Though most of his films have been documentaries, Florian Habicht's work has often blurred the boundaries between truth and fiction. His CV includes offbeat fairytale Woodenhead, two love letters to New Zealand's far north (Kaikohe Demolition, Land of the Long White Cloud), portraits of Kiwi theatre legend Warwick Broadhead and British band Pulp, and his award-winning, genre-stretching Love Story.
Mixing the imagined worlds with the real stuff is something I’ve always been into. Florian Habicht in the Sunday Star Times, 3 August 2008
Long fascinated by the idea of community, Florian Habicht (Love Story, Kaikohe Demolition) discovered one in an unexpected place while making his eighth feature. Spookers is the name of a live horror attraction south of Auckland, adjoining what was once Kingseat psychiatric hospital. Habicht got to know a number of the performers working there. Alongside engaging and sometimes emotional interviews — and scenes of the staff at work, scaring the punters silly with zombie brides and chainsaws — he created scenes inspired by the performers' dreams and nightmares.
German-born Kiwi director Florian Habicht charts the journey of Britpop band Pulp to their 2012 Sheffield farewell concert. As well as singing along with the common people, and interviews with Jarvis Cocker and band (musing on everything from ageing to fishmongering), Habicht reunites with his Love Story co-writer and cinematographer to pay tribute to the band’s hometown and fans (including a rest home rendition of ‘Help the Aged’). The film premiered to strong reviews at US festival South by Southwest, where Variety found it “warmly human” and “artfully witty”.
Love Story sees director Florian Habicht finding a movie, a plot, and a beautiful Ukranian on the streets of New York. The offbeat romance is part love letter to New York City, part the story of Florian and Mash... and possibly part true. The script to this genre-bending tryst is written before our eyes, via story ideas from real life New Yorkers. Love Story won Aotearoa awards for Best Film and Director, and raves from Variety and the NZ Herald’s Peter Calder — who described Auckland Film Festival audiences gasping at the "strange, surprising and wildly romantic ideas sprinkled through it".
Director Florian Habicht returns to his Northland home turf to chronicle the annual Snapper Classic Fishing Contest, in this full-length documentary. First prize is $50,000, but the participants chase the joy of the cast as much as the purse. The solitary figures on the epic sweep of Ninety Mile Beach provide poetic images, as Habicht teases out homespun philosophy while fishing for answers on love, the afterlife and whether fish have feelings. The soundtrack features 50s style instrumentals from Habicht regular Marc Chesterman, plus singalongs on the sand and at the local pub.
Rubbings from a Live Man is a semi-dramatised biography largely performed by the subject himself — legendary theatre actor and director Warwick Broadhead. He recounts his dramatic life story by adopting a number of personas. The collaboration with director Florian Habicht marked a rare time the camera-wary Broadhead performed on screen. He describes his troubled upbringing as a lot of cover-up and pretence. "Then I went into the world of theatre," he says, "which is cover-up and pretence." Broadhead passed away in January 2015, having predesigned a memorable funeral.
This appropriately moody music video saw director Florian Habicht (Kaikohe Demolition) collaborating with musician Steve Abel, who had contributed to the soundtrack of Habicht's movie Woodenhead. The video moves between two puppets on a lonely plain, and close-ups of Abel and the guest vocalist who joins him on the track: Kirsten Morrell from Goldenhorse. The song is taken from Abel's award-winning debut album Little Death (2006). Habicht and Abel would work together again on the video for Abel's song 'Best Thing'. The puppets were created by Kiwi Oliver Smart.
Director Florian Habicht's follow-up to his offbeat fairytale Woodenhead is a documentary tribute to a community of characters, drawn together by a desire to jump in a car for the local demolition derby. Behind the bangs, prangs, and blow-ups, the heart and soul of a small Far North town — Kaikohe — is laid bare in this full-length film, thanks to a cast of fun-loving, salt of the earth locals. Kaikohe Demolition won rave reviews, and The Listener named it one of the ten best films of 2004. Filmmaker Costa Botes writes about the film's characters and qualities here.
Innocent Gert, who works in a rubbish dump, can't believe his luck when he's ordered by his boss to take his beautiful mute daughter, Princess Plum, to meet her prospective husband. The two set off on a mythical quest through a fairytale Far North landscape. On the way they encounter freaks and monsters, and experience danger and romance. In an unusual reversal, the voices and music for Woodenhead were all recorded before filming. This surreal second feature from Elam art school grad Florian Habicht took Aotearoa to the arthouse with unprecedented weirdness and wonder.
Florian Habicht shot Liebesträume ('love dream' in German) on a windup Bolex 16mm camera. His decision to record the dialogue separately enhances the surreal feel of this tale of suburban desire. A paper boy is invited in for a glass of milk by an elderly man (played by Habicht's father, photographer Frank Habicht). Then Frank's alluring partner Donna enters the scene. Habicht rejects traditional narrative in favour of juxtaposition and dark humour. The film is not to be confused with Habicht's 2000 feature Liebesträume - The Absurd Dreams of Killer Ray, about late entertainer Killer Ray.