Berlin (Ost)

Giving It Loads!

Portrait of actress Fritzi Haberlandt, German Films Quaterly 3/2012

We are meeting in the Fabisch lounge-bar, in the upmarket but very relaxed Circus Hotel Berlin. All leather sofas and comfy chairs, it’s modern but also a link to the building’s past: for a very contemporary young woman, Fritzi places high value on personal history, as you’ll see, but here she comes now, silhouetted against the sunshine, a smile as broad as the one on her publicity photo...

The first question has to be about her name: did Fritzi Haberlandt’s parents really want a boy? "No!", she replies, "I’m actually called Fritzi, and not Friederike! There’s no funny story to this, either. My parents heard it and thought it would be cool!"

As it transpires, there’s also a very cool and confident young woman behind the name, one who is equally at home on the stage, TV and the big screen, in the widest variety of roles as well. You want range? Fritzi’s up there with a Texas cattle ranch!

"I don’t have a classic acting method," she replies when asked how she does it! "I usually just try to imagine the character’s world they’re from or in. It’s lonelier preparing when I have just a script, so I try to get to know exactly where they’re from, the whys and whens and what fors."

Music (Fritzi plays the flute and sings as well), "is very important" to her. "The most important, perhaps. Some directors burn CDs or send MP3s to give inspiration. That’s fantastic. I also try to read, watch films, look for acting aids, something has to come subconsciously."

Interestingly, she is a self-claimed non-method actor: "I come from the ex-GDR school. We have a balanced mixture of technique and, of course, the feeling, to create balanced characters. I’m a bit skeptical about esoteric methods."

She admits, "I try not to let the loneliness of the profession get to me, especially when a play, for example, doesn’t go that well one night. It’s a community, though, we work together. I can’t do my own thing on my own."

How to bring the best out of Fritzi? "Pressure and contempt don’t work for me!" she replies, thus telling quite a few directors where to get off! "Some actors need to be shouted at, I don’t! I need to work with people and get their prods and thoughts. I look for the exchange and when that works, great!" Child psychology, in other words? "Yes, little kids need borders, actors too! Flattery, screaming, some directors use whatever works, but discipline is needed. Ego problems don’t help anyone, but I have to say I’ve not experienced this kind of negativity, just heard the stories!"

Like the majority of actors, Fritzi reads a script hoping "to get surprised and enthused. I want a decent story. If I start thinking of food, then it’s failed! I want to know what role I have, and feel it makes sense for me to play it."

As to her own preferences, Fritzi likes "ambivalence, figures with secrets, especially when the character later has contradictions. The worst are those that are purely dramaturlogically functional. Then I’d rather not do it. I need that inspirational kick so I jump and want to do it right away!"

"Berlin and its history is a big theme for me," she continues, citing the story of the 1920s opera star, Fritzi Massary, who left Germany to escape Nazi persecution. "I grew up in the GDR and am very interested in this never-ending history. I have relatives in Thuringia. The Fall of the Wall is not a closed history by any means. It influenced me greatly. There were prejudices at first, being accepted as an 'Ostler' in the former west. I lived fourteen years in the GDR, then Hamburg and now Kreuzberg: I know both sides and what it means."

Lucky enough to have her own home cinema system, she watches films at home rather than the cinema, especially as she is "sensitive to how others behave and the behavior in the cinemas is the worst!" Sad but true. "I also think 3D is totally unnecessary, but I do want people to go see good films, of course. I love the Berlinale, for example, but you get another audience. It’s not so easy to get excited to just go to the cinema in general. You have to have the right films, the right place, the right audience."

As to her own taste, she likes "small, entertaining, arthouse, Lars von Trier films. I like Gena Rowlands, Meryl Streep, Catherine Deneuve; they all impress me very much. They’re authentic people who become the characters they play. Star casting can be a problem: Tom Cruise is, for me, always Tom Cruise. I can’t see the role! It’s simply a star vehicle where they change the costume! In Germany it’s hard to make crap and stay an honest actor, the pool is too small. You have to earn money but do more than just take it." Then, totally winning my heart, she adds: "Mind you, if the cheque was big enough …!"

In her own words, when Fritzi goes for something, "I give it loads! I get very enthusiastic! I’m good at showing interest. As a child, I can only remember a difficult puberty! I was probably very exhausting! I didn’t do dressing up, acting for parents, I had a normal life, not attention seeking. Professionally, though, I’m glad not always to be in the center of attention."

With no writing or directing plans of her own at present ("I’m really bad at expressing myself in writing and the worst would be someone giving me the freedom of an empty stage!"), Fritzi has just completed the tragicomedy "Die Libelle und das Nashorn" ("The Rhino and The Dragonfly"), in which she plays alongside Mario Adorf. Premiering at the Munich film festival and opening in German cinemas in December, this is a two-person film about a young authoress and actor-singer-superstar who are forced to spend the night in a hotel and find common ground together. "I’m excited how it will be received," Fritzi says. "It’s a very funny script, a project of the heart. But I’m scared all the same, especially how people view my working with Mario."

With various other projects in discussion, but with summer holidays more on her mind, Fritzi is "doing lots of readings" but "can’t yet imagine swinging a chainsaw against zombies! But it could be fun! I did a comedy last year, 'Eine Insel names Udo'. But an action girl? I can’t see me doing it, but comedy for sure."

What Fritzi finds "a bit difficult about the business" are "the big, safe, projects that are expensive and should bring money, such as children’s films and comedies, and then the very small films for which there is very little money." In her analysis, "There is this gap in the middle and I find it a pity. The filmmaker’s visions are limited by the system: there are either big or niche artists. We need something in between, special stories, special narratives, and cinema films that look like cinema films too. I admit, I don’t know how it can be done since it’s expensive. Student films can hardly afford to pay actors anymore! There are exciting people coming along but when they want a professional, named, actor for eight weeks then it’s very hard."

Fritzi is now partnered with director Hendrik Handloegten: “We met on 'Liegen lernen' ('Learning to Lie') then worked on 'Ein spätes Mädchen' and 'Fenster zum Sommer' ('Summer Window')" – some get a crew jacket, Fritzi took home the director! She is, at heart, a country girl, spending as much time as she can at her house in the Schorfheide, Europe’s largest contiguous forest, north of Berlin. "I wanted a weekend possibility to get out and now I’m happier there. Okay, winter can be hard work, but then it’s nice to come back." She’s also busy learning the piano and is a keen gardener: "I’m working on a vegetable patch! It’s on my ’Must’-list, but I do have lots of flowers at the moment."

Author: Simon Kingsley

Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH