The Tagada ride is one of the features of the Prater amusement park in Vienna.
Young Denise has been coming here almost every day for six years.
Around and around she goes, to forget herself. “I can let myself go, and when I stand up on this ride, all my problems fly away,” she tells us.
Keeping her balance for a few moments, Denise escapes from the real world.
“I tried to make an uplifting film
in spite of a story
that might seem tragic.”
- How did this project come about?
We made ‘Keeping Balance’ as part of my training at the Vienna Film Academy. We had to make a documentary in the first semester. I went looking for a story at the Prater amusement park. I wanted to find a subject that shows not everything in a place like that is shiny and bright and full of joy.
As soon as I caught sight of Denise on the Tagada ride, I was hooked. I watched her for a long time, and then went to ask her, ‘How do you do that?’
The first thing she said was, ‘I’ve been doing it nearly every day for six years!’ It was obvious that it was pretty deep. I told her I was looking for a film idea, and I asked if I could interview her.
- Denise tells you about times in her childhood and teens that were really personal and hard… How come she confided in you?
I started audio recording right when we started to talk. She opened up and told me her whole life story. I didn’t see it coming, how dark that was. We got together a few times, and I eventually had eight hours of raw interviews. I asked Denise why she agreed to tell me everything, and she said, ‘On the one hand, it always helps to talk, and on the other, I’d like to show people that, no matter how bad things get, you can always find a way forward.’
For me, the film had to convey Denise’s determination, and I tried to make an uplifting film in spite of a story that might seem tragic.
- We hear Denise’s voice but we never see her talk to the camera. Why that choice?
Firstly, I had hours of audio from when Denise told me her story for the first time, and I just know that it’s impossible to replicate that kind of real emotion when you ask someone to say it again to camera.
Secondly, I’m not a fan of ‘talking heads’ documentaries. When I do a first interview, I never bring a camera because it might get in the way and stress my subject out.
- Tell us about the technical side of the film, especially the last sequence, when the camera is on the turning ride.
Shooting was fairly easy. We went to the Prater with Denise for two days to get a feel for the layout. The hardest was the final sequences, since the camera is mounted on the ride while it’s turning. We’d built the attachment hardware back at the school, and put that on the ride to hold the camera in place. The sound engineer sat to the right of it and I sat on the left, and we went round 30 times with Denise.
Right from the beginning, my intention was to get closer to her throughout the film, and to finish with her on the ride, in her world.
- A word about 99 and adapting your film in several languages?
I’m very happy that Denise’s story – above all her courage in going on with her life – is available for an international public, with so many languages. Thank you so much for that!