By Tanja Meding | March 31, 2009
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 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 Die Sünderin (The Sinner) (West Germany, 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?” For more information on the film, please visit: www.hilde-derfilm.de
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