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The Red Thread, episode 176
Anke Sevenich – The Abysmal One
She wanted to be a farmer’s wife, studied human medicine. Now Anke Sevenich is one of the busiest actresses in film and television. To her we dedicate episode 176 of our series ?The red thread?, which introduces people who do something special for Frankfurt.
When opening the door Anke Sevenich looks suspiciously. As if she regrets having agreed to an interview at her home in Eschersheim. She can’t stand homestories, she says almost sullenly. The 1.60-meter-tall actress with girlish features wears discreet makeup, black and looks younger than she does in the movies. She accepts the compliment, appearances are only important to her when it comes to good film costumes, photos or recordings. "Actors have to pay attention to appearances," she says, pushing aside the laptop on the dining table and fixing her gaze on her counterpart. The rhododendron blooms in front of the large living room window.
Anke Sevenich, born on 30. January 1959 in Frankfurt, is one of Germany’s best, if inconspicuous, actresses, was once written about and has been repeated ever since. She doesn’t see this as a malus: "I don’t want to be a celebrity and I don’t value red carpets. If people know my game but not my name, that’s fine. So I can move unmolested in public."She has starred in so many crime films and series that ARD has given her the title of "Tatort Queen. She only finds this stupid in the result, "because I was promptly no longer cast in ‘Tatort’". She appreciates crime fiction for its structure and stringency. Stories without depth bore her. She wants to portray human abysses. Her professional cosmos may well be gloomy.
The filmography of the character actress is diverse. From 1992 on, there are many nominations and awards for works in which she has acted, including the Adolf Grimme Prize and the special "Golden Lion" prize in Venice for "Die zweite Heimat – Chronik einer Jugend" (The Second Homeland – Chronicle of a Youth) by Edgar Reitz. Here she played the "Schnusschen", the role catapulted her into the first league of the German acting scene.
She spends the first three years of her life in Niederrad in her grandparents’ house, a building designed by Ernst May. That makes its mark – her house in Eschersheim is also built in the style of the New Frankfurt. Her father, an engineer, is often on the road; her mother works part-time, caring for her and her sister, who is almost three years younger than she is. 1962 the family moves to Langen. Her school years are "eventful", she finishes them with a very good high school diploma, then she wants to become a farmer’s wife. "I grew up in a time of new beginnings and fearlessness and had a sense of mission."She moves to the Wetterau, becomes part of a rural community. Also because of love. "Sure, at that age you’re hormone-driven. We wanted to develop new ways of life, change the world, do it better than the peasants. We were idealistic."She was a child of the "post-68 generation": "We weren’t in it for the money. I didn’t mind eating potatoes for weeks on end. It was just not so good for the figure."
During this time, an acquaintance advises her to get out of the way and try acting. She applies to Hanover and Stuttgart, passes the entrance exams at both schools. "I made these relatively unsophisticated, almost brazenly."She decides on Hanover and during the second semester gets a small role at the State Theater there; the "annchen" in Goethe’s "Stella". "I had exactly 37 lines." Her play pleases, a permanent engagement follows. In 1987 she quits to play in a feature film. From then on she works freely for film, television and stage with directors such as Edgar Reitz, Christoph Waltz, Dominik Graf and others.
Read on the next page: "Golden Lola won
But before she decides to become an actress exclusively, she wants to try something more "graspable". "At that time, I was disturbed by the whole art business, that in the assessment much remains in the subjective. But if you have a physical equation, it’s either right or wrong. Medicine was a counterpart to acting."She is studying human medicine at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf until her final examination. She sought her identity. Perhaps it also played a role that her stepfather was a physician. Her biological father had died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 56. She was in her early 20s. "That has shaped me."
The work in front of the camera fascinates her more and more. She shoots "many things, some only under economic aspects", finances her studies with it. Soon she can choose orders, so the vocation becomes a profession after all. "It’s a super job," she says. It does bring financial and social uncertainties, "but if you’re wired like I am, that you love variety and like to set out for new shores, it’s great". She says this with a gentle timbre. "The subject of voice is a wonderful one," she thinks. "If you don’t consciously pay attention to it, you don’t even notice it."Over the years, she has developed a very fine ear, for example, how authentically someone speaks. "Sometimes sympathies and antipathies arise just from the sound of the voice, because we have an incredible sensorium for that."The voice does not always have to be beautiful, "not everything has to be breathed and done with a lot of sound" she says and breathes and coos.
Anke Sevenich doesn’t find herself vain, but "of course an actor is concerned with his visual appearance, rather his effect."And yes, success can be corrupting. "One has to be careful, and I’m not saying that I’m completely immune to it."But good actors are about the thing, not about status. She leans forward and says: "You know, I don’t need a red carpet. I need a good content!"
What does she, who is very interested in politics, often think about? "How you can make film material out of socially relevant topics. I’m interested in the world I live in, how it’s changing and what is happening. But I don’t want to translate this 1:1, but transfer it, like a parable. I want to tell stories that convey something about us."Her latest success proves that she’s got the storytelling stuff down pat: together with screenwriter Stephan Falk, she won the 2016 "Golden Lola" and 10,000 euros for the best German screenplay: "Sayonara Rudesheim.".
