“When a film glorifies violence, I’m out” : Jonas Dassler discusses playing a serial killer in The Golden Glove
Entirely unrecognisable from his character on screen, Jonas Dassler, the 23-year-old star of Fatih Akin’s The Golden Glove (Der Goldene Handschuh), spoke about the grizzly film and where he draws the line for a project. The feature has proven quite polarising as people struggle with the presentation of the violence and humanity of the serial killer. Dassler addressed the extensive research that went into the production, developing his own interpretation of the role and his ability to go home leaving the murderer on set.
Your last two films, The Silent Revolution and The Golden Glove, are both are set in the past. Are you particularly interested in roles rooted in German history?
I am really interested. For both, I had an audition so it’s not like I’m saying I only do historical stuff. I think it was a coincidence. We are part of a big line so I have to look back and see how privileged I am to live here. We are all one. It is all connected in a way. I am only here because the Second World War happened.
Can you talk about the importance of World War Two in the film?
It’s a big part of this film because this kind of social class wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the Second World War. There was this economic boom after the war but there was still part of the society who were forgotten. This is the story of the forgotten ones.
How much research did you put in?
A lot. We talked with psychologists and I talked with Heinz Strunk who did great research for his book. He has documents that were never seen before. I dealt with the real person Honka but also the book which is an interpretation from Heinz. I had to create another interpretation of this real character and get a sense of him on every level: the music, the food, the environment etc. I really tried to suck in everything I could get, but at one point I had to cut it together and build a character.
This film goes very far; what are your limits for a film?
When a film glorifies violence, I am out. I think then it is for nothing. It tells me nothing.
In the strangulation sequence, we see how long it takes to kill someone. How hard was it for you to do this scene?
It was very exhausting physically. We did it twice or three times. This scene could only work because I was connected to Martina, the actress. I met with every actress before. It was really important to meet each other in a personal way and to trust each other. When you’re playing a scene with such a lot of violence, you have a big responsibility as an actor, on a human level, for this other person.
When you’re playing a scene like this there must be care for each other. No one should feel bad or threatened by this job. Yes, we are dealing with this topic but the topic shouldn’t affect the set. The set is a safe space.
There is a humour that comes through the violence in the film. Was that intentional?
It is written in Strunk’s book. He comes from humour. He wrote this book where he could have this humouristic approach because it’s absurd. There is a killer who is so overwhelmed by a body in his flat and he doesn’t know what to do. We all wouldn’t know what to do. It’s funny because it’s absurd. I don’t think that the character is funny. It was important that this was no caricature of Fritz Honka or the women. It’s not intentional to make it lighter but the situation that Heinz created is in a funny frame and Fatih adapted this for the screenplay.
Can you talk about the mixture of horror in the flat and dark comedy in the bar?
The bar in St Pauli, it was where you went to get rid of your problems. That was the place to forget. To have fun. This is also taken from the real person. Everyone thought he was a nice guy. Everyone knew him. He was one person in The Golden Glove; he was not such a big star. That came afterwards. It is so often that you don’t expect it. Of course, there is the fun part with Honka but, in his flat, there is this secret. This is what creates this feeling of those two films. Really it was two worlds.
You are a lot younger that Honka would have been. How did you come to play the part?
I tried to not spend so much thought on the age. I thought it would confuse me in a way that I had to cross this gap to the age. The make-up gave me the age.
I tried to get a body for the biography. I really dealt with the past of Honka. I tried to suck it in and get a body for this. I think within our body is our whole memory. We are very good at deconstructing things with our mind. We can lie. Our body cannot lie. When you see a person who is limping then it tells me something about his past. I tried to find a body for his past and not for his age.
The make-up gave you many things; how did it feel to look in the mirror?
It was actually not the look in the mirror. It was when people stopped looking at me. When I had these contact lenses for the first time in my eyes, I tried to speak with someone and he wasn’t able to look into my face. When I have the mask on one part of people stared at me and the other part looked away. This really helped to get an impression of this character. This was a big part of Honka who actually was ugly like this.
To be excluded you are confronted by your own loneliness and exclusion all the time. The environment acts on you and you have to react to it.
What is your acting style or technique? How method are you? Can you leave the killer at the end of the day?
Yes, I can. I have my methods for acting but for this film, it was really important to know each other with such a sensitive topic and themes. It’s better when everybody trusts each other and we have a good atmosphere. Then we can work. I don’t want to threaten anybody. This is my job. It is impossible to be somebody. I am always interpreting, only pretending and trying to get so close as is possible but, I am never going to be there.
What helped me really was this process of getting there every morning with three hours to get the make-up. Symbolically I am getting into the role and then, at the end of the day, I am pulling it off.
Were you looking to other interpretations of serial killers like Anthony Hopkins or Matt Dillon?
I didn’t watch. I watched a lot of Fassbinder films to get a feeling for this time and I liked how he deconstructed language. I tried to concentrate on “my serial killer”. There is also a theatre play of The Golden Glove but I watched it after I did the movie because the main actor Charly Hübner was one reason why I started acting. He is a great German actor but I could not see it. When I see his Honka it wouldn’t be possible to not compare.
Actors often tell us you must sympathise with your characters and you mustn’t judge them. Is this even possible with a role like this?
I judge the real person. I hate him for this, for what he did. So, I really have to concentrate on our fictional interpretation of Honka which is based on the real Honka. For me of course, it was important for the frame. You have to love but the frame must be right. When I see that the film is leading to a direction that I find acceptable because there is a critical engagement with the topic and there is no glorification of violence, then I can concentrate on my character work.
For me, it was this level of a man who tried to have this normal life who really wanted love. It was a strange love story. A strange search for a relationship and dealing with your messed up biography and desires.
Do you think there is a message in this film?
It is more creating a feeling. I would not say “this” is the message. This film probably creates a feeling in you. When it does, you have to deal with it. This is what movies are for: to create a feeling.
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/ Getty Images
The Golden Glove (Der Goldene Handschuh) does not have a UK release date yet. Read our review here.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from The Golden Glove (Der Goldene Handschuh) here: