Jennifer Ulrich: from the revolution to the horror movies

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Sometimes in life you have to stand up to defend your ideas no matter what could happen.That’s what the German actress Jennifer Ulrich made in “The Wave” with one of her most important character. With ‘Karo’ she discovered the feeling of being an outsider.

After her revolutionary role, Jennifer started to experiment a genre that is not usual in Germany: the horror movies. As a vampire or a student, she was happy to be a part of that world.

Jennifer, who also made different foreign movies and plans to keep that way, spoke to The Outsider Argentina about her role in “The Wave”, her characters’ challenge and her newest film.

How did you start acting?

I started acting when I was 16. There was a youth club here in Berlin where I used to spend my afternoons with friends when I was 14/15. I was interested in acting at that time already, being part of the theatre group in school, but I had no clue how to get into film business and no connections at all to it. But suddenly one day a scout came to the youth club and brought me together with director Maria von Heland. We had a great connection right away and after some casting sessions she put me in her film and from that moment on I knew that this is what I love and what I wanna do.

How was it like playing Karo, the girl who realized that The Wave was a negative movement?

The role of Karo in THE WAVE was great to play and also very important for me. It was very special how we all prepared ourselves together. Rehearsing scenes not found in the script, having long discussions about autocratic structures and our point of views on nowadays societies and also we were reflecting a lot on ourselves and how we would behave in situations like that. It was very intense for me to realize how hard it is if you’re on the side of the minority, how brave you have to be to be the one against all the others, how fast your social status disappears and how cruel some people can become if they really believe in something ideological. I never discovered that feeling of being an outsider until playing Karo. I think this film teached us all a big lesson in a way.

How was it composing Karo? Have you had a role model?

Well, the director Dennis Gansel works really close with his actors. He’s always curious about your ideas but also has a very precise idea himself about the character. It’s a very enriching process to put both ideas together and create a complete new character. We didn’t focus on any role models. Of course you can see some parallels to Sophie Scholl in the way Karo behaves but that’s not something we planned, this behavior is just a logical consequence of people fighting on the revolutionary side.

How did you go from that character to a vampire? How did you get involved with the project?

When Dennis Gansel decided to shoot WE ARE THE NIGHT he invited me for the auditions and after the 4th or 5th time he decided I’m the right one to play Charlotte. I was very happy he’d chosen me. I mean playing a vampire is not an everyday chance.

In which way do you find playing Charlotte a challenge?

Charlotte was so different to everything I played before and also so different to me personally that it was a big challenge physically and emotionally to become her. The way she moves, the way she talks, her cold appearance hiding a vulnerable soul. That was a wonderful multilayered character work based on a lot of research and training. I love when I have to work hard to become a character because it such a great opportunity to learn and try out new things. I was reading a lot about the 20ies era, watching a lot of mute films, vampire movies and also action films with Angelina Jolie whose body language is just fantastic. And we also had a week of stunt training before the shoot which I loved so much. In Germany, especially as a woman, you don’t get the chance to play many action roles so it’s super exciting once you get the chance to really work physical on your role.

How was it like making horror movies such as “We Are the Night” or “205 – Room of Fear”, being that there are no many horror movies in Germany?

I loved shooting WE ARE THE NIGHT and ROOM 205. I like watching horror films and I’m very happy to see that there are filmmakers in Germany who want to push the genre back into focus again. There have been very few horror films in Germany in the last at least 20/30 years. That’s too bad because there are many very creative filmmakers who have awesome ideas for the genre film but financing those projects is still a big problem. We still have to prove that we’re technically and narratively on the same level like the Americans if we are given the chances. So I’m very happy to be part of these new uprising genre films. And it’s so much fun to shoot horror movies because you get to the core of many human fears and to play very physical and intense characters.

You made also two foreign films, “Albert Schweitzer” and “DIAZ – Don’t clean up this Blood”, do you want to keep working in other countries and languages? Where do you like to work?

To work in foreign films is a big gift. The collaboration with filmmakers from other countries is always much fun and a great experience. Beside ALBERT SCHWEITZER and DIAZ I also shot a film called MEET ME IN MONTENEGRO with the American director Alex Holdridge last year. Playing with and learning from the director and my colleague Rupert Friend was fantastic. One of my favourite films is DIAZ, an Italian production about the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001. It’s a very political film and it’s one of the most intense projects I’ve done so far. It’s based on real life events and real characters, that’s always a big challenge and it’s important to make people aware of what’s happening in our world and our so called democratic countries that’s not democratic at all. The film business is not easy right now because the financial crisis is still hitting the film market but it’s great to see if international filmmakers put their ideas, money and energy together to tell stories. I would like to shoot even more international films in whatever country. Of course Hollywood would be great but there are so many more countries with great stories and great creative ideas.

Which are your projects for the future?

Right now I’m waiting for the German distribution of ROOM 205 in March 2013 and also DIAZ should come out in Germany this year after winning the 2nd place of the audience award on last year’s Berlinale festival in Panorama section. I’m also planning to shoot another horror movie with a young German director this year. A zombie film which sounds like a great new experience and hopefully another push for Germany’s genre film market.

Samantha Schuster

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