Anke Engelke: "Change is the most beautiful thing"
Exclusive Anke Engelke loves change – and can do more than just be funny: She talks about her new film "Mein Sohn", Aging and the limits of morality.
Her character in the film initially has trouble understanding her own son. What helps you personally to develop understanding for other people in general??
Anke Engelke : Interest, proximity. I find borderline situations interesting, for example, voluntary confinement with other people. That’s what I liked about "LOL" – knowing that we’re here together for six hours. Because then you can block out all distractions and keep a good lookout. We tend to get distracted. So it’s quite helpful when there’s a support system like this – whether it’s in a train compartment or in a car or in a classroom. I think I can manage to observe and experience people even without a car.
How did these encounters take place during filming?. There must have been situations where you were close to the others?
Engelke : We were on the road with a very small team from Berlin to Switzerland through Germany. And we managed not to bash each other’s heads in, even though we were sitting close together in this smelly car, the director, the cameraman, Jonas and me. It was a good psycho test where I learned a lot. For example, where and when I cross emotional boundaries with other people, not recognizing their protected space.
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Engelke : For example, by partying every other evening. There we simply said: "Let’s chat, how we found the day. Fire up the music. Yes, tomorrow we will be tired. Anke and Jonas, they should look tired, then our make-up artists don’t have to spend hours putting on make-up." We weren’t a group of friends, after all, but a group put together for the film, but through experiences like this we moved toward each other and learned more about each other.
That’s where interpersonal contact helps, while detachment, as we are experiencing in the pandemic, is a problem psychologically.
Engelke : Yes, it is not good for us. I couldn’t stand being alone on the island. There is a lack of exchange. It’s always a matter of looking left and right to see how other people deal with something: How is the guy next to me looking at this work of art, or how does the woman in the theater next to me react?? Whereas at least I was able to work during the pandemic, so in that respect I’m lucky.
Your characters change through the interpersonal encounters in the course of the plot. Do you like such processes personally or would you prefer to stay the same all the time?
Engelke : Changes are the most beautiful thing of all. The worst thing, I think, is when you meet people after a few years and they say: "You haven’t changed at all."I would jump right out of the window. That would be terrible. And this is also true within the circle of friends. You watch and think to yourself: I wouldn’t have thought that you would change jobs now? How, you still have children?
But doesn’t the phrase "you haven’t changed" refer primarily to the physical? That is actually meant positively.
Engelke : I see it differently. When you see that someone is older and more mature in body, face, movements and facial expressions, it only means that this person has had many experiences and has accepted all that life has to offer. I find such observations inspiring. Because that’s also how a society works, that you don’t just look at the surface and move on, but observe the other person and integrate all that into your own thinking and acting and your own further development.
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The film also shows differences between the generations. But wouldn’t you like to behave in your 50s like in your 20s??
Engelke : I have an example: When I was a girl I liked to skateboard. I couldn’t do any tricks, but I can stand on the board automatically and I don’t fall down and break my arms. In the film, the son goes skateboarding with his clique, and it would have been totally inappropriate if I, as a private Anke, had said on the set: "Come on, I’ll go skateboarding with you."That would have been stupid. There I think briefly also of me as a teenager. If my parents had taken me skateboarding, I wouldn’t have thought it was cool, zero! Everything has its time, its moment. You have to leave such spaces to another age group.
Social sensibilities are also changing massively at the moment – which is leading to big discussions, for example in terms of gender language or environmental awareness. What do you think about it?
Engelke : I think she is great. I am totally glad that everything is discussed openly, and as with every discussion a lot of nonsense comes out, but also a lot of good things. We often forget that we are not experts and specialists. We often confuse opinion and hunch. We all have an opinion, and only very few have a clue. And that’s exactly why we have to talk to each other and see what hurts whom, what doesn’t matter to whom. And in between, life takes place. It’s great that we extend lower antennas and question why someone finds something wrong. But I agree, it’s also a big step to step out of your comfort zone and ask why something bothers or hurts someone. And also why someone does not want to do without something. If someone says: I love my motorcycle, even if it rattles and stinks.
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And what is your favorite means of transportation? A rattling Harley?
Engelke : I have an electric car for routes I can’t manage with public transport, within Europe I don’t fly, only once a year, the rest I do by train. From Cologne, I can get anywhere in four hours at the most. I really like to travel by train to European countries, and if necessary I make a stopover overnight. I have already been to London, Barcelona and Copenhagen. No problem at all.
Then you wouldn’t be allowed to make a movie like "My Son" with the long car ride. Should this be banned in the future for environmental reasons?
Engelke : No, no, then the fun is over. I have to stay at home and watch the world go to hell. No one can and should limit himself in such a way and practice so much renunciation. It would be absurd to say that we should no longer make films in which there is no gender bias, where people drive cars, smoke or eat steak with relish. Life goes on manifold, colorful and diverse, with everything that goes with it. We should therefore remain optimistic and joyful.
About the person: Anke Engelke was born in Canada, grew up trilingual and was discovered by Radio Luxemburg at the age of eleven as part of the choir after a duet with Udo Jurgens. The 55-year-old became famous through fun TV formats such as "Die Wochenshow" and "Ladykracher. She lives in Cologne, is a mother of three, twice divorced.