Actor-In-Focus: Angela Winkler

Angela Winkler is one of Germany’s most acclaimed performers. Since the late 1960s she has worked extensively in theatre and film, working with many of Europe’s most prestigious companies and innovative directors.

Between 1971 and 1978 she was at the Berlin Schaubühne theatre working closely with director Peter Stein. Since then her work in the theatre has been particularly praised and it has been in that context that she has worked with some of the most acclaimed directors in the world. These have included numerous productions for Peter Zadek, thought by many to be one of the most significant German practitioners of recent times, including The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov (1996), Hamlet by Shakespeare (1999), Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen (2000), Mother Courage and her Children by Bertolt Brecht (2003), and Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen (2004). She has also collaborated successfully with Robert Wilson whom she worked with at the Berliner Ensemble on productions including Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale (2005) and Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera (2007).

As a result of her consistently excellent work in the theatre she was given The Ibsen Centennial Commemoration Award in 2006. Presented by the Norwegian government, other recipients of this prestigious honour include Glenda Jackson, Vanessa Redgrave and Isabelle Huppert.

In the UK Winkler is perhaps best known for her appearances on screen. Her debut was in Peter Fleischmann’s 1969 film adaptation of Martin Sperr’s controversial play Hunting Scenes from Lower Bavaria. In 1975 she played the lead role in Volker Schlöndorff and Margarethe von Trotta’s adaptation of the novel The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum. Published in 1974, Heinrich Böll’s novel immediately caused controversy as it explored the sensationalist tabloid press in the context of the terrorism that was engulfing West Germany at the height of the actions by the Red Army Faction, popularly known as the Baader-Meinhof Group, and the state’s response to it. Winkler gives a masterful performance as the young woman whose life is torn apart when she becomes the focus of the tabloids’ interest.

Working again with Volker Schlöndorff, Winkler appeared in the director’s section of the ground-breaking compilation film and mediation on the political context of West Germany in the late 1970s Germany in Autumn (1978). The political context of late 1970s West Germany is also a central component of another key work of the era, Knife in the Head (Reinhard Hauff, 1978), in which Winkler has an important role as the wife of central character Hoffman (Bruno Ganz), a man who gets caught up in the police’s violent response to political protest. 1978 also saw Winkler appear in The Left-Handed Woman, the film directing debut of esteemed playwright and scriptwriter Peter Handke. The decade ended with Winkler again collaborating with Volker Schlöndorff on the Palme d’Or and Oscar-winning The Tin Drum in which she memorably plays the mother of lead character, the tin drum beating Oskar.

Since the 1980s Winkler has continued to be in demand to work with some of Europe’s most esteemed filmmakers. She once again appeared alongside Bruno Ganz in Claude Goretta’s 1981 drama La Provincial and, as Lucile Desmoulins, was one of a heavyweight cast assembled by Andrzej Wajda for his Danton (1983). In 1992 she played the mother of the titular Benny for Peter Haneke in Benny’s Video, and has more recently worked with award-winning directors Tom Tykwer (Three, 2010) and Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria, 2014) as well as having a role in the up-coming remake of Suspiria directed by Luca Guadagnino.

As part of States of Danger and Deceit we are honoured to welcome Angela Winkler for a Q&A at HOME after the screening of The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum on Sun 26 Nov and you can also see her in Knife in the Head on Sat 9 Dec.

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