FunAstrologyIris Berben: "We'll get the canvas back"

Iris Berben: "We'll get the canvas back"

Created: 10/19/2022 Updated: 10/19/2022, 4:05 p.m

„Was heute passiert, ist kontraproduktiv zu dem, was wir alle wollen. Grenzt nicht schon wieder aus!“ Iris Berben in diesem Mai in Cannes.
“What is happening today is counterproductive to what we all want. Don’t be excluded again!” Iris Berben this May in Cannes. © afp

Iris Berben about more than five decades of film history, the freedom of the 1968 generation, the exclusion of the cancel culture and the happiness of doing the right thing without a strategy.

Ms. Berben, I just saw you in your first film “Detektive” by Rudolf Thome. That was in 1969, when you were 18. The compliment is a bit late now, but you were at least as good as the more experienced performers and already had amazing confidence. Where did that come from?

I’ve also been wondering this recently, why am I less confident today at 72 than I was when I was 18? But I’m getting close to the point again! I think it has to do with the fact that the generation that grew up in the 1960s wanted to do so many things differently, to redefine the world. This self-confidence that you wanted so much to be different from what was there, from your parents and grandparents. There was a certain chutzpah, it was also a form of naivety. And the conviction: ‘The world belongs to us! We do it differently, we do it right.’

You already had an eventful childhood behind you and had just traveled to Israel after the Six Day War. Where did the decision come from?

I belonged to the generation that didn’t go through the Third Reich in school. The Holocaust did not exist, there was no language for it. The Six Day War was something I only heard about in high school through the news, every question was blocked. And where adults don’t bother to explain something, young people become particularly curious. At some point I called my mother and said: I’ll finish school now, go to Israel and rebuild the country. She couldn’t stop me. I never finished school and got my history class in Israel, where there were still many survivors who either spoke to me or didn’t speak to me. But that does something to you that makes you go deeper. To ask, to explore, to know.

How long were you there?

Three months across the country, everything was open. People from all over the world had gathered, we slept on the beach. They got together immediately. There was a world before social media and one after. We also formed networks. You belonged together and knew: This is the right place here. I fell in love with the country and the culture. Later I had a relationship with an Israeli for over 30 years. And then I got to know Israel in another way, through my fund that I have at the University of Jerusalem. I support young students there who are working on brain research.

How do you assess the settlement policy today?

I don’t want to express myself politically in public, for example I get involved with readings with schoolchildren to strengthen the knowledge of the responsibility of our history. But of course I don’t agree with everything that happens there.

To come back to the lightness of your first films by Klaus Lemke and Rudolf Thome: women are always the most interesting characters, but the portrayal of gender roles may not be immediately understandable for a young audience today. You said recently: We took some of what is considered offensive today as a compliment.

It’s always the context of the time. You can’t make a statement like ‘Me Too’ there. We didn’t see it as sexist and, on the contrary, took to the streets and took all liberties.

You’ve always liked comic roles and played the absurd in a very believable way. As in your new film, Sönke Wortmann’s “Der Nachname” …

Absolutely! I also always believe that characters and worlds collide. The problems of today are so complex that many people take refuge in conservative positions. The character I’m playing here, as a free spirit, is of course much closer to me than the world that my children represent in the film.

I’ve always regretted not living through the hippie era…

That’s what my son says, by the way!

At least there were people like your co-discoverer Klaus Lemke, who always represented that.

Always, yes But he didn’t carry it in front of him. He lived it. He simply kept this freedom! There aren’t many, and it’s always difficult in this system to wriggle out and refuse. By the way, refusal is the only advantage of getting older.

How do you rate the “cancel culture” today compared to the freedom that your generation used to have?

My problem with that is that sometimes the content that is being discussed just evaporates because we get worked up about the form. Of course we know language has to change, behavior has to change. I just think what’s happening is that an arrogant, intellectual bubble is emerging that demands something while excluding exactly those who we have to take with us. It drives me crazy because with every sentence I say about it, I appear on the wrong page again. Of course, the playing field was bigger for us. But what is happening today is counterproductive to what we all want. Don’t marginalize again! We have to take to the streets, we have to reach the unsettled people. The AfD has already won 10.9 percent of the votes in Lower Saxony. Where each of us hoped that the influx would decrease.

