Director: Kai Wessel | 136 minutes | drama, music, biography | Actors: Heike Makatsch, Dan Stevens, Monica Bleibtreu, Hanns Zischler, Johanna Gastdorf, Trystan Wyn Puetter, Michael Gwisdek, Roger Cicero, Anian Zollner, Sylvester Groth, Fritz Roth, Hary Prinz, Jeroen Willems, Stanley Townsend, Sebastian Bender, Hans Brückner , Leon Clingman, Sebastian Fuhrmann, Grischa Huber, Rüdiger Kühmstedt, Susanne Menner, Ben Posener, Matthew Dylan Roberts, Paul Schlase, Oliver Unkel, Marlon van den Boogaard, Joe Vaz, Ricky Watson, Mario Zuber
A close-up of a woman, thickly made up, big eyes, thick lips, tousled hair. It looks like she’s in bed, behind her hair you see dust. The next shot was taken from further afield: the woman is seated in an airplane seat and next to her is a young man, probably her partner. He lights a cigarette and hands it to her and then lights himself a cigarette. Remarkable, smoking in an airplane, but it is 1966 and then that was still allowed.
For example, throughout the film “Hilde” little things have been incorporated that represent the time frame, such as old black and white Hollywood magazines and smoking a cigarette with a pipe. The old cars also color this image, and the interior, and for those who have an eye for it: Hildegard Knef’s wardrobe. First of all, the skin-colored baggy tights that are held up with suspenders (1940s), the cardigan jackets and wide-flung long skirts (50s) and the famous black Ray-Ban sunglasses with a scarf worn over the hair (60s). This makes “Hilde”, a film that drags you into a number of decades of Hildegard Knef’s life, a pleasant production. The atmosphere is good and you immediately feel in what time her childhood years took place. Then it was so, then people lived like that, then the (im) possibilities were like that. And in that world Hildegard Knef blossomed by trial and error.
Even if you’ve never heard of her, it’s fascinating to see someone chase her dreams to become happy. Precisely on the day that Hilde was hired to the drama academy in Berlin in 1944, the bombs were dropped. Almost everyone flees, but Hilde chooses to stay in Berlin, against her mother’s will and despite the danger. When her lover is called to fight, she joins him in the army to fight so she can stay with him. When a few years later – she is married and lives in America – she is paid by a film company but has not been able to play for three years, she breaks open her contract to go back to Germany and play there. When her husband asks to choose between acting and him, she chooses her job.
Hilde herself explains: “I don’t want to make it, I have to make it.” Her motivation is enormous. That means that after many disappointments she still manages to get back on track. After her film flopped back in Germany, she went to New York and was on Broadway for three years and became a success in America. The hard work at some point makes her forget who she is and why she does it all.
Returned to Berlin once again, she shines in a number of roles and it seems that it can’t go wrong. Until she is caught by the press having an affair with a married actor. For a moment she seems to freak out, but this time it turns out that it is not the work that makes her happy, but the man.
Without money, Hilde decides to make a leap in her career: she is going to sing. She turns out to be able to write and sing beautiful chansons. Finally she seems to have discovered what she was looking for. The audience embraces her and the success follows, she made it. And as a spectator of the film you give her wholeheartedly. Spectator indeed and not spectator. The role of Hilde is so convincingly portrayed by Heike Makatsch that you have the feeling that you have really followed Hilde all these years. Like Hildegard Knef, Heike is an actress / singer / writer and has prepared for the role for a year with acting and singing lessons. She also spoke to her first husband Kurt Kirsch.
Screenwriter Maria von Heland emphasizes that the film is not a document of Hildegard Knef’s life, “It wants to understand her life. It is a psychological journey and does not want to reveal which brand of cigarettes she smoked in 1962. ” And that has certainly succeeded. Director Kai Wessel has taken his time to portray her in the most beautiful but also the toughest moments of her life. He shows the fun sides but also the dark sides. In addition, he knows how to create atmosphere with his typical images of those specific time periods. The scraps of her music and lyrics, which are clearly biographical, reinforce Hilde’s own perception of her impressive life. That was Hildegard Knef.