Sandra Hüller


In a bustling year of diverse projects and incessant travel, Oscar nominee and award-winning actress Sandra Hüller explores the depths of acting, reflecting on the intricacies of her craft and her recent ventures.

From the stage to the screen, Hüller delves into the nuances of portraying complex characters and the challenges of juggling multiple roles in critically acclaimed films. “It’s been a very busy year,” she admits at the European Film Awards in Berlin in December 2023, reflecting on the flurry of activity since Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall won the Golden Palm at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. From gracing the stages in the 2019 production of Hamlet or of The Exterminating Angel at the Bochum Theater in Leipzig and shooting Zwei zu Eins last summer with Natja Brunckhorst, “there has been a lot of traveling,” Hüller tells Fade to Her.

In fact, amidst this whirlwind, she finds herself at the epicenter of the aforementioned Anatomy of a Fall and Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, both films that vied for the Golden Palm and are now EFA-winning and Oscar nominated pictures, each garnering attention and acclaim. “We might as well talk about one film. So, this is kind of the same procedure, I think. But I get double the feedback,” she explains, emphasizing her commitment to each character and refusing to play favorites. “I love them both the same way… And I learned so many things while doing them. So, I can’t decide.”

In Anatomy of a Fall, Hüller grapples with the enigmatic portrayal of a character, also named Sandra, steeped in ambiguity. “I didn’t know [if she was guilty]. I didn’t ask myself the question, she reveals. “When I read the script, I felt that this film is so much more about the projections that I would have on her, and [that] also the audience would have on her. So, we tried to recreate this first reading experience for everybody who was seeing the film, which I think was, especially for Justine, very, very difficult.”

Contrastingly, in Glazer’s Zone of Interest, Hüller inhabits the role of the wife of a mass murderer, a daunting prospect for any actor. Yet, she clarifies, “It’s a very obvious take because she’s guilty, so there was no question about that. And I never tried to portray her in any sort because we didn’t make a biopic. And if we had, I would not have been a part of it because I don’t see any use in portraying these people.”

Instead, she adopted a detached perspective, observing the character’s actions without emotional entanglement. “I didn’t really play her because that’s not why I felt we did it. There were a lot of elements that helped me walk through this… In order to really play someone, I feel like I have to empathize with them. And I think I did not do that from the beginning. That was something that Jon has allowed me to do,” she explains. “I think that’s pretty obvious. I don’t want to be in the mind space of such a person.”

In that sense, Hüller believes Glazer’s aim was to make a film about the phenomenon of ignorance and how close it is to us today. “He wanted to make a very modern film about excluding all sorts of information that could keep us from having a peaceful life and how easy it is,” she claims.

The production of The Zone of Interest posed unique challenges, as authenticity was paramount. Hüller recounts the meticulous attention to detail, from the carefully recreated sets to the immersive filming experience. “What we had was the rebuilt house that was wired for ten cameras and I think sixty microphones or something [like that]. I think it was completely full of microphones and we could not hide anywhere and I think they also let them run when we had breaks. The focus pullers were in the basement. The house was recreated from all the information they got from the six years of research; lots of pictures and descriptions,” she recalls.

Reflecting on the impact of her roles, Hüller acknowledges the transformative nature of acting. “Everything we do is an opportunity to grow.  [My roles] taught me so much more about acting in a way that was more on a mental level of thinking about something rather the personal [level of it],” she muses.

In discussing her collaboration with directors, she underscores the importance of trust even if it’s not always the case, “It doesn’t work always that way, unfortunately. Of course, it’s the most beautiful experience, but it works both ways,” Hüller allows.

As our conversation draws to a close, she reflects on the multilingual aspect of her work and craft. “I feel like it is a wonderful opportunity to explore other characters and also to keep your brain busy and alive. And it is a very different form of acting for me than if I act in my own language. It’s kind of liberating because I’m a bit of a nitpicker about little details in German all the time. Very self-conscious,” Hüller admits.



Photo credits: European Film Academy.

This interview was conducted at the 2023 European Film Awards.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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