A European success

Maren Ade and Sandra Hüller on award winner Toni Erdmann.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Maren Ade with Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller of Toni Erdmann win five European Film Awards
Maren Ade with Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller of Toni Erdmann win five European Film Awards Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Toni Erdmann, Germany's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film swept the European Film Awards last night, winning Best Film, Best Director and Screenwriter - Maren Ade, Best Actor - Peter Simonischek, and Best Actress - Sandra Hüller.

Maren Ade :
Maren Ade : "There's really a different dress code for a German business woman than for others." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Maren Ade teamed up again with costume designer Gitti Fuchs and editor Heike Parplies of her The Forest For The Trees (Der Wald Vor Lauter Bäumen) and Everyone Else (Alle Anderen). Sandra Hüller, Maren Ade and I spoke about the costume choices, hierarchies and Rainer Maria Rilke's novel Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge.

Toni Erdmann had its world premiere at Cannes, winning the FIPRESCI Prize and it received the FIPRESCI Film of the Year award at the San Sebastián International Film Festival. The film also screened at the New York and London Film Festivals.

Anne-Katrin Titze: So many of the business rituals are about putting someone down, are about hierarchies. He [Toni Erdmann] is less about hierarchies. He is in-between, he is the "Earthman" digging through them. I don't know.

Maren Ade: With hierarchies, the whole thing that he does has something to do with hierarchies. Between Winfried and Toni [both Peter Simonischek], there's a big change in status. That's what he is doing with bringing up Toni. He comes up to eye level to her [Ines, his daughter, Sandra Hüller], or he tries to come up. Because when he's Winfried, he's not anymore.

Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller both won acting prizes for Toni Erdmann.
Peter Simonischek and Sandra Hüller both won acting prizes for Toni Erdmann.

AKT: So hierarchy within himself?

MA: Hierarchy within himself and in relation to his daughter. With the whole film it switches a bit between the two.

AKT: I want to talk about the costumes. First, the dress that you [Sandra Hüller as Ines] are stuck in. A dress you cannot close on your own before the fork comes in. I was thinking of Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge where he describes a scene of a woman sitting in a museum.

MA: Rilke sounds good!

AKT: A woman has buttons open at the back of her dress. And Rilke describes how she wouldn't have anyone who could close these buttons for her.

Sandra Hüller: Ohhh, what is it called? [Sandra takes out her pen to write down the title].

Sandra Hüller on her character Ines:
Sandra Hüller on her character Ines: "We've been looking a very long time for the things she is wearing." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

AKT: Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, his only novel. This little scene always stuck in my mind. He is describing how times have changed, there are no servants, no family to do this for the girl in the city. That moment reminded me of it.

SH: We didn't have that in mind. It's a beautiful picture.

MA: I mean, she has nobody to close it. That's the thing. She cannot have a dress like that. It's a dress where you really need someone to close it. There are dresses that are like that. Maybe not this one. We just took it because we liked it.

AKT: There's also the fact that she can't put on her shoes while in the dress.

MA: That's herself. That's her own problem.

AKT: Her other clothes make her very different from the women surrounding her. Tatjana [Hadewych Minis] and Steph de Boer [Lucy Russell] - they dress in a much more provocative way. And Ines, I would say, has also more taste.

Peter Simonischek is Winfried and Toni Erdmann:
Peter Simonischek is Winfried and Toni Erdmann: "Hierarchy within himself and in relation to his daughter [Ines]." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

MA: It's more the German dress code also. There's really a different dress code for a German business woman than for others. I mean, they are not … I think it's nice. Tatjana, she can do what she wants.

AKT: I thought some things Ines has are actually nice. She is not just a boring business clone. There is some playfulness in her color-blocked shirts.

MA: She tries to, no?

SH: I mean the pictures of our clothing rehearsals, they are on your [to Maren] computer and there are a lot. So we've been looking a very long time for the things she is wearing.

MA: And who she is trying to be. I mean, this dress that she is wearing, yeah. We all know these types of dresses or clothes that we are sometimes buying because we think we should be like that. And the question - how much are they a costume or not so? About this we talked.

Read what Maren Ade and Sandra Hüller had to say on the influence of Andy Kaufman's Tony Clifton, meerkats (not from Ang Lee's Life Of Pi), what's in a name, and creating a space.

Coming up - Maren Ade and Sandra Hüller on filming in Romania and connecting Sandra Hüller with Finsterworld to King Kong.

Toni Erdmann opens in the US on December 25 and the UK on February 23, 2017.

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