SPOILER ALERT: The following interview reveals plot points.
EXCLUSIVE: Babylon Berlin star Liv Lisa Fries recently sat down with us to discuss the Berlin Film Festival's powerful and timely competition entry From Hilde, with lovewhich premieres at the festival next weekend.
Andreas Dresen's moving and modest film, set in Berlin during World War II, traces the little-known story of Hilde and Hans Coppi, a young couple who courageously become members of an anti-Nazi group known as The Red Orchestra (Die Rote Kapelle). The two spend a summer together until they are caught by the Gestapo and Hilde is arrested, eight months pregnant.
Fries gives a memorable performance as Hilde. In the first footage of the film above, she and her colleague Johannes Hegemmann discuss an act of resistance for the first time. Pandora Film produces from a script by Laila Stieler. Beta Film takes care of sales.
Director Dresen describes the film as “a modern drama set in a difficult time, simple and direct, joyful and strong, forgoing heavy music, production design or opulent costumes. Die Rote Kapelle was a loose network of various resistance movements based in Berlin, with more than 150 opponents of the Nazi regime, mainly women, all coming from different social backgrounds and adherents of different ideologies. One of them was Hilde Coppi. A prison guard noted in his file: “Tender, kind, brave. Completely selfless. Without hate. A moving personality. I never counted on human mercy. I’ve never regretted it.’”
The drama comes at a time when Germany is facing the rise of another far-right movement, the AfD (Alternative for Germany). The group, currently in second place in the country's polls, has been the target of mass protests, and inviting its members to the festival's opening ceremony sparked a significant backlash against the organizers, who last week were led to rescind the invitation.
When we asked director Dresen what he thought about the rise of the AfD, he told us: “Our film itself is the answer to the situation.”
Meanwhile, Hilde and Hans Coppi's son, Hans Coppi Jr, who appears briefly in the film, is a historian who has dedicated his life to the memory of his parents and highlighting the dangers of extremist movements. The 81-year-old was recently a signatory to a pro-democracy open letter titled “Learning from History,” signed by more than 280 descendants of resistance fighters during the Nazi era.
DEADLINE: Liv, why did you want to tell this story?
LIV LISA FRITAS: For me, I was particularly interested in the emotions and feelings behind this story, which are transportive. I tend to respond more to the emotions of the pieces than the narrative. I was interested in a series of questions the film raises, such as 'when is it worth resisting?' I was also struck by the depth of Hilde's love for Hans Coppi.
There were very intense moments during production, because it was based on real events. For example, when I held Hitler's letter rejecting Hilde's request for clemency before her death, it was the original letter that I held.
I'm really interested in films like Hunger, Dancer in the dark It is Breaking the waves, which are existential and which press moral buttons…. movies about 'really hard shit', basically. I remember being shocked for days after seeing Breaking the waves. I had a similar feeling when I was reading the script for Hilde. Every now and then it's important to go to some existential place where we think about our humanity.
The subject is also somewhat controversial. Hilde made the decision to resist, which put her son at risk of being left alone. But we can't know what it's like to be in her shoes.
I certainly saw a lot of heart in Hilde. It also reminded me of my grandmother, who spent a lot of time looking after my grandfather. I remember how zealous she was because of her love. That was something that Hilde felt… I got to know Hans Coppi Jr. a little. He is dedicated to the story of his parents. But he is also traumatized by becoming an orphan at such a young age.
DEADLINE: Hans Coppi Jr's narration at the end of the film was very moving. Just like the film, that moment was by no means gratuitous. It wasn't obviously emotional or pushy, but it was succinct, pared-down, and powerful at that…
FRIES: It's very moving. When you see him in real life it's very moving…
DEADLINE: How did you come to the project?
FRIES: Andreas [Dresen] asked me. We met. I was studying contemporary dance at the time, so I couldn't commit straight away. I didn't want to walk away from it, but then time opened up and he asked me to do a reading. I actually liked the idea because it gave me an idea of how we would work together. I was interested in his films before.
DEADLINE: Did you know the story?
FRIES: I did not do.
DEADLINE: And dDid you have any family experiences at the time to visit during your research?
FRIES: No I did not. Nothing in particular that could help me…Time is discussed a lot at school here and in so many films. I feel a great sadness and impact about this. I didn't want to go too deep into this beforehand. I find it very difficult to understand the right and tough mindset. This makes me anxious.
DEADLINE: How timely is the story, given the current rise of the far right in Germany?
FREES: Yes, it is, definitely and unfortunately. At the same time, each era is unique and the contexts are also very different.
DEADLINE: When I get to Berlin I hope to visit one or two of the small monuments to Hilde and Hans in the city…
FRIES: Yes you should. I made it. I went to where she worked. Today is different, of course, but walking into a room where she was is very powerful. A bit like De Niro driving a taxi through Cabby. You get a certain energy and a certain intuition. It's a way of trying to experience other perspectives.
DEADLINE: What's next for you?
FRIES: I recorded the film Freud's last session with Anthony Hopkins, in which he plays Sigmund Freud and I play his daughter Anna Freud. This is currently in release. I'm also in an upcoming series called Kafkaabout the writer, in which I play the Czech Milena Jesenská, one of his lovers.
I don't think it's a secret, but at the end of this year we're going to film the last season of Babylon Berlin. It's still in the financial process, but they're writing it. Money is a question mark, but my schedule is to shoot later this year.
I'm also really excited to see how people react to Hilde. Ten years ago in Zurich I played a woman with cystic fibrosis who travels to Switzerland to perform euthanasia. This has also been an incredibly emotional journey. You can't do these projects all the time.
I'm currently doing a writing project on my own, which is more poetic, rather than a script per se. And I have an audio project, which I'm also working on.