You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bruno Ganz on New Film About Last Days of East Germany: ‘This Is a Subject That Will Never Let Me Go’

Matti Geschonneck’s “In Times of Fading Light,” a multi-generational family drama set in East Berlin weeks before the fall of the Wall, unspooled as part of the Berlinale Special sidebar on Thursday.

Capturing the history of East Germany in microcosm, the film, based on an adaptation of Eugen Ruge’s bestselling 2011 autobiographical novel, revolves around a 90-year-old communist patriarch who has never lost his belief in the socialist utopia even as his son and much of the country’s younger generation yearn for change and greater freedoms.

“Everything that has happened faces the threat of being forgotten,” award-winning screenwriter Wolfgang Kohlhaase told reporters Thursday. “It’s our duty to tell these stories in the hope that they continue to have meaning and continue to touch people.”

Kohlhaase stressed that “respect” was the most important factor in adapting books to the screen, and that while every book has its own prose, it’s all about “lovingly bringing the essence of that writing to film.”

Producer Oliver Berben of Berlin-based Moovie noted that Ruge, the author, only ever “wished to have one screenwriter for the project, and he’s sitting right here.” Kohlhaase’s participation was critical for the film’s realization, Berben said.

Geschonneck, who grew up in the German Democratic Republic, said Kohlhaase’s screenplay “offered a delicate look into East German life.” The director said he thought of his own father, late East German actor Erwin Geschonneck, in the role of the main character, who is played by Bruno Ganz in the film.

Ganz remembers the renowned thespian. “I knew this actor. As a Swiss citizen, I could travel to East Berlin without any problem, unlike West Berliners, and I often saw his father on stage. I also saw many of his old DEFA films. He was a great actor, and I’m happy to be compared to him.”

Ganz said he was attracted to the role because he had really liked the book when it first came out, but also because of his own past experiences with the political left and former East Germans who had defected to the West.

“I was a leftist for a long time. Early on I had the chance to meet many refugees from East Germany. The events of the first half of the 20th century – this is a subject that will never let me go.”

Actress Hildegard Schmahl was similarly moved by the film’s political themes and the unshakable belief in creating a “utopia” at any cost. “The so-called utopias of the 20th century resulted in millions of deaths. This word scares me. I don’t want a utopia.”

On her role as the family matriarch in the film, Schmahl quipped: “I’m 77. I’m always playing the matriarch of catastrophic families. In ‘Die Nibelungen,’ I play Uta – all of my four children are murderers. In this film, my children, my grandchildren, my daughter-in-law, they are all impacted by fate. This film is really moving.”

More Film

  • Black Panther

    'Black Panther,' 'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Westworld' Among Costume Designers Guild Winners

    “Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24. “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” are up for the Oscar this year, along with “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” “Mary Poppins [...]

  • WGA Writers Contract Talks

    Talent Agents, WGA Achieve Progress in Second Round of Talks

    Hollywood talent agents and the Writers Guild of America have achieved some progress at their second negotiating session over agency regulations, according to sources close to the talks. The two sides met Tuesday, two weeks after their first meeting resulted in both sides criticizing each other, followed by the WGA holding a trio of spirited [...]

  • Aaron Paul

    Film News Roundup: Aaron Paul Honored by Sun Valley Film Festival

    In today’s film news roundup, Aaron Paul is honored, Bruce Berman is re-upped at Village Roadshow, and Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher get a book deal. FESTIVAL HONORS The Sun Valley Film Festival has selected Idaho native and three-time Emmy winner Aaron Paul as the winner of its Pioneer Award, presented by Variety for his [...]

  • Olivia Munn]EMILY'S List Pre-Oscars Brunch, Inside,

    Olivia Munn Says Brett Ratner Called Her Before His 'Howard Stern' Apology

    Olivia Munn is setting the record straight about standing up to “Rush Hour” director Brett Ratner, whom she alleges sexually harassed her over a decade ago. During a panel discussion at the Emily’s List pre-Oscars brunch at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Tuesday morning, Munn revealed that Ratner called her in 2011 after he denied [...]

  • Flesh Out review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Flesh Out'

    Ignore the awful English-language title: “Flesh Out” is an emotionally rich, sensitively made film about a young woman in Mauritania forced to gain weight in order to conform to traditional concepts of well-rounded beauty before her impending marriage. Strikingly registering the sensations of a protagonist living between the dutiful traditions of her class and the [...]

  • Marighella review

    Berlin Film Review: 'Marighella'

    Does Brazil need a film that openly advocates armed confrontation against its far-right government? That’s the first question that needs to be asked when discussing “Marighella,” actor Wagner Moura’s directorial debut focused on the final year in the life of left-wing insurrectionist Carlos Marighella during Brazil’s ruthless military dictatorship. For whatever one might think of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content