John Erdman in The Lobby, directed by Heinz Emigholz
Christian Petzold, the director of Undine (screening in the Main Slate of the 58th New York Film Festival), starring Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski, will participate in a Free Talk presented by HBO with Heinz Emigholz, the director of The Lobby, featuring solely John Erdman and The Last City with Erdman, Jonathan Perel, Young Sun Han, Dorothy Ko, and Susanne Sachsse (both films in the Currents programme).
Undine director Christian Petzold: "I will also have a rehearsal week with the actors where we'll just look into cinema" Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
In The Lobby, shot in Buenos Aires during the fall of 2019, the man (Erdman), called Old White Male in the credits, is at times angry, at others laconic, seldom scary. He believes that neither Jesus, nor the Ramones will be with us after death, and we will have no relatives. “Dying is not sexy - death is” he says and estimates that by now the theatre should already be half-empty. Little did he know that we are all watching remotely, virtually right now, although he brings up the option.
Christian Petzold told me in 2018 when he was in New York for the sneak preview screening of Transit (starring Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski) at Film at Lincoln Center, that “next time, when I'm shooting in the summer my next movie [Undine], I will also have a rehearsal week with the actors where we'll just look into cinema and looking. We'll go to a cinema watching movies.” Christian did not elaborate any more, only the fact that he would reunite Beer and Rogowski, and so we had to wait patiently, sitting on a seal maiden trunk, to see what sprites and spirits he conjured up.
In Petzold’s take on Undine, she works as a historian in present day Berlin, focusing on urban development. A man leaves her and - as the classic tale would want it - she would have to kill him to return to the waters. But she doesn't want to. She is a mythological figure who doesn't want to kill anymore.
Paula Beer as Undine
The 1811 novella about the water spirit by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué was adapted by ETA Hoffmann into an opera in 1814 and has since inspired artists around the world. Of course, Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid may come to mind, where the heroine also refuses to kill the Prince on his wedding night and gains a pathway to an immortal soul as reward.
Undine screens at the Queens Drive-In on Friday, October 9 at 8:00pm and virtually starting at 8:00pm on October 9 through Wednesday, October 14 at 8:00pm.
The Lobby screens virtually from Thursday, October 1 starting at 8:00pm through Tuesday, October 6 at 8:00pm.
The Last City screens virtually from Thursday, October 1 starting at 8:00pm through Tuesday, October 6 at 8:00pm.
Free Talk: Christian Petzold & Heinz Emigholz will take place virtually on October 10 at 2pm ET (7pm BST).
The 2020 New York Film Festival runs through October 11.