Franka Potente directs her first feature film, "Home." Photo courtesy of Franka Potente
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Franka Potente said her feature film directorial debut Home, in theaters and video-on-demand Friday, is about how beauty and brutality can coexist. Jake McLaughlin plays Marvin, an ex-con who returns to his hometown to care for his dying mother (Kathy Bates).
Potente said she was inspired to create Marvin when she saw a picture of singer Frank Carter in the New York Times Style magazine 15 years ago. Marvin sports the mohawk and neck tattoos Carter wore at the time.
"It was like fragility, but it was also brutal at the same time, this hair and then these tattoos," Potente told UPI in a Zoom interview. "I wanted the story to convey these feelings of brutality vs. tenderness."
Marvin was in prison for murder and the grandchildren of the woman he murdered greet him with anger.
Although Potente has never committed a crime as drastic as Marvin, she said the story she wrote ultimately reflected some of her own struggles. Potente moved from Germany to the U.S. after the success of her 1999 film Run Lola Run, and said she has felt unwelcome when she visits Germany.
"They're maybe hurt that I left, that I'm living here now," Potente said. "Germans take a lot of pride in their people."
Potente said her parents, who still live in Germany, can still treat her like a child when she stays with them. Potente said the vulnerability she feels visiting home informed Marvin's vulnerability in the film.
"The most intimate place that we call home is, of course, the place where we're the most vulnerable," Potente said.
Potente said she also did not want to give viewers any easy answers. Marvin has served his time, but the grieving grandchildren may be justified in shunning him.
"We try to explore how complicated it is," Potente said. "I think you can understand both sides."
What Potente said Marvin and his victim's survivors have in common is they both express their emotions. Potente said she hopes Home inspires viewers to embrace emotions, even if those include anger.
"They are not afraid of being emotional about it, showing the rawness of their anger and saying, 'We are angry. This is not okay,'" Potente said. " At least to me that's the beginning of a conversation."
Potente said her path to directing was as unexpected as the rest of her career has been. Prior to Run Lola Run, Potente said she expected to focus on theater.
"I was trained for stage," Potente said. "Then the movies came to me, so to speak. I was like, 'Oh my God, it's so much better, so much more natural.'"
In Hollywood, Potente appeared in movies like The Bourne Identity, Che and The Conjuring 2, and TV series like The Shield, Taboo and American Horror Story. Potente made the silent short film Digging for Belladonna in 2006, but said acting kept her from pursuing directing.
"I really, really don't know why I didn't just stick with it," Potente said. "I think I was just too much in the acting thing."
In the ensuring years, Potente also published fiction in Germany. She eventually decided to write her own script to direct.
"I kept it small," Potente said. "It was a small story. I knew I wanted to shoot it in America and in English because that was the center of my life."
Directing Home, Potente found that she'd written and filmed more than she needed. Potente said she empathized with her actors when she told them some of their scenes hit the cutting room floor.
"It's tough for an actor to be like, 'I was really good in that scene,'" Potente said. "Yes, you were but you were even better in the other scene. You're telling me everything I needed to see in that scene."