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« Yes, No, Maybe So: Interstellar | Main | Cannes Diary Day 2: Or, How I'm Still Grappling With 'Grace of Monaco' »

"Alone in Berlin" and Back on Marquees

Few things gave greater pleasure last year than the reemergence of Emma Thompson on the film scene, shoe chucking, Annie-scripting, Mary Poppins writing, and all. I'm not sure who or what convinced Emma that it was time to reclaim her place in the cinema but I thank them profusely and ever so much.

While she didn't receive the expected Oscar nomination for Saving Mr Banks, despite carrying it on her very capable film-elevating shoulders, her next project looks super promising so we hope it picks up interest in the Cannes market.

If all goes according to plan she'll play one half of a married couple who defy Nazis in Alone in Berlin. The true story is based on the book "Alone in Berlin" by Hans Fallada. The plot premise goes like so...

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich...

With Emma leading a drama we're in good hands but the rest of the cast makes it doubly enticing. Actor turned director Vincent Perez (Queen Margot) has also enlisted Mark Rylance, in many ways the reigning god of the stage, as Emma's husband.

Rylance in the sexually explicit Intimacy (2001) his last bigscreen leading man gig, and in "Jerusalem" for which he won all theater awards ever created a few years ago

He's rarely onscreen though if you've seen Intimacy (2001) or Angels and Insects (1995) you'll remember him. Hollywood's favorite youngish German Daniel Brühl (Rush, Inglourious Basterds) is also on board and we assume he is the key baddie Escherich.

Sounds promising, yes?

Emma with Terry Gilliam at a film premiere last monthEmma Thompson just turned 55 and though the fiftysomething years tend to be the leanest for actresses (too old, under Hollywood logic, to lead movies and too young for the juicy "old lady" roles) but maybe Emma's people realized that Dench (79), Redgrave (77), Mirren (68), and Smith (79) aren't getting any younger. Thompson is their natural successor for that whole swath of character types and Thompson doesn't seem to have much competition in the realm of aging British divas that virtually everyone loves. Tilda Swinton (53, after all, is her own special case and weirdly ageless, never young even when she actually was or old now unless the makeup artists are having Budapest prosthetic fun with her). Thompson's main competition for these future roles was surely Kristin Scott Thomas (54) but she's planning that vanishing act now. American actresses not named Streep have it much much rougher than their British counterparts once they hit their fifties so it would be wise for that generation of stars (Bening, Moore, Linney, Clarkson, Hunter, Tomei) or any that have already all but vanished who'd like to return (Allen, Pfeiffer, Davis, McDormand) to start honing their plummiest British accents. 

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Reader Comments (23)

Love your love for Emma.... she's so deserving.

Is there another American Davis other than Viola? Surely you don't mean her since she hasn't vanished?

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

"Tilda Swinton [...] weirdly ageless, never young even when she actually was or old now... "

she's more orlando every passing year

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpar

I assume Davis is Judy Davis, who is at least going to be in the Kate Winslet-starring Jocelyn Moorhouse film The Dressmaker.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurence

Wait, of course it's Geena. I just love Judy Davis that much.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaurence

I think her next project is actually A Walk in the Woods, with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte; it's filming now.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

murtada & laurence -- I meant Geena Davis.

May 16, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Ha, I was going to say that Judy Davis is Emma's biggest competition probably for those older sometimes proper English lady character types, even though Judy is Australian, she has surely become "International" after all these years. Judy has well and truly left Perth behind I dare say.

The full trailer for Interstellar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSWdZVtXT7E

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I find the belated success of Fallada's novel in the English speaking world rather fascinating. It was written in 1946 and first published in German in 1947 (though in a shorted version). There also have been three adaptations (one of them starring Hildegard Knef). But the first - very successful - English translation was only published in 2009. This in turn prompted a rerelease of the book in German (this time in full).

OT: There's finally a US release date (and trailer) for "A Coffee in Berlin", formerly known as "Oh Boy".

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteranna

I think hbc is getting there earlier than we thought.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Anna, I agree that it's strange that the book took so long to be translated into English. I read it a couple of years ago, and found it gripping and fascinating. I'd recommend it highly. (The English title is "Every Man Dies Alone.")

That said, I'm not quite sure that Emma Thompson is the right person to be playing a middle-aged German housewife.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

McDormand has "vanished"? Harsh, but I suppose it's true. Burn After Reading was a long time ago, and nothing even resembling a lead role has seemed to come her way since.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSean D

Mark - I absolutely agree - Helena Bonham Carter is already prepping, though don't count out Gillian Anderson, Julie Walters or Imelda Staunton either... I suspect that they're all waiting to start claiming the prime UK actress film roles from Dench, Mirren, Smith and Redgrave...

Re: American Actresses - I've said it before and I'll say it again. Surgery may prolong your 30s and 40s career but it will DESTROY your 60s and 70s career... is it really worth all that!?

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKermit_The_Frog

I think they'll have to be careful with how they market this one because otherwise false expectations could lead to disappointment. To me the novel was an intriguing look at the lives of normal working class people during the war but cat and mouse game makes it sound like the couple were much more successful than they were.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJen K

The other actress of Emma's generation for whom I foresee many future roles (despite their lack at this particular moment) is Julie Walters. She was *so* good in Billy Elliot, like, fifteen years ago.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDusty

Yeah, the success of Fallada these past few years was intriguing, but it sorta makes you wonder how many amazing writers we're missing due to lack of translation.

I love Mark Rylance and he needs to make more movies. He was amazing in Angels and Insects and Intimacy, two really underrated movies.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

I am (coincidentally) half way through reading Alone in Berlin at the moment; it is a brilliant dark satire that isn't shying away from either the atrocities or the complicit nature of large parts of the german population. Fallaa and his translator have done an exraordinary job of conveying sense of place from aprtment block to pet shop to gestapo headquarters, so in that sense it is very cinematic. I can see it as a confronting film but it will be very hard to keep Fallada's tone from being turned into straight drama.

So far, at least, the husband's role and level of agency is by far bigger and the role of the con man who plays a significant role in the gestapo investigation is also very prominent.

May 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermatt


Also ready for duty: Penelope Wilton, Lindsay Duncan, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Celia Imrie, They may not have a lot of name recognition over here, but neither did Dench or Mirren until they blew up in the '90s.

(And let's not forget Brenda Blethyn, 68, and Miriam Margolyes, turning 73 tomorrow.)

May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

matt -- yeah, i kinda gleaned that from reviews of teh book so that's great news for Rylance who is such a great underutilized actor

May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

When did McDormand have a film career? She has privilege to work with important people. And when they feel like it continues to receive awards recognition. She's Annette Bening without the sex appeal. And what Bening desperately wants McDormand has. A Best Actress Oscar.

May 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful


May 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRob

I was actually so sure that Nathaniel means Hope Davis. Totally forgot about Geena.

May 18, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkin

3rtful -- i'm just going to assume you're being facetious since McDormand had a pretty great film career

Paul -- that's a good point about name recognition sometimes happening late... at least for the Dame-ready British women.

May 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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