Film Reviews and Discussion.

Interview: Nina Hoss talks ‘Phoenix’ and the Holocaust

Nina Hoss is the phenomenal, statuesque German actress who has etched her impressive talent on such fare as A Most Wanted Man (2014), Barbara (2012) and Yella (2007). She’s also left her mark on music, after her appearance on the Manic Street Preachers ‘Europa Geht Durch Mich’ from last year’s Krautrock-influenced Futurology LP.

She now stars in Phoenix: another film in collaboration with the director Christian Petzold. It is their third pairing. And it’s a wonderful film; focusing on the experiences of her character, Nelly, a disfigured concentration-camp survivor, who goes on the hunt to find the husband who may have betrayed her to the Nazis.

Reminiscent of the probing and thoughtful work of Bergman and Kieslowski, it is a delicate and devastating film, and one that features one of the best closing scenes in film in recent memory.

We talked to her about the making of Phoenix and the politics of the holocaust.

The film depicts the impression that the Jewish people in Germany felt very betrayed by their own people – the Germans – and after the war, they were suddenly welcomed by the people who had pushed them away. Were you aware of that?

Yes, I was, because you have these periods of time that you really learn about in school and especially, what I was interested in, was ‘what happened after the war?’ What were the fifties about? I think this movie really shows you how much of the denial there was in Germany, because if you watch movies from the fifties, they’re all in the mountains, guarding sheep and having a jolly life.

They didn’t want to go to the cities and the real life and tackle what happened in this country. The fifties came and it was, ‘let’s build up this country again. You also come back and let’s do it all again and pretend that nothing happened’.

That was until the younger generation came and said, ‘excuse me, what’s going on? You were there. You saw it. What did you do? You’re my teacher. You taught under the Hitler regime?’ That all started much later, when brave people started to raise questions, so I, as a German, was very aware of that movement of what happened right after the war; and what led to the student revolt.

What were you taught at school?

Were we taught about the holocaust, do you mean? Oh yeah! For years! You really learn about it a lot. You discuss it a lot. (Read) all the novels. It really is something you talk, learn and discuss about. I was always interested in that topic, so I had read a lot.

For this movie specifically, there was amazing documentation, like Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985), which was one of these movies where I had always seen extracts, but never the 9 hour thing, and that helped me so much for Nelly. If you see that, you understand a lot. Or you don’t.

I still don’t understand how that could happen, but you understand what they went through and how the people who survived it, talked about it. They always seem to have it under control and want to tell the world what happened to them. There’s always this moment where they lose their voice or they start crying, but they keep on talking.

So I thought, if that’s 30 years after…. There’s not so much about how they felt right after. You have one book, Primo Levi, where he feels this rejection and he can’t talk about it; falling into depression and all that.

To me, I thought (the character of Nelly), was like a new-born. She doesn’t know how to move. Everything is stripped off of her; all of her identity, her dignity, her being a woman. She’s like an alien with this bandage. And with that, she follows her gut feeling, which I think led her to survive this concentration camp.

Ordinarily, with a film like this, the conventional wisdom would be to show flashbacks in order to contextualise the relationship between you and your husband prior to the separation. The fact that it does not do that, I thought that was quite brave. Did it make it harder for you to get into character and for the chemistry of that relationship to be realised?

No, not really, because we talked about what our story is and how we met, and our friends and what our life was about; who we were.

I always thought that Nelly was the one who didn’t think much… she just followed her heart, because why would she come back? At the very beginning, you learn that she came back in ’38, which was already a time where it was a very dangerous for a Jew to be in Berlin. Obviously, it was because of Johnny (her husband). So Nelly always followed her guts.

It’s this kind of lightness and spirit that she wants to get connected with again. She had lost that lightness.

Was that devastating final scene the hardest scene to shoot?

No, I was actually waiting for that scene! Because everything led to that moment. We had shot almost chronologically and I was totally with her. She has this ‘moment’ and I was very, very happy!

Interview by Greg Wetherall

Phoenix is distributed by Soda Pictures and is in selected cinemas from 8th May 2015.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 13/05/2015 by in Front Page and tagged , , , , , , .

FILM, FILM and even more FILM! Toomuchnoiseblog is a place for film reviews and discussion. Latest film releases to the cinema and through to DVD and Blu Ray. From American cinema to Asian cinema to European cinema and everything in between. In a nutshell, toomuchnoiseblog is the place for film goers and cinema lovers.

