German director and screenwriter Anja Marquardt opens up about her work as the new showrunner of The Girlfriend Experience. Centered on the intrusion of technology into our private lives, it breathes new life into the series.
AlloCiné: You are new to the series. How did this third season come to you?
Anja Marquardt: Yes, I’m taking over from Amy Seimetz and Lodge Kerrigan who created the series and its first two seasons. And of course Steven Soderbergh who is sort of the captain of the franchise, and the director of the independent film from which the series is adapted. I would say it was a mixture of luck and forces coming together in the right direction. I am really lucky to have had this call.
You directed the film She’s Lost Control about a sex assistant. Do you come to the series with your culture and a European influence? How does this translate to the image?
This is an interesting question. Season 3 of The Girlfriend Experience comes at a time when there are a lot of cultural changes. Conversations are held on how to work together, treat each other, be inclusive and have a positive attitude at work especially in cinema.
I have the feeling that I am arriving on this project at an ideal time. The channel was very open to the idea of filming outside the United States. In fact, it was Starz’s idea to shoot in London and make this series more international. I come from Berlin, I lived for a long time in the United States. It allowed me to bring my point of view and my influences.
How does that feel in your writing and directing?
That’s a question for Steven Soderbergh. Maybe he sees something European in my work. It turns out that when I show my work in Europe, people tell me that I have an American approach. And when I show my work in the United States, there are sometimes people who tell me that I have a way of expressing myself that is more European… I think I’m a hybrid. I love cinema in all its forms. Whether it is films more focused on a plot, narration or films more focused on the characters as is the tradition in Europe.
This season is interested in sexuality and interactions between people via new technologies. How do you explain that digital has succeeded so much in interfering in people’s private lives?
It’s a scary question and that’s part of what got me to do this season 3. I don’t think it’s just about sexuality but more broadly about connection. How we interact with people, how we experience our own humanity when we relate to others. There is more and more distance between people because technology is everywhere. All these questions have been working on me for years because it has invaded our reality. You would think that physical privacy is the last bastion of privacy, but no.
Would you go so far as to say that it is no longer sex that dominates the world, to use an overused expression, but new technologies?
I am an optimist. We have choices about how to behave and how to use technology to do great things that would have been impossible without. But we also have the choice to preserve this freedom and not to use it. It really is a matter of choice.
You have completed the entire season. How did you envision the sex scenes?
It was basically a collaboration between Julia Goldani Telles who plays Iris and me. But also the privacy coordinator. There were sometimes two of them. And they were a big help in choreographing these scenes and creating the illusion in front of the camera.
If you watch the series but also the Steven Soderbergh film, it is never a question of treating the person as an object. And it’s not about nudity either. It’s more about knowing what these scenes are about emotionally, what is going on between two people.
Would you say that you have a feminine look in the way you shoot?
I’m not sure … I’m a woman. I don’t think too much about it to be honest. I think of people as complete, complex, complicated beings, sometimes abandoned and contradictory people. It doesn’t matter what kind they are. What interests me is what drives us, what scares us. We’re all dumped and complicated. It doesn’t help me in my job to have these categories in mind.
You brought in Oliver Masucci, known especially for his role in Dark. Why this choice ?
I am a fan of his work. He’s a very enigmatic actor. And that’s what I wanted for the role of Georges Verhoeven who is a kind of European politician who hatches a whole lot of machinations. He brings something subversive and interesting, it was really exciting to work with him.
Interview by Emilie Semiramoth on April 16, 2021.