time constraints, logistic difficulties and challenging locations made it an absolute necessity to come prepared. In the end we were able to push through because of our collaborators. Simon&Paul out of Hamburg got involved and I was working closely with the production designer Ann-Kristin Buettner and my DOP Khalid Mohtaseb to bring my vision to life. Joseph Bicknell of Company 3 fused it all together brilliantly in the grade. Final touches were made at the Berlin sound studios of Ginger x MassiveMusic. They provided music and sound design that draws inspiration from many different cultures.
Casting the film was a difficult task, I had to find the right personalities for the film, always trying to keep in mind their equivalents from Genesis. The female lead, for example, had to both embody the perplexed girlfriend who is left alone in the bathtub because her boyfriend is drawn to the basketball court and at the same time be representative of a wrathful God who lost control over one of his angels — an angel who now plots his comeback from hell.
Having had the chance to gather all that creative talent and guide their work towards the final outcome has been a privilege I deeply cherish.