How would you spend your last days if you were terminally ill? Director-writer and lead actor Florian David Fitz explores this question in the comedy The Most Beautiful Day, a touching and delightful romp about two friends and their adventures when they are told they have days left to live.
What inspired the script? What aspects of your character Benno, resonated with you most?
I read many books about dying and one especially touched me: it is a book of eulogies, written by people who are about to die. What would they want to hear about themselves at their funeral? What did they consider important? They contained every color, from bitter to being funny to revealing truths that they had hidden a whole lifetime. But most of them had one thing in common: they were free. And that became the theme of the movie. What, if nearing death was to your advantage? About Benno, I liked exactly that radical freedom. And yet, he wants to make amends, before he goes. I liked that. How was it working with Matthias Schweighöfer?
Oh, we had quite a journey! We have known each other for years, but it’s a different matter working together, of course. It was troublesome at first and we had fun and quite a few adventures in South Africa. Funnily enough, we really had sort of the same journey as the characters. I have seen Matthias in distress and in joy, I have saved his ass and he has saved mine. That makes you quite close in the end.
Were there any moments of spontaneous comedy or improv that made it into the movie?
Oh, once you got the characters down, there is lots of spontaneity. At first, we grappled with the idea of true comedic moments in the characters situation. What’s so funny about dying? But once you get over that, you see that death shouldn’t be the end of humor. Not unless you want to have a sepulchral, stiff, weighed down, shitty exit, that is. It’s simply the ultimate lesson in not taking oneself too seriously.
The movie is filmed all over. Where was your favorite locale or your favorite scene to film and why?
I liked the desert most. It was at the end of the shoot, all of the hard scenes had been shot, and there came this vast landscape, light in all kinds of hues, waterfalls and canyons. Lying on the warm rock after sunset in a kind of pink dusk, bats swarming out in masses around me, a thunderstorm on the Namib mountains on the horizon. It was like heaven.
Did the movie make you think differently at all about your own mortality or existence on this Earth? How did it feel to have fun with acting out the dying process?
Oh, see above, I guess. I had my share of dying in films. My most astonishing experience was in another film, Tour de force, which is about a guy with ALS who travels to Belgium for euthanasia. That was truly a trip. There’s one scene, the dying scene, where it didn’t feel like acting anymore. It was freaky, but very interesting. Our goal in this movie was to find the humor in death without lying about the pain. That was very freeing. If you were similarly diagnosed as Benno, how would you spend your final day(s)?
Dear lord, I don’t know! Good food. Good friends. A nightcap and a swift goodbye.