Woman in Berlin, A: Interview with Star Nina Hoss

Nina Hoss plays Anonyma in “A Woman in Berlin,” which was released by Strand Releasing on July 17, 2009.

How would you describe the character of Anonyma?

This woman had traveled all over the world, she had lived in Moscow, France, and
England, she had studied art, history, and foreign languages, she was a photographer and a journalist, in other words, she was a very intelligent person. I was interested in the question of her relationship to the regime. Was she a fascist, or wasn't she? When I read the diary, it sounds to me as if she loved her country. She was a nationalist, and I think she never asked questions or tried to get more information. She went with the flow, she let herself get carried away by this wave and by the euphoria that was everywhere. Therefore, you have to see it as conflicting. That is the one side of things. On the other side she is, to me, a very pragmatic woman. A woman who is not afraid to work and get her hands dirty, and who also finds a way to survive during the last days of the war. I think a decisive factor in her survival was that she was a journalist and she kept a diary. When you write down what you've experienced, you create a distance between the events and yourself, and this distance enables you to deal with the events better. Whether she was writing the diary for her husband, for future generations, or just for herself, I think this was her way to immediately get rid of what she experienced, to put it in some form of words or art, and thus to find a way around it.

She is a very complex character. She is sensitive and vulnerable at the same time,
but her actions display a huge amount of courage and self-awareness… It's exactly this combination of courage and vulnerability that stirred my interest in the character. I tried to show the deep wounds she had suffered, but also to show the hard shell she puts on to protect herself, and her acts of courage. She's someone who takes risks, someone who, for example, walks through that crowd of Russian soldiers and asks to see their commander, a situation where anybody else would have died from fear.

The Russian officer Andrej also seems to be impressed by Anonyma's selfawareness. Yes, her courage and the way she carries herself makes him interested in her. Her first thought is that this man, with his impressive physical appearance, can keep all the other soldiers away from her. At the same time, there is the moment when she realizes she's misjudged him because she had been influenced by the Nazi propaganda during the last days of the war meant to strike fear in the German population, to make them fear the Russians, the monsters, beasts and rapists. Suddenly she encounters someone who's read a lot of books and studied at a university, someone who plays Schubert on the piano and has nothing at all to do with the image of a simple Russian farmer.

A very tender relationship between the two of them develops in this exceptional
situation. What is so special about their relationship? Just like Anonyma, this man has lost everything, his wife was killed in the war, and when these two very lonely persons meet, they are two individuals struggling with themselves and trapped in an exceptional situation. Their worlds have crumbled, the war is over, and
Andrej transforms from a soldier into a person. His transformation also occurs because of her, because he becomes involved with her; she excites him, and he can't quite understand her. He tries to get closer to her, and in the process discovers himself. The hard shells both of them have put on start to crack, and that's why they suddenly get very intimate with each other. I think this is also absorbing because it's told in such a thoughtful way. What happens when two people feel something they thought they were not even capable of feeling?

What was the biggest challenge this role presented to you?

To play someone in such an exceptional situation, someone who's struggling to survive in an environment where none of the values we know today are valid. Where you're only thinking about survival, where values are forgotten and there are no rules. How do people deal with this, when do they unite and stand together, and when do they deceive one another? When do they help each other, and when do they not?