In a 2008 interview by Oliver Kerkdijk for Amsterdam’s Odeon Magazine, Hal Hartley talks about his extended sojourn in Europe, and how it has affected his creative sensibilities as an American abroad. A lot of what he talks about is reflected in the suite of shorts available for viewing: Accomplice, Adventure, “Implied Harmonies, A/Muse and The Apologies.
OK: You’ve moved to Berlin, staged plays in Antwerp and Salzburg, others have staged theatrical versions of your screenplays in this part of the world, a retrospective of your work was shown in Poland. Would you say you’re a fish out of water or rather a the classic ex-pat artist who has found his home in Europe?
HH: I think it’s more an aspect of globalization – the differences between one part of the world and another are fewer these days. I feel at home in a lot of places. It makes very little difference to my day-to-day life and work whether I’m living in New York, Berlin, Paris, or Amsterdam. A person like me finds himself working in different countries, making friends and business associates all over the world. After awhile, it’s hard to say I live in this or that particular city.
OK: How does the move affect your work?
HH: Not much. I’m an American filmmaker making films about Americans. But I think as I grow older and spend more time in more parts of the world, my characters tend to be Americans who are also in other parts of the world. I sense that this is significant – this globalization thing. More and more of my writing does try to give an impression of the way life is lived now when a lot of us do our work all over the world.
OK: Does the time of your early films seem a remote place now?
HH: It is far away in time, but when I see those films the young man who made them feels very close. I understand him and like him. I’m glad I was him and not someone else.
OK: Would you say that you, Whit Stillman and a few others of the 90s’ independents grew disillusioned with the movie industry or that the various forays into other territories and countries were a natural move?
HH: I accomplished all I wanted to achieve in the film business by 1997. Then I moved on towards what I felt was most interesting to me – which, of course, is what I had always been doing from the beginning anyway. So, I was certainly not disillusioned. I had even been financially successful making fairly marginal art films with a lot of creative freedom. So, I was quite grateful, in fact. But I felt I had finished with something – something that was about being young. It was time to move on. And the mainstream film business didn’t seem to offer me what I needed to grow creatively. So, I needed to step aside from that and find different environments that would allow me to experiment and explore. I don’t know about other people. I had a great time. I still do.
You can read the full interview at Hal Hartley’s website.