In Giorgio Diritti’s film “Lubo,” based on Mario Cavatore’s novel “Il seminatore,” Franz Rogowski seduces as Lubo, a Yenish traveling performer, father and husband, who has to join the Swiss army in 1939. He is one hell of a charmer, although his passion has dark undertones.
“Our take is more playful, but the book put more emphasis on the fact that this man impregnated over 100 women in Zurich. He wanted to make sure his people would survive,” says Rogowski.
In the film, Lubo finds out that while he was away, his wife died trying to save their children, taken away in accordance with the infamous national “re-education” program for “Children of the Road.”
“He is a passionate man. But it’s also his revenge, in a way,” he adds.
“Many people have been describing my acting as very physical and my roles as ‘experimental,’ and I have been exploring sexuality before. But it’s just a human condition and a part of our life. Sex and power can be so closely intertwined.”
With True Colors on board as the sales agent, “Lubo” is produced by Indiana Production, Aranciafilm, Rai Cinema, Hugofilm Features and Proxima Milano.
Recently seen in Ira Sachs’ “Passages,” Rogowski jumped at a chance to portray another “character of many colors,” as well as his decade-spanning search for missing children, one that constantly forces him to transform.
“He is a stranger. Someone who is always alone, wherever he goes. I knew that his story would also put me in that role. Swiss German is very different from the German I speak. Italian is not my language. There were so many obstacles.”
Although learning how to play two instruments and speak three languages in eight weeks was “quite intense,” he found a way to connect with Lubo, a devoted performer shown bewitching the crowd in a bear costume at the very beginning of the movie.
“These are the moments of his true identity,” he says.
“It was interesting to come back to these kinds of practices, because when I first started doing theater, I went to a school founded by a clown in Ticino [the Italian-speaking region in southern Switzerland], where we actually shot the movie!”
Later, he was doing street theater in Locarno, also in Ticino.
“Me and my friend, we would go to a bar and pretend we were battling over who is the best clown. Ten years later I had my first film in Locarno and then we shot this one there. To a certain extent, it’s also my personal story. It made me quite emotional,” he says. But the experience was also nerve-wrecking.
“Being exposed to an audience like that is so stressful. I don’t like being on stage. I have been a dancer and choreographer for quite a long time, and I never looked at my audience. I have never seen anyone’s face, because I was ashamed.”
As “Lubo” echoes the “Hilfswerk für die Kinder der Landstrasse” policy, which attempted to “assimilate” Yenish people and went on until the 1970s, Rogowski made sure to do his homework as well.
“In school, we hear so much about wars, but I have never heard about Yenish people,” he admits.
“This man, he is a victim of war, and then his children are taken. Like so many others, who would eventually end up in mental institutions, who were given to farmers or other couples. [During his search] Lubo uses the tools street theater gave him. He is not used to social codes, to the upper-class, but he knows how to pretend. He knows how to wear costumes.”
Soon, Rogowski will be seen in Andrea Arnold’s “Bird,” leaving period dramas behind for a while.
“When you are making a historical movie, the fact that you are surrounded by the things you are not used to can be very inspiring. But we shot this one in Gravesend, an hour away from London. We didn’t bring any ‘intimidating artillery,’ like cranes, and we would invite the neighbors to play alongside the actors. There is beauty in both approaches.”
As his star continues to rise, he is hoping to do more interesting work in the future. And he might have finally gained enough confidence to do so.
“When I was younger, I wanted somebody to take my hand and show me the way,” he says.
“To some extent, I am still longing for this father figure. But I am on my way now and things are going great. I just want to stay true, keep it real, work hard but also not too much. Live a life, you know. For now, I am happy with what I have.”