A meeting with Paula Beer, member of the Un Certain Regard Jury

You started very young in theater and this experience seems decisive in your learning process. As the years have passed, what impact did this foundational period have on the actress you are today?

I was 8 years old when I went on stage for the first time and 14 years old when I shot my first film. Until then, I was in the Friedrichstadt-Palast, the big theater in Berlin. I went there every evening after school by train. This experience taught me my way of working, but above all an actor’s profession should be a game. I love losing myself in the fantasy world of a movie. The result is that even though I play a lead role, I don’t feel too much pressure when I’m on set. I always say, if the result is not good, it is because the director chose the wrong actress! On the other hand, before a shoot, I’m always a little nervous. I always ask myself if I am well prepared. But when it starts, I feel free.

How do you choose your roles?

When I read a script, I want the general context of the film to speak to me. i want I have to touch emotionally and feel deeply about the character I am given to play. I really need to know that my heart will connect with the subject, but, of course, with the director and the other actors. Making a movie means spending a lot of time on set, and I want to make sure I’m going to be surrounded by other people who I know will make things go well. I don’t need my traits to match my personality. On the other hand, if it’s a character I’ve already played, I’m less interested in the project. Generally, I don’t make more than two films a year. For me, it takes a lot of energy to open up to a character. I always give my all to my characters.

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How do you prepare your characters?

It’s not exactly the same process every time, but I always start by breaking down the script in a very simple way to get a good overview. I’m interested in the structure of a scene so that I don’t forget it and I know where my character is going. It really helps me not to lose myself in the story while shooting. Then, it all depends on whether the role requires any specific learning. Figuring out the outfit and hairstyle I’m going to wear helps me a lot to find a way to move my character. I learn my lines by heart when I prepare scenes. I have no difficulty in learning them.

Sometimes I feel like roles come to me when I’m ready for them as a girl.

While on set, what importance do you place on body language in front of the camera?

Bringing my character to life with my body is very important to me, but it takes a lot of work. I believe our bodies have a natural way of moving that can only be modified with a lot of work. Our bodies follow our emotions and if I can feel my character’s emotions, I know I will succeed. But for that, you need to create a space to empty your mind. This job helps me a lot to live my character. This is an approach that I need.

Between the girl you are and the actress who brought more to the other?

I sometimes have this funny feeling that as a girl I get roles when I’m ready to get them. Sometimes, when I accept a role, I tell myself that at other times in my life, I would have rejected it immediately. This is the story of the synchronicity of two paths that meet at the right time! Sometimes I have roles made for me. Sometimes, being the person I am is perfect for the role!

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Is there an actor or actress in particular who inspires you?

I’ve always been very impressed by Meryl Streep’s acting, not to mention that she’s a constant source of inspiration. She is my queen! He has a way of giving his characters something truly powerful.

You’ve worked a lot with Christian Petzoldt. What aspects of your craft has he allowed you to improve?

Christians have a unique way of working. With him, you feel like you have all the time in the world to make a movie. He never pressures us and gives us complete freedom of movement. I think it’s important to have faith in the present moment. By working with him in this way, I have really succeeded in freeing up my craft. We have completed our third shoot together and I have full confidence in him.

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