It was the perfect plan for Daniel Brühl (Barcelona, 43 years old). A brilliant idea that he sensed he would not know how to develop and, therefore, he passed it on to the German writer Daniel Kehlmann to write the script. A plot that starts with irony, turns to sarcasm and lands in a thriller Hitchcockian airs. A clever reflection on the ego (which grows hypervitamin in the actors) and gentrification in large European cities. A debut as a directorial debut for the actor in his beloved Berlin, at his favorite festival, the Berlinale. And suddenly, it reached a pandemic. Next door which is now premiered in commercial theaters in Spain, was filmed surfing the first wave of covid in March 2020, and inaugurated the last Berlinale, last January, at a festival held remotely. “Now, at least, I can present it face to face,” he said on Wednesday in a Madrid hotel.
The Brühl on screen is an egotistical actor, about to travel to London to audition for a superhero movie. He lives in the Berlin neighborhood of Mitte, which is being ravaged by gentrification. Before going to the airport, he stops at the pub on the corner for a coffee. And there, in one of his desperate attempts to please, he falls into the clutches of a neighbor who knows too much about him. “The movie lives inside a strange game. It’s my face, right, and when my wife saw the movie she said, ‘How disgusting of man!’ with some disappointment, because he knows that something of that Daniel lives inside me. But at the same time I am not me, I do not even feel that it is a negative version of me. Not even when I was young, when I fell into a certain narcissism and lost interest in my surroundings, did I become so unbearable ”, he confesses. “Actually, I used that Daniel to talk about what mattered to me: human beings and gentrification. In the end I have shied away from making it more personal, which would have added to a sinister feel on screen. “
For that reason, minutes before, he had laughed when he saw, in the photo session in the hotel restaurant where he is promoting, a golden skull ornament on a nearby table. “Too easy the joke with the Hamletian doubts, right?”, He jokes.
In any case, Brühl has learned to cope over time with the imposture syndrome, which has haunted him “all his life.” He only feels that they can accept him 100% in Cologne, the city where he grew up, as the son of the German theater and television director Hanno Brühl and the Spanish teacher Marisa González. The filmmaker begins a long reflection: “The idea was born from an experience I had at the Envalira restaurant, in the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona. There one day a worker heard me talk about Barça and began to look at me … I have always felt a bit outside. There is something funny about being an actor. It is one of the few professions in which you are publicly congratulated for your work, but at the same time you are constantly being judged. Our societies, both Spanish and German, are being poisoned by populism, which is rotting and dividing us. As an actor, I can go beyond, and give voice to others; in return, every day I notice a greater burden in the criticism that I receive for issues such as that I in Berlin represent the west, privilege. Today more than ever I notice the level of bitterness in Germany. Probably because the economic differences between East and West Germans remain ”.
The filmmaker enters another philosophical quagmire: “It happens to many actors. We need to be loved. In my case it was multiplied by my roots so varied. That Daniel anxious to be accepted in Gràcia would have deserved a slap. And I still do not relax completely in Berlin, struggling to show that I am aware of the incoherence in which I live ”. Before abandoning his analysis of the new film, recalls that his own father, as an experienced director, had already warned him: “He could not stand actors who were so lost in acting that they did it constantly. Losing the north, the naturalness, is the great danger. I still have days when I ride the show, but I have not reached that extreme. My environment watches over me [risas], and I have an inner compass that still works ”.
That family and friends environment counts a lot in the case of the Spanish-German actor. For example, among his post-pandemic vicissitudes, Brühl has been able to shoot his long-awaited version of No news at the front, Erich Maria Remarque’s novel in which the actor stars and produces, and has moved to the island of Mallorca, “almost more driven by my wife”. And he bursts out laughing: “Another German cliché! For years we had not gone because of that prejudice, until friends from Barcelona insisted on its beauty. We want children to live in nature for a season. My wife, who is a psychologist, continues with her patients for Zoom, something she did last year due to the coronavirus ”. And from there he has spent time promoting his Marvel series, Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Now, between a rock and a hard place, the actor, who achieved popularity with Good bye, Lenin!, clarifies: “If you have to choose between Marvel or Tarantino [él trabajó en Malditos bastardos], I’m going with Tarantino ”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.