Nina Hoss on Working with Christian Petzold and Preparing for Phoenix

On Film / Short Takes — Apr 20, 2016

In an interview published this week at the A. V. Club, writer Adam Nayman sits down with actor Nina Hoss, the star of Christian Petzold’s haunting 2014 film Phoenix, which we’re releasing on disc next week. The film is a fascinatingly complex drama, and Hoss, in her sixth collaboration with the German director, delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as Nelly, an Auschwitz survivor who returns to Berlin to find that her husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) no longer recognizes her—and engages her in a scheme to pose as herself.

In the interview, Hoss speaks about her experience working with Petzold and taking on this intensely complicated character. To prepare for Phoenix, she explains, she read the work of Italian writer Primo Levi and studied Claude Lanzmann’s monumental Holocaust documentary Shoah. “You see these people talking about their experiences, and they have this urge to tell their stories, because finally somebody has asked them,” she says. “They feel this need to tell the world what happened and what humanity is capable of, and for the first minute, you think they’re over it, that they can look at it and talk about it, and then there’s always this moment where the voice cracks, or they get so quiet that you can’t hear them, or you see them fighting away the tears. And I thought, ‘This is the moment that Nelly is in.’ There is a combination of trying to analytically understand what trauma is, and also working through it to get to a very emotional place.”

You can read the rest of the interview, full of Hoss’s insights about acting, collaborating with Petzold, and the legacy of artistic representations of historical trauma, over at the A.V. Club. And check back for more about Phoenix on the Current next week.