Exclusive Interview: Goodnight Mommy Directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala


Austrian horror isn’t really a “thing” yet (I can think of a few – Funny Games, Taxidermia, and… um… does Arnold Schwarzenegger count?), but the newest underground sensation Goodnight Mommy just might change all that when it’s released Stateside today, September 11th.

The spooky story takes place in a remote house nestled between sketchy woods and verdant corn fields, where 10-year-old twin brothers are waiting for their mother to come home from a long stay in the hospital. When she finally arrives, her face bandaged after extensive cosmetic surgery, nothing is as it was before. The boys start to doubt that this woman is actually their mom… If she’s not Mother, then who is she, and why is she there? Family paranoia cuts both ways, and we can’t be sure who’s more dangerous: Mother or her sons?

Goodnight Mommy (review) is the first narrative feature from writer-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, who are on hand in the U.S. to chat up the press and spill a few beans on the making of the thriller. The film’s disturbing content clicks into place when you consider Franz is married to Austrian auteur Ulrich Seidl, who served as their producer, and Fiala is his nephew. It’s all in the family, and so is the movie’s plot.

Goodnight Mommy is buzzing hard right now, but as Fiala told us, “Nobody saw it in Austria. We didn’t make it thinking it would be this big success, critically acclaimed and so on. We just made a movie that we knew we would like. We never had grand plans of making a movie that would be released in the U.S. We never expected it, but we are very, very proud that happened. In Austria most people only want to see films from the U.S., so not too many people came to watch Goodnight Mommy. And now the trailer has been such a success on the internet, people are constantly asking us when the film will be released without realizing it already had been released!” Franz laughed and added, ”So, we are re-releasing it in Austria!”

When asked how the collaboration worked, Fiala said, ”Me and Veronica co-wrote, co-directed, and co-everything’ed on this movie! People say, ‘Well, there has to be a boss; which one of you was the boss?’ But that is not how it worked. Even Veronica’s husband said, ‘There cannot be two bosses.’ But we decided everything together, we made everything together, and we’re just more self-confident that way and more creative that way. It was possible, of course, because we really trust each other. We share a vision of cinema, we like the same films, we look at the world in a very similar way, and for us it’s always about the good of the film – not who had an idea first or who is the boss. We are not vain; it’s about making the best movie possible. Fortunately for us, we had a producer who was not primarily interested in making money; it was about making the best movie possible. He enabled us.”

Franz agreed, “He was very generous, especially when it came to us wanting to shoot Goodnight Mommy on 35mm. Of course, that is such an issue. And it’s a risk, especially with us making our first feature film together, and then we want to do it in an expensive and time-consuming way. And with children in it, too! Everyone encouraged us to do digital, but we felt strongly that the look of our film needed to be a certain way. Aesthetically, we really think it looks so much better in 35mm. Also, concentration on the set is much more focused because with film it’s not so easy to just do retakes or do it later. It lends a feel of importance. My husband said, ‘Okay, if that’s what you want to do and if we run out of money on the budget, then… we’ll just find more money.’ Luckily we didn’t go over budget at all!”

But what about playback? Is that even possible while shooting, or did they have to watch dailies the old-fashioned way? Fiala explained, “We had a monitor on-set, but it was kind of fuzzy. When you shoot on 35mm, it’s not the best quality in playback. Nowadays, people are used to having these huge, crystal clear monitors on set and you can see everything and repeat it. We didn’t have that. It’s very grainy, like old-school television.”

In closing, we just had to ask about kids. “I don’t have children,” said Fiala. “I only have a mother… and I’m scared of her!”

Franz said, “I have two sons; they are 12 and 17. The younger one is not allowed to see the film yet, but the older one, he really liked it! I think he watched it five times. He’s very proud of it. Even though I wrote this story, I’m not scared of children, actually.”

Real-life twins Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz star alongside Susanne Wuest.

In the heat of the summer lays a lonesome house in the countryside where nine-year-old twin brothers await their mother’s return. When she comes home, bandaged after cosmetic surgery, nothing is like before, and the children start to doubt whether this woman is actually who she says she is. What ensues is a terrifying observational struggle with fatal consequences on par with The Shining and Dead Ringers.Goodnight Mommy



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