Saturday, 28 August 2010

Portrait: Hannelore Elsner

German actress Hannelore Elsner was born in 1942 in Munich.

She is probably little known beyond the German borders, despite the fact that she's been making films since the age of 17 and continues to have a strong presence in German cinema and television while quite a few of her films have also been released abroad.

Hannelore Elsner: A class act

To audiences outside Germany, Elsner might be best known for her collaboration with Oskar Roehler in Die Unberuehrbare (Nowhere to Go, Germany, 2000) and, more recently, her leading part in Doris Doerrie's Cherry Blossoms (Germany 2008).

Hannelore Elsner and her co-star, Elmar Wepper, in Doris Doerrie's homage to the films of Japanese director Yasuhiro Ozu, Cherry Blossoms (Germany 2008)

Hannelore Elsner in Roehler's Die Unberuehrbare. Roehler's film is based on the life of his mother, Gisela Elsner who, it should be added, was not related to Hannelore. Roehler's mother committed suicide in 1992.

But Hannelore Elsner also starred in Dani Levy's acclaimed Alles auf Zucker (Go for Zucker, Germany 2005), a comedy about Jewish identity, which was hailed by the German press as the first Jewish-themed comedy since 1933 and became an instant success in and outside Germany.

Hannelore Elsner with Doris Doerrie and Patti Smith at the dinner following the opening of the Berlin Film Festival in 2008

Hannelore Elsner in March 2007, outside the Jewish Cultural Centre in Munich. Hannelore participated in an evening to commemorate the life and work of Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger, a German-Jewish poetess who perished in December 1942 in the Michailowska concentration camp.

Hannelore Elsner walking the red carpet at the opening of the Berlin Film Festival 2009

Hannelore's most recent role was playing the mother to German rapper Bushido in a biopic about his life, Zeiten aendern sich (Times Change, Germany 2010).

Hannelore Elsner, seen here with Bushido at the Munich Film Ball in 2010

A picture from what is, perhaps, my own personal favourite Hannelore Elsner film: Vivere (Germany 2006), by Angelina Maccarone. Like Go for Zucker, Vivere also revolves around identity. Set in Cologne, which is Maccarone's home town, Elsner plays Gerlinde von Haberman, a homosexual woman of a certain age who's been deserted by her lover. Aimlessly wandering through Cologne, Elsner comes across Francesca Conchiglia, a cab driver, trying to come to terms with both her sexuality and her identity as the daughter of first generation Italian immigrants.