Neun Szenen

Neun Szenen

Deutschland 2005/2006, Spielfilm

In Anna we trust

A portrait of actress Anna Brüggemann, German Films Quareterly 3/2013

Anna Brüggemann settles on the sofa and curls around her coffee mug. We’re in her new flat, right across the road from the old one. It’s amazing how far the search for an extra room can take you, but when you’ve recently become a parent and a removal van is standing opposite …

"My piano teacher had seen an advert from a casting agency," Brüggemann begins. "I was on a school trip from Regensburg to Munich, which is where the agency was, and we were allowed to go off in groups of four. I broke away, rang their doorbell and told them I had half an hour! It might not be the usual way of going about things but they took my photo and I thought, to be honest, I’d never hear from them again! Three months later I got the casting call for 'Virus X'!"

It’s not easy to reconcile the mild mannered, softly spoken person opposite with her seeming auto-ego, the go-getting identical twin who jumps right in, grabs with both hands and bites deeply, but, as she explains, "I don’t get nervous or excited, I’ve always liked acting and it was such great fun, a whole new world, being directed. It was so much bigger than my usual world and I felt great. I always wanted to perform any dialogue I could grab, but never thought it would work out, especially as my parents were always moving; one time just as I was going to get my big break at school!"

Following "Virus X" she got "just small roles", but when Brüggemann was up for "Das schwangere Mädchen" she knew an opportunity when she saw it and was not going to let a small thing like high school graduation get in her way! "It was a convent and the school was against it," she relates, "not because they were nuns, they just didn’t want to get blamed for me failing!" Employing a skillfull mixture of threats, blackmail, extortion and her mother ("I was eighteen, and threatened to just leave!") she got her way and the role! She also graduated successfully.

Whatever she does, it all starts for Anna Brüggemann "when I get a script! I can be seduced when the role is interesting and if I find a good angle I can overlook any weaknesses, if it has any." She looks for "authenticity', and the emotionality must also work. In sci-fi, for example, the characters and emotions must work, otherwise it’s unimportant what explodes!"

She is not an actress who needs to identify with the characters: "I look for figures that are not taken for granted, not those assembled from pieces out of other films. It can’t be an artificial reality." This means she has "to work like mad to make them real. They have to have edges and corners. That is what brings them to life!"

To get into character, Brüggemann "plays with dialect and accent. Otherwise I use a bit of method acting, although pure method is something I find terrible." She also works on her character’s backstory, imagining "their childhood, who loved them, who wanted to love them or who they wanted to love." Preparation is the key: "to walk through the city with their eyes, look at clothes in windows, talk to people on the bus. It always helps to go for a walk with them."

She expands on the subject: "When the character is interesting it doesn’t matter what type she is. Very hard are the ones who appear easiest; the beaming woman, the uncomplicated love interest, when you have nothing to play except a good mood! I much prefer the strong or extremely weak woman." And what about being a bad guy? "Bad guys are always interesting. I’d love to play against type, but the extremely weak are just as interesting. I’m attracted to the extreme because you can’t do it in everyday life, nor would you want to. Acting is there to discover the human highs and lows. The audience can watch and take the ride. It’s not a straight line through the middle. I don’t think I’ve played enough extreme roles yet. The potential is still there, there is more to discover."

Appearances again being deceptive, Brüggemann finds "physicality very, very, very helpful. How they walk, their posture, is totally important. Posture can put me right into character. It’s not in the script, it’s something the actor has to do." Then …"Costume is decisive! Often you meet the costume designer late in the process and think, 'WTF??!!' You then have to rethink the entire character!" It makes perfect sense. "Everyone stands in front of the wardrobe each morning," she explains, "and thinks what to wear." She can under stand when directors want to avoid their actors getting vain, but this is her drum and she bangs it resolutely: “Most of my colleagues think the same as me. It should be done much sooner, with actors, director and costume designer coming together. It pays off."

Brüggemann’s favorite way of working is "with a director I trust. It comes when you feel you’re on the same wavelength. The director should want synergy, working hand in hand. You can walk through the room or be micromanaged through it! When the director has a vision and shares it, then I do so happily. The main thing is he or she understands their vision: that’s the trust."

"Trust is intuitive," Brüggemann continues. "It happens very fast, as soon as you meet someone. When the 'Wow!' is there, then it works." This extends also to the emotional level of the character she is playing. Like director, like film: "There are vain ones, others fluff up, some never get to the point, some are fat and funny, others loving, others silent. The maker makes the film."

With a film always being a matter of individual taste, Brüggemann admits, "I really don’t know what a good one is! It’s easy to define a bad one. A film should never be boring or annoying, although some do it deliberately! I hate vain and boring ones. The worst are those that are both!"

Films that work are the ones "that pull you in and have a strength, even a silent one," Brüggemann continues. "It has nothing to do with the genre, it must have narrative strength. It’s really the maker’s vision. It’s an art to tell a story." Jokes, for example, “have to be new, not old and hoary, for example. When it has strength you notice it; there is a magic flow in the pictures, on the actors, in the music: music alone can wreck a film!" And if anyone is still in any doubt, "I don’t believe in 'fix it in post'."

Amongst her abilities, Anna Brüggemann speaks fluent, accentfree English. This has to be tested and, sure enough! It’s so good she could have been dropped behind the lines during the last war to create mayhem! How come? "I lived in South Africa from when I was three to seven, my father was a  professor in Johannesburg," she says. "I went to a British kindergarten and my teacher was very, very British!"

A lover of theater, she admits, "I’ve never done it properly. I miss that, but whether I’ll get the chance … But a really good play is, in its breath-taking moments, often better than a good film, and it’s so rare. Film is super, of course, but it’s a very different way of working."

Although she’s been keen to avoid the subject, wanting to focus on her acting, Anna Brüggemann is also a writer. "I’ve done three roles for myself, so far," she says. "It’s very hard to do and is a thin line that can easily cross into vanity. On '3 Zimmer/Küche/Bad' ('Move') (Author's note: co-written and directed by her brother, Dietrich Brüggemann), whose credits also include 'Neun Szenen' ('Nine Takes') und 'Renn, wenn du kannst' ('Run if you can') it worked brilliantly. Right now I find it more appropriate to take smaller roles in the projects we write and bigger ones in outside projects."

Brüggemann’s next project is "Kommissarin Lucas" again, in the autumn. "I’m playing a police officer, which is great fun. Right now I’m on holiday since I just finished shooting a TV-movie in Cologne. Besides, in the autumn I’m filming with my brother again: 'Kreuzweg' ('Station of the Cross'), a film about Catholic fundamentalism, we wrote the script together. But, being superstitious, nothing happens till the first day of filming! Besides, it’s my husband’s turn to work, he’s a computer scientist, and I need to enjoy my little son, strolling around with him, forgetting time!"

Author: Simon Kingsley

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH