Costume Designer Teresa Grosser On The Silent Forest

Renowned costume designer Teresa Grosser talks to Close-Up Culture about her work on the film, The Silent Forest.

The film follows Anja Grimm as she returns to the remote forest area where her father disappeared without a trace when she was eight years old. Her sudden appearance triggers a brutal murder. Disturbances in the forest floor and pointer plants force her on the trail of deeper layers of guilt and crime and trigger a catastrophe.

You recently worked on the Saralisa Volm film, The Silent Forest. Can you tell us about your approach to the costumes in the film?

Saralisa’s film The Silent Forest takes place in 1999 in a small village deep in a forest in the Upper Palatinate. In her directorial debut, Saralisa Volm stages the dense atmosphere of a lurking, breathing forest and tells of the uncovering work of a young woman who counters the oppressive silence of her parents and grandparents in her search for truth. We didn’t want to romanticize the film with costumes, but we did want to emphasize the darkness and the depression. I used a lot of materials well-known from the 90’s like fleece and synthetics. I wanted to stay close to reality, which often doesn’t look like what you see in a Bavarian picture book. I think we did a pretty good job of forcing a heavy and deep tone through the costumes.

What is your creative process for a film like The Silent Forest?

First, I read the script, then I discuss it with the director, and then I enter into the world of the book. I make my mood boards, and I’m always very precise. I beam into the world by listening to music very loudly with headphones, so I can catapult myself into the strange world of the characters. Sometimes I listen to the same song for hours. I must feel the characters in the pictures. For me, the mood boards must reflect the complete characters. For me, that’s the best part. I have the characters all to myself and I’m very close to them. After that, I share them with the director, actors, and all the other departments. Then I do fittings with the actors, and we work together with the director, the make-up department, and the camera department on fine tuning, color concepts, etc.

Are there any particular costume details audiences should keep an eye out for?

None of the characters are dressed in a cliche way: all have a break in their costume. For example, Anja Grimm (Henriette Confurius) wears a light “Schöffel” outdoor jacket in the middle of the forest. For her, we took a break with the practical clothes she wears for her internship at the forestry office with a 90s grunge style.

I hear you were self-taught. Can you tell us what initially sparked your interest in costume design and what you did to develop your skills?

I loved dressing up as a kid and I loved telling stories. My professional goal was clear after my first internship at the theater. I assisted a lot and always looked at how others did it. I was curious and worked in very different formats. In the theater, I learned how to deal with texts and characters dramaturgically, in advertising, I learned speed, in no-budget productions, I learned how to make great costumes without a lot of money. If you are open, you can learn something new in all productions. I still don’t feel like I know everything, I think there is still a lot to explore.

How did you break into the industry?

After graduating from high school in Stuttgart in 2004 and doing an internship in costume design at the theater “Theaterhaus” there, my professional goal was clear. Stations as a Costume Assistant at the Berliner “Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz” and the “Schauspielhaus Bochum” followed. I’ve been working as a freelance costume designer since 2010. In the early years I worked mainly for the theater, in collaboration with directors Volker Loesch, Friederike Heller, and Anselm Weber, among others. I have been specializing in film and television productions since 2015 (i.e., The Silent Forest, A Thin Line, Kiss My Wounds, Ever After, and many more). I also work for smaller indie films, web series, and commercials.

What is your favorite example of costume design in a film?

I think there are so many good costume designs out there, and you have to differentiate whether a production is historical, contemporary, or futuristic. Even a white T-shirt and jeans can be the perfect costume. For me it’s important that it’s believable and I understand where the costume comes from. It’s the journey, not the destination.

Sandy Powell recently won the Fellowship at the BAFTAs for her work in costume design. What are your hopes for the future of costume design and costume designers’ place in the industry?

I wish that costume designers would become more visible and that our creative work on a film would get as much recognition as that of the art department, camera, or direction. Our work needs to be recognized and valued on an equal footing with the work of any other creative department. #nakedwithoutus #equalpay

What type of projects would you love to take on in the future?

I really like working on zombie or apocalypse projects. But I also like coming-of-age and dramas. The deeper the story, the better.

What are your plans and ambitions for the future?

I would like to do bigger projects to be challenged in different ways. I would also like to work more outside of Germany.

We are very pleased that KISS MY WOUNDS (director: Hanna Doose) is selected for the program KINO! Germany Now! 2023. The film is one of 5 German feature films and documentaries that will be shown in American cinemas from April to June and represents young German cinema. https://www.goethe.de/prj/gfo/en/kgn.html //https://www.goethe.de/prj/gfo/en/kgn/fil/nar/kis.html Perhaps something new will come up for me when the film is shown in the USA. I’m looking forward to that.

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