Return to Montauk (Rückkehr nach Montauk): An interview with actress Susanne WolffBerlin Film Festival 2017
Return to Montauk (Rückkehr nach Montauk) is not for everyone, and the romantic wistfulness might strike some as being a bit TV movie-ish. But it’s a rewarding and gentle story, depicting Max Zorn, a writer (Stellan Skarsgård) as he tries to reconnect with Rebecca (Nina Hoss), the lost love of his life. German actress Susanne Wolff plays Max’s wife, Clara. She’s a free-spirited woman who knows that her husband’s attention might be wavering as he attempts to relive his past, and she needs to make some astute decisions. We spoke with Susanne at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, shortly after the film premiered.
Hi Susanne! How is Berlinale treating you this year?
It was a pleasure this time, because I had this gorgeous accreditation, and with that you can go to the VIP counter, and you can have every ticket you want. So I saw many films. There was nothing else I had to do… OK, so in the evening you have to go to these parties. Well, not really parties, but sort of parties. I would have preferred to just watch movies. It’s a little bit like a drug. In the beginning you can’t imagine that you could see three films per day, and then you realise… It could be five films. Yesterday at the premiere, I was surprised that it was much easier than I thought. Dress, haircut, all that. It just came together, and I really enjoyed it.
How does a character grab you to the point where you have to play them? Are you simply intuitive about it?
I try to be. Just as everyone tries to do that as an actor or actress. In that case, or in every case, I read the script, I try to understand the script and the story, and then I try to find one specific scene or description of this figure by the scriptwriter or the director, who are often the same person. So maybe there’s a scene in which she kills a cat, or she shaves her head, or whatever. You might find this scene or this sentence, and you think, Ah… this is that character. And in Return to Montauk, it was the sentence “I love you. You know that”. That’s what immediately jumped out, and I though OK, so this is her, her beat. And after all that happens, she still told him that she loved him. Not in a stupid way, in a very convinced and quiet way. She says this twice, both at the beginning and end of the film, and so this is what I liked, that she has the power to realise that she still loves him. She takes a step back, and says that right now, it’s done. She’s a character who lives right now, in the present, and he’s a character who lives almost exclusively in the past. That’s what I would say. And this was interesting for me, and different. I liked that scene in the end, and I like very much that I have the last line in the film! A very good sentence! But after everything, she’s not complaining. She told him that she didn’t want him to come, and that she still loved him. She says: “You can tell me what you want from me. I’ve had enough of being ignored by you”. It’s a beautiful and true sentence… that she realises that she’s ignored, and she realises this in a compact amount of time.
You seem to be quite the cinephile. Would it be a natural progression for your career to one day step behind the camera?
First of all I would like to work as a theatre director, because this is something I know. I used to be a theatre actress for 18 years, and I was fully employed for those 18 years in two different theatres, so this is the space that I know pretty well. Being a film director you have to be so experienced in so many different things to avoid that everybody tries to influence your work. So I have to know what kind of light I need for that shot. When I have to say, can you please do it for me? Um, no. So if someone was to tell me that I would live to be 103 years old, I think I would do it when I’m 80!
Read our review of Return to Montauk (Rückkehr nach Montauk) here.
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