They worked on it for two years. It’s the dusty 1950s charm of the former place of romantic longing, where "German Gemutlichkeit is now conveyed to Japanese tourists by Eastern European migrant women in dirndls," that did it for her. A world of peculiar charm, to which the main character Agnes also succumbs on a journey: In comical yet existential entanglements, she meets and falls in love with strangers, discovers home and finally a place for herself. The Hessian Film Fund supported the script. "It’s going to be an emancipated home movie, a little rough and tumble," Sevenich promises. Does she want to direct a film herself someday? "Could be already."
For several years she has also been a visiting professor at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts. Twice a year she gives compact seminars, her specialty is "working in front of the camera". The camera is not merciless, but very accurate, "it shows every mendacious claim". If an actor portrays something pretentiously, you can see that. "Everything that is made bigger without being big, the camera doesn’t allow it. I think that’s great," she says. The medium demands a "certain lack of plan, a ‘surrender,’ which is exciting. "When I’m in front of the camera and I dare to let myself go, not put a safety net in so I can get through the scene, that can be great, exciting, approachable. Then that is what interests every spectator. No one is interested in coolness or facade."
She sees "a lot of actors you follow breathlessly because they are and don’t say."That’s what she often thinks of when well-trained acting students are sifted out or a great deal of professional uncertainty awaits them: "I think that’s terrible."The situation for actors is becoming more and more precarious, and cultural funding is increasingly being cut back. "That’s not tenable if there’s nothing left in a society that doesn’t pay off in money or quota, but which serves cohesion."
Read on the next page: Against mannerisms
She likes to visit independent theaters, appreciates cabaret, opera, cinema. And does sports, because it is good for her. Riding has been part of it for a long time, at the moment she is passionate about swimming. And what does her son Trevor (19) do?? "Oh, he’s fledged," she says in a playful singsong and smiles. He studies international politics and social sciences in France. "He’s a great, politically engaged young man, a bit of a revolutionary, so not that far away from me back then at that age."She has been divorced twice and has a boyfriend. That’s all she says about it. From her last husband, the Frankfurt photographer Walter Vorjohann, are some pictures in her house, including shots from the series "Places of Absence" of the cleared Grossmarkthalle before its conversion into the ECB cathedral. A photo in flat panaroma format fills almost an entire wall of her spacious living room, which is furnished in a sparsely modern way to match the architectural style of the New Objectivity. The black linoleum floor shimmers.
She likes to "walk" her roles in the Niddawiesen, learns texts while walking. She relates shoes to her acting, considers how a particular character stands on the ground, whether on the ball, whether she stalks and wiggles her butt, or steps firmly into the ground, asserting herself with each stride. "That’s where the physicality of a role starts."As she says this, she clenches her hands into fists and suddenly slams them across the table like a boxer on the verge of an uppercut; you could get scared for her colorful coffee mug.
Anke Sevenich once played a woman in a "Tatort" who lives in a cult and works a lot, "and that she was barefoot in the rubber boots, you didn’t see that at all, that was just for me. There was something frivolous and abysmal about it." Sometimes she needs such a little mystery for her role, it increases her desire to play along the lines of "I know something you don’t know". With that, she gives something to the character, but doesn’t reveal everything about her. She rejects mannerisms as well as "woodcut-like modes of presentation, which always have something coarse about them, because they’re expectable." That is too easy to read. She is more interested in the greatest possible truthfulness and a certain simplicity in the choice of means – "with little vanity".
She lives a good life in Frankfurt, her hometown to which she returned in 1992. "I know the mentality here. I like the bustle and that the people of Frankfurt are uncomplicated schmoozers, it’s easy to connect with people here. My heart is often on the tip of my tongue, too."She has many friends, some of them are from her industry like directors, theater people, actors and artists. "I fish, in terms of private, in my profession, in my cultural environment. There I just feel at home and understood, there similar views and values prevail." Does she like to receive visitors? "I’m not a great cook and I’m a nervous hostess," she says, laughing, "especially when I’m cooking for more than six people."
Dream role "Iago
Anke Sevenich is also involved in volunteer work, namely for the German Kidney Foundation. A campaign is currently running under the slogan "Crime scene kidney" to promote more prophylaxis. The actress has a personal connection to the topic, as she once fell so ill during a shoot that she had to go to the Darmstadt hospital. "At that time there was a suspicion, but I am not kidney disease". She learned what the disease means to sufferers, decided to help, and also supports "Action Children’s Wishes". This is about those children who live in families where a relative has kidney disease: "This is an immense burden for everyone".Anke Sevenich still has a dream role: She wants to play the villain "Iago" from Shakespeare’s tragedy "Othello," but not in an evil or scheming way, but "understandably". And, "I’d like to stay clear-headed and physically fit long enough to still be able to stand on stage as a really old actress and play the classic Chekhov roles and have the audience fear ‘She’s about to fall off the stage really dead’".
But until then there is still time. This year she has already shot three films, an episode of the TV series "Wilsberg", a psychological thriller with Christoph-Maria Herbst and a new "Marthaler". All Crime Stories. The abysmal and they simply belong together.