In March, German Premiers, NY’s ongoing presentation of new and noteworthy German productions, organized by German Films, presented HILDE – a feature film by Kai Wessel, produced by Judy Tossell of Berlin based Egoli Tossell Film. Both filmmaker and producer were in town to present the film to a packed theater. The film had its world premier at this years Berlinale and just opened theatrically in Germany.
Hildegard Knef, German actress, singer and writer – was an icon of postwar Germany.
Born in 1925, she studied acting at the UFA film studios during the second world war, became a theater and film actress, then a celebrated Broadway star, chansonnier and—later on in life—a best-selling author.
Kai Wessel’s feature film titled HILDE chronicles the first 40 years of Knef’s life, from her early training as an actress during the war to the triumphal chanson evening at the Berlin Philharmonie in the late 1960’s. Arriving back in Berlin, preparing for the concert and performing her seminal chanson FOR ME IT SHALL RAIN RED ROSES
at the Philharmonie mark the bookends of this feature, that covers her rich and rampant life in between.
Moving with Hildegard Knef between Berlin, Hollywood, New York and London, the audience is given an idea of the ups and downs of her early career, and the time it took for her to find her own voice and artistic identity. Wessel adds further authenticity to the film by introducing each important location of her career with original archival footage from the time.
German actress Heike Makatsch offers a convincing interpretation of the actress and singer. Taking years of singing lessons to record all the songs in the film was a good decision—it provides a smooth transition between the acting and singing parts—and avoids any competition and comparison between original and interpretation.
One memorable scene in the film is a press conference Hildegard Knef gives after being attacked by the public and press for appearing naked in Willi Forst’s THE SINNER (DIE SUENDERIN, 1950). Knef opens the conference by wondering how it is possible that the same people who did not raise their voices when millions of people perished during the war, are now up in arms about an actress being photographed in the nude. She then opens the floor and simply asks: Questions anyone?
After the screening, producer Judy Tossell and director Kai Wessel disclosed that Heike Makatsch came with the idea of the film to them. Tossell had already produced two features with Makatsch and so it was natural for her to take on this project as well. It took over five years of research and script writing until the film was ready to be filmed. As Tossell explained during the Q&A after the screening, in long discussions between script writer Maria von Heland, filmmaker Kai Wessel and herself, they finally decided to focus on the first 40 years of Knef’s career— this is to show how the young and ambitious actress finally finds her own voice and becomes the Knef that people will remember for generations.
The presentation of the film was followed by a reception with music from the soundtrack and lots of discussions about this uniquely talented artist and independent woman.
For more information on the film, please visit: www.hilde-derfilm.de