RSS Film News, Reviews and Discussion

  • Kevin Spacey Fields Questions that Female Celebrities Get Asked On the Red Carpet 05/03/2014
    If we’ve learned anything from House of Cards, it’s that Kevin Spacey is skilled at being terrifying. He’s also skilled, we now know, at answering the types of questions female celebrities get asked on the Red Carpet. At the Oscars on Sunday, BuzzFeed threw a series of inquiries at the actor focusing entirely on his appearance and not at all on his work or h […]
    Samantha Grossman
  • Yum-Eh: Watch A Supercut of the Most Awkward Meals in Film History 08/12/2013
    Just in time for a holiday meal with your family, Slacktory has released a supercut of the most awkward meals in cinematic history, including uncomfortable dinner scenes from everything from Annie Hall to Step Brothers to Eraserhead. Is your family supper any more uncomfortable than the one from Lars and the Real Girl where Ryan Gosling’s character forces hi […]
    Melissa Locker
  • Yes, Nicolas Cage Really Did Just Win China’s ‘Best Global Actor’ Award 09/10/2013
    Correction appended, Oct. 10, 2013. It has been decided. China has named Nicolas Cage the Best Global Actor in Motion Pictures at the Huading Awards. And as far as anyone who has seen the actor’s YouTube reel entitled “Nicolas Cage Losing His S***” or is a member of the sub-Reddit group “One True God” is concerned, it’s about time. Cage did win an Oscar for  […]
    Laura Stampler
  • Movie Blogger Dials 911 Over Cell Phone Use in Theater 11/09/2013
    Film critic Alex Billington couldn’t bear sitting through a press screening at the Toronto International Film Festival while a nearby audience member blatantly emailed and texted throughout Ti West’s horror flick, The Sacrament. The cinematic faux paus irritated Billington so much that after complaining to theater managers proved unsuccessful, he called the […]
    Courtney Subramanian
  • NextDraft: Yahoo Buys Tumblr, Prompting 40 Million 20-Year-Olds to Ask: “Ya who?” 20/05/2013
    Let’s Get Ready to Tumbl Today, another large deal was made in a bid to make history in the Internet championship of the world. In this corner, we have Yahoo, an aging heavyweight with a new, compelling CEO looking to get some youthful power in her knockout punch by adding Tumblr, a young company run by a young high school dropout-turned programmer-turned CE […]
    Dave Pell
  • Reading While Eating for Mar. 25: Darlings of the Dance 25/03/2013
    Florida Gulf Coast University Takes NCAA Tournament By Storm. The 22-year-old Ft. Myers-based college became the first No. 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen, taking out Georgetown and San Diego State University over the weekend. (Keeping Score) Is the Political Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage Over? It may well be, regardless of the two landmark cases that the […]
    Eric Dodds
  • Seven Things You May Have Missed at the Oscars 25/02/2013
    Toilet Humor: The Onion, America’s finest (fake) news source, is in hot water this morning for its vulgar tweet about Beasts of the Southern Wild‘s adorable star, Best Actress Nominee Quvenzhané Wallis. The offensive tweet has been deleted, but you can see a NSFW screenshot of it here. (The nine-year-old could very well have seen it too; she’s on Twitter at  […]
    Olivia B. Waxman
  • WATCH: 300 Movies in 7 Minutes: The Ultimate 2012 Supercut 18/12/2012
    Cinematically speaking, 2012 was a bit of a wild card year. For every moment of pure cinematic brilliance and originality (think films like The Master, Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild), vieweres also had to sit through such boring, bloated blockbuster fare as Battleship and Total Recall. Yet in the hands of video editor Gen Ip, a.k.a. Genrocks, th […]
    Melissa Locker
  • Reading While Eating for Oct. 9: Ruffled Feathers 09/10/2012
    In today's must-read links for your lunch break: The Big Bird saga ruffles more feathers.
    Tim Morrison
  • Friends of ‘Sam Bacile’: A Who’s Who of the Innocence of Muslims Film 13/09/2012
    UPDATED: Friday, Sept. 14, 2 p.m. An Internet clip of an amateurish, virulently anti-Muslim film called Innocence of Muslims is being identified as one of the flash points behind the anti-U.S. demonstrations in the Middle East that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi, Libya, earlier this week. As journalists work to unco […]
    Nick Carbone and Madison Gray
%d bloggers like this: