Improvising infidelity for a big-screen hit

Two married couples, who have been close friends for years, turn to one another for romance. This sudden case of infidelity throws the relationships off course, before they pick up again. This is the theme of Andreas Dresen’s «Grill Point,» winner of the Silver Bear at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, which is currently playing in local cinemas. The role of Katrin, the adulteress, is interpreted by Gabriela Maria Schmeide. The actress, who lives in Bremen, attended the Thessaloniki International Film Festival last November and spoke to Kathimerini about her experience in the theater and her developing career (she has appeared in three films, two of which were directed by Dresen). In the film’s closing credits, the actors are referred to as co-creators of the movie. Do you feel like a cinematographer? We all felt it was our movie. The concept and the editing were Dresen’s, but the rest was a joint effort between the actors and the crew. The collaboration was completely democratic. We met in a hotel in Frankfurt and discussed the film, a little bit like in a commune. We were all paid the same amount of money, therefore we were all equals. At the hotel, we brainstormed on the characters, the plot and the dialogue. There was not a single word of written script when we began shooting. One day it started snowing, immediately, the general feeling was: Let’s start shooting! Do you prefer this kind of filmmaking, as opposed to a traditional script and a director’s guidance? I consider myself lucky in working under these circumstances because the mutual trust was a great plus in the movie. The initial budget was based on money stemming from an award won by Dresen’s previous film, and, therefore, there was no pressure to find producers. Filming with a digital camera was also a money-saver, yet another liberating factor. At the same time, no one had any great expectations for the movie. If we succeeded, it would have been an effort resulting in a good movie. If not, we would have made a good home movie. In the end, however, we were all surprised with the film’s success and the Berlin Film Festival award. Do you ever come across members of the audience who have had similar experiences as the film’s characters? I do. Women come up to me in the subway and ask me, «Weren’t you in that film? I’ve been through the same thing myself.» I believe this is due to the fact that the dialogue was based on improvisation, which makes it more real. Does this mean that if this happened to you in real life, you would react like Katrin? I think so, yes. When my husband saw the movie, he kept on saying, «hum, yes, yes.» Yet as a character, Katrin is much more, she is not just me. The movie’s original title in German, «Halbe Treppe,» means standing halfway up or down a staircase. What does that convey in terms of the characters? Getting one last chance, a landing, from where you can look back but also ahead. And this is what I liked about the movie, there is no straightforward happy ending, instead it leaves matters unresolved, just as in real life.

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