Deutschland Australien Großbritannien 2011/2012 Spielfilm

A Shooting Star with her Feet on the Ground

A portrait of actress Saskia Rosendahl, German Films Quarterly 1/2013

We meet at Berlin’s main railway station after an exchange of emails and text messages. It’s not the ideal location, but Rosendahl is on her way home after a busy but fun day’s postproduction sound work and has ninety minutes till her train goes. So the food court it is then!

"'Lore' is my big milestone," Rosendahl explain. "Before that I had a very small role in 'Für Elise' ('For Elise'). I got the part after a long process, which started with an online casting. After that came a casting at the agency, then I met Cate during my coaching and the next one was where the final decision was made. There were still five girls left in the race. We had an eight-hour casting day, at the end of which we did an improvised scene from the script and then, honestly, I cannot remember what happened! After the scene I looked up and they were all crying!"

This kind of story could so easily be part of an experienced actress’ official PR-biography from an agency, an anecdote trott ed out, doubtless embellished over time, to showcase herself in the best possible light. With Saskia Rosendahl, a young woman only just starting out and still very much finding her way, though, you know it’s the truth. You ask, she thinks a bit and then answers. Full, honest and open ones.

"'You’ve got the plot!' they told me," Rosendahl continues, "or maybe it was 'You’ve got the part'?" she asks herself rhetorically, almost as if she still cannot believe it. "I was up against experienced actors! But Cate was looking for unknown faces and I was the only one with no experience. I can’t really say how or why I got the part! I’ve not learned the ropes of acting so I went by instinct."

Some instinct! Because Rosendahl turns in a towering performance as the titular "Lore" who discovers for herself that war, the Second World War, really is hell. If you have seen the film you understand why writer-director Cate Shortland wanted an unknown and, moreover, one whose own experience of filming this hard hitting story would also convey the transformation of the lead character

"I got the script just one day before the big casting," Rosendahl explains. "I read it at night and then went into the casting. I was lucky, I think, not to have so much preparation time. Cate went through the script with me and we also had an acting coach, which was very important. I wasn’t alone!"

Given the usual progression of young actors, Rosendahl kicked off with some hardcore stuff, "Which was good," she says, "so I threw myself into it. It was hard because I had no personal experience of what 'Lore' goes through." Thank heavens for that, because "Lore" really does go through the wringer. So how did she tackle the character? "I went for 'Lore's' feelings," Rosendahl explains. "As preparation I watched documentaries to get her environment, the Hitler Youth for girls, for example. I also read various books and my dialogue with Cate too."

During the actual shooting, Rosendahl continues, "We went through things before every scene. I was able to develop with the role, which was very important for me as an inexperienced actor. It was really our close teamwork, Cate and me, together with the acting coach, Hanne Wolharn. We did very solid groundwork. I looked for similar things in my experience to bring out similar feelings. I remembered what my great-grandmother told me of what she had experienced, and I also found other situations that brought out the right feelings."

Her Shooting Star status "came out of the blue! Until now I’ve only really ever been interested in the Berlinale, in that I was curious, but I didn’t know about the nomination or the process, so I am very happy about this. It was a huge surprise, a great recognition."

And then, as if Rosendahl is still coming to terms with everything – "It’s now my job! Acting! I was in my last school summer holidays when we filmed, then I graduated high school and toured with the film. It just happened and here I am, working!" She admits she does "not have any concrete plans at the moment, I’m totally occupied with the film. It’s really crazy since it all started from basic curiosity."

A clearly intelligent and thoughtful young woman, Rosendahl is also in no rush. "It’s hard to say how I want to develop," she says. "Acting is very important to me, but as to what direction …Acting gives me ways to discover myself. I’m always coming up against my limits, also when I’m confronted with other people’s stories and have to get into character. I feel 'Lore' was also a self-discovery. I’m now at a point where I have to find out which way to go. I’m open to every experience that comes along."

Given that very healthy attitude, I pitch her a few genres. Action hero? Comedy? Horror? "I’d like to try a bit of everything!," she laughs, "but would certainly like to try a new area. I just had a few castings, they’re still ongoing, and I’m taking my time.Things are moving. I’m being sent serious scripts and it will all start again in the spring. I’ll be making 'Wir sind jung. Wir sind stark', which is being directed by Burhan Qurbani."

Rosendahl explains she has been doing sound work on her latest film, "Zum Geburtstag" ("A Pact") by Dennis Decourt. "It’s a thriller, I think! The script changed every day so I don’t really know the final version. It’s a complicated story which starts in the GDR, about two friends who pacted one would pass his girlfriend to the other then would come back sometime and reclaim her. That girlfriend is my mother. Thirty years later he returns …"

Rosendahl explains the filming experience was "very unique and interesting. It was great fun. The shooting was very different. With 'Lore', Cate was very supportive in that she held me by the hand. Here the director was keen for the performances to come from the actors themselves, so I had to find things inside myself and the results were very pleasantly surprising. Again, it was a real learning process."

How does she develop a persona for the character? Rosendahl thinks very, very carefully before replying. "I read the script," she answers, "give it to a friend or family member to get someone else involved, then I talk about the character, try to get another viewpoint, ask what they think how the character ticks. I also want to try making notes and inventing a backstory. I was very supported on 'Lore' so I didn’t have to do this alone. I thought that would happen with the second film but it wasn’t the case."

Things will clearly change with time and experience gained, but right now Rosendahl needs "to feel a personal connection with the director: we are working together. Cate is very teamwork oriented, I had the feeling whatever I did it wasn’t wrong and could develop from there. We could bring in a great many of our own ideas. It’s very important to be allowed to do that. Feedback is very important for me, I need to know if I am conveying what the director wants. I need some freedom but also this security, feedback. Or we sit down in the evening and can talk about it."

Rosendahl cites her admiration of Meryl Streep, but "otherwise I don’t have a favorite actor. You watch a film and it’s not just the actor, there are all the other things going on, such as the editing."

"I didn’t know before what this opportunity could release in me," Rosendahl says. "It’s going from zero to sixty, leaping into cold water, which I really like but is not always easy. I’m endlessly grateful for it." And her family? "They give me lots of support," she replies. "Without it this would be really hard. I’m an actor but I want to be a person too."

Ironically, Rosendahl has already made the two worst mistakes an actor can, according to the great comedian W.C. Fields anyway, acting with children and animals, both of which she does in 'Lore'! "Oh well, then that’s them out of the way!" she laughs. "Again, I had no experience so it was normal."

How about her newly won Shooting Star status? You know, just that word, Star. "I’m really looking forward to all the fuss," Rosendahl admits, "but I am also happy to have a short breakbefore it all kicks off." They shoot a star in the air, where she lands … Saskia Rosendahl is happy regardless.

Author: Simon Kingsley

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH