German actress Vanessa Loibl joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about her role in Xaver Bohm’s debut feature O Beautiful Night.
Q: Nina, your character in ‘O Beautiful Night’ finds herself in a car with a passive young man (Juri) and Death. Can you tell us more about Nina and how she fits into the story?
A: Nina works as a stripper in a peepshow and smokes opium. She seems to be very tough and quick witted, but as with the other two characters – Juri and Death – she’s lonely and longs for human closeness and safety. She’s what you could call hard shell, soft core. To avoid these thoughts of loneliness she numbs herself by smoking opium.
In the beginning she’s Juris love interest, but then somehow she becomes the connection between the trio, perhaps because she came into contact with death in her past.
Q: What was your journey with Nina like during the project? Could you relate to or connect with her in any way?
A: I read Xaver Bohm and Ariana Berndl’s script and felt connected to the character immediately, even though we do not have a lot in common. Nina has a very strong self-defence mechanism, maybe a stronger one than the most people. This could be due to her work as a stripper and her past experiences. She’s afraid of letting people get too close to her because that would make her vulnerable.
To emphasise this vulnerability, which she does not show on first sight, was the challenge for me as an actress: What lies beyond her coolness, beyond her need for distance?
Through the script you don’t get a lot of information about Nina since all events take place in only one beautiful night. This gave me the opportunity to create my own backstory for Nina.
Q: It must have been interesting for Marko Mandić to play the embodiment of death. How was your collaboration and time spent with Marko Mandic and Noah Saavedra?
A: Marko, Noah and I had a great time together. Our connection was there right from the beginning and it felt as if we had known each other for a long time already. Marko is one of the most amiable people I have ever met – sometimes he’s very childlike which I really enjoy. The time with Noah was great as well.
Most of the movie was shot during night time, so caffeine was a big help to us. During one night Noah and I drank five cans of coke each, and we were on a big sugar high which was very funny. I’m happy Marko and Noah worked with me on my first feature film and I really hope to work with them again.
Q: Juri’s fear of death is a big part of the story. What is your relationship with – or philosophy on – death?
A: I don’t think about death a lot, not because I want to repress the thought of it, but because I know death is there and life is limited.
Nobody knows what happens after life and this feeling of not-knowing is terrifying. I like the thought of reincarnation, I believe that after death, something new begins. Not so much the thought of being dead but the thought of growing old is scary to me – aging, bodily decay and diseases.
Q: Continuing with this slightly morbid line of questions. If you only had one day to live, how would you spend it?
A: I probably would not do anything different. I would get all my money from my bank account, gather all of my closest friends and family around me and spend a beautiful day and, of course, a beautiful night with them.
One thing I always wanted to do is visit a casino. I think that’s the perfect opportunity since on the last day you don’t have anything to lose.
Q: This is Xaver’s debut feature. Can you talk about his vision for the film and your experience working with him?
A: Xaver wanted to tell a fairy tale. Life seems less exciting to him the older he gets – you get used to a lot of things and lose your ability to be surprised. As a child everything was magical and everything seemed possible. With this movie he intended to recreate those feelings.
Working with Xaver was a great experience. Most of us, except for Marko (who plays Death), are newcomers. We had great artistic exchange, Xaver was very open whenever someone had a suggestion and he was very caring. If he was still working on ideas during our shoot, for example for a character or a certain scene, he was very transparent about it. This way, the whole team could engage in that search and find a way of creating the idea together.
Q: You have won acclaim for your theatre work and appeared in TV shows and short films in the past. How did your first role in a feature film come about?
A: When I studied acting at the drama school University of the Arts in Berlin, Xaver saw me in one of the scenic studies – I think it was either Tennessee Williams or Shakespeare. He apparently liked it a lot because he still thought of me when he was preparing the auditions for O Beautiful Night four years later.
Nina Haun, who is responsible for casting, invited me to the audition for Nina and luckily it all worked out well and I got the part – my first role in a feature film.
Q: ‘O Beautiful Night’ premiered at Berlinale. What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
A: I hope the movie helps the audience to realize that it is better to face one’s anxieties, instead of indulging them and letting them determine your life. If you face your fears and leave your comfort zone, you can experience new and great things. Just like the three characters in the movie experience a journey through the night.
Q: What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
A: I hope to have the opportunity to be part of a lot of other projects in which I can challenge myself as an actress. I want to continue learning new things, getting to know creative people and expanding my horizons – within the film world, as well as in theatre.