Are we involuntarily preparing the way for a new class society?

We are actually fighting against this – and yet it is demarcation again.

Well, you’ve worked out everything in life yourself. Don’t you always have to fight a little more when academic degrees are more important to many people than talent?

Yes, especially if – like me – you are very impatient. I used to be more casual. But you don’t stop fighting. It is important to get a few accomplices.

Could it be that we are losing our view of art through the many political filters?

Yes, the sensuality of life is also lost. I love living! I don’t know if this is a specifically German phenomenon, but we lack a bit of lightness and the ability to dream big.

To person

Iris Berben, born in Detmold in 1950, is an actress and campaigns against anti-Semitism. She was part of the comedy show “Sketchup” alongside Diether Krebs and played the title character in the ZDF crime series “Rosa Roth”.

She can currently be seen in cinemas in Ruben Östlund’s Cannes-winning film “Triangle of Sadness”. And this Thursday starts “Der Nachname”, a comedy by Sönke Wortmann, sequel to “Der Vorname” (2018).

But the young German film of the 1970s also had its dogmas. Hannelore Elsner once told me that being beautiful was a flaw for actresses there. You couldn’t get the roles in the demanding films anymore. Did you feel that too?

Yes, I often talked about that with Hannelore. It was like this. Mario Adorf, whose laudatory speech I held in Zurich for the European Culture Prize, recently asked me whether I could remember my first criticism. I said no, they didn’t even exist for the first 20 years. I was only perceived as a beautiful girl. I then consciously used this “disadvantage” to work against it. For example with “Sketchup”.

… the comedy show with Dieter Krebs …

Then you suddenly read: how brave! But I think: on the contrary. That was expanding the possibilities that you have. As Hannelore said, we had no place in Young German Film. We only got that later.

As just now: You can be seen in the Cannes-winning film “Triangle of Sadness” by Ruben Ostlund.

What a clever film. He negotiates so many serious issues and people laugh their heads off. What luck! Do I have to be 72 to see that?

How did that happen?

casting! My eternal word of fear! But this time it worked. I knew two of his earlier films and knew: I want to be there. I really hope that this film will also draw people back to the cinema in Germany.

I’m sure about the movie…

Unfortunately, we’ve already lost the younger viewers to the blockbusters.

Then just play along there.

I just did a Netflix movie, a smart near future movie, I’m very excited. So far it has the working title “Paradise”. I’m glad I’m still being asked. I can’t do anything else. Maybe drive and cook.

How do you see the boom in streaming formats?

I find it exciting. I streamed so much in lockdown. There have been fantastic films and there is just as much crap. I get the right tips from my son. I think we’re all going to reset ourselves. TV, streaming, cinema. Cinema also had a hard time before the pandemic, but I am convinced that we will get the screen back. We just have to stop showing TV films on the big screen. And we would have to think about our support system.

However: Is there no longer any attention paid to quality?

An endless topic! I was with the film promotion agency for six years and president of the academy for nine years. We had to and still have to think a lot about why things aren’t going well for us. The cake must be divided differently, but it urgently needs to feed the cinema more consciously.

When you look back, are there any film offers you turned down that you regret today?

no What I have rejected, I have rejected out of conviction in these 52 years, and there is nothing about what I have done where I would say: I am ashamed of it. Perhaps we would know some things better today, but I was a single mother and I acted as I understood it.

That too is a talent you have to have: finding the right fabrics.

That was important to me from a very early age. I didn’t want to do anything that contradicted how I saw life. I never had a plan until today, and I never thought strategically. For a long time I thought maybe I’d study law after all one day.

That’s why you’re supporting NGOs today. Isn’t that the same impulse? create justice?

Someone once told me that too. You never gave up on your dream. Sometimes verbally, sometimes financially, you support people. Maybe you have to see it that way. I find I have a good life.

Interview: Daniel Kothenschulte

Iris Berben (vierte v. l.) in „Der Nachname“.
Iris Berben (fourth from left) in “The Surname”. © dpa
Iris Berben (r.) in einer Szene aus „Triangle of Sadness“. Foto: Fredrik Wenzel/Alamode
Iris Berben (right) in a scene from “Triangle of Sadness”. Photo: Fredrik Wenzel/Alamode © Fredrik Wenzel/Alamode

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