Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt Berlin Syndrome Interview

Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt Berlin Syndrome Interview

Cast: Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt
Director: Cate Shortland
Running Time: 116 minutes

Synopsis: Clare, a twenty–something Australian photojournalist, arrives in Germany on a sabbatical from work. She intends to photograph Soviet–designed architecture in the hope of publishing a book. However on her first morning in Berlin she meets Andi, a charismatic German man who teaches English at a local High School. The instant connection and chemistry between Andi and Clare leads to a night of unbridled passion. But when Clare goes to leave the next morning she discovers that the door is locked. Not only that, but she is the only inhabitant of an otherwise abandoned apartment complex.

Clare desperately attempts to free herself from the apartment but is unable to. The windows are reinforced with Perspex and the door is bolted shut. Clare tries to reason with Andi, believing it must be some kind of misunderstanding, but he won't let her go.

Clare becomes distraught, lashing out at Andi and he has no choice but to tie her to the bed while he goes to work. One morning however he agrees to leave her untied – she convinces him there is nowhere for her to go. Upon arriving home that afternoon Andi is pleased to find Clare busying herself with a jigsaw puzzle. She gestures for Andi to help her and as he lets his guard down, she stabs him in the hand with a screw driver, grabs the keys and attempts to escape. Andi soon catches up with her and smashes her hand in the external courtyard door, breaking her fingers.

The days, weeks and months pass by as Clare becomes accustomed to her life of captivity. Meanwhile outside the apartment walls, Andi is forced to deal with what he believes to be the infatuation of a female student, Franka, and the persistence of his father, Erich, who suggests Andi meet with his estranged mother.

As autumn turns to winter, what began as his obsession has now become theirs as Clare becomes reliant on Andi to be both her provider and her only companion. When Franka comes to the apartment wanting to see Andi, he threatens Clare that he will kill Franka if she says anything. Franka gets a glimpse of Clare in the hallway of the apartment and is upset to hear Andi has a girlfriend – she thought he was interested in her.

After a violent outburst, Andi abandons Clare and goes to stay with his father. Clare starts to wonder if Andi will ever come back. Meanwhile, Andi wakes to find his father has passed away and spends several lonely days alone with his father's lifeless body.

When Andi finally returns to the apartment, he and Clare reunite – emotionally and physically. For a moment, life seems to return to normal. Christmas comes and Andi surprises Clare with an outing to a beautiful forest. When they come across two young boys, Clare takes her chance to cry for help but the language barrier prevents this from being a success.

On New Years Eve, while Andi is at a colleague's party, Clare breaks into his locked spare room and discovers a strange massage chair and albums full of photos that he has taken of her. She also discovers photos of another girl, trapped like her in the apartment and realises her fate is sealed unless she can find a way out.

Andi's obsession leads to the murder of a homeless man attempting to free Clare, and she realises time is running out. Meanwhile, Andi becomes increasingly unhinged and when he discovers Clare's photo in a newspaper article about a missing person, he announces that he is getting the apartment fumigated. Clare now once again fears for her life and knows that she must flee before it is too late. Clare puts together her final desperate plan for freedom. While preparing dinner for Andi, Clare purposely burns her hand on the stove. This forces Andi to search for ointment in the bathroom. While he is gone, Clare searches through his student's book. The following morning when Franka opens her school book, she discovers a terrifying photo of Clare, clearly a cry for help.

Franka, remembering meeting Clare at Andi's front door one evening, immediately flees the school grounds and upon arriving at Andi's apartment, she frees Clare, but only just in time for Andi's return. The two of them hide in an upstairs apartment as Andi searches for Clare. Just as he thinks he has got her, she locks him in the apartment and escapes.

We go out on Clare leaving Berlin in a taxi, taking in the world for the first time since captivity, putting her past behind her, hopeful of the future.

Berlin Syndrome
Release Date: April 20th, 201

Interview with Teresa Palmer

Question: What is this story about for you?

Teresa Palmer: It's an exploration into the dynamic between two individuals. It delves into themes of love, lust, control, sexuality, loneliness, personal suffering and growth.

Question: What was it about this story that you were drawn to?

Teresa Palmer: I loved the character of Clare and getting to explore her imperfections, her darkness and then her ultimate discovery of self. I hadn't played such an introverted and internal character before so it was a tremendous challenge for me. Above all, Cate Shortland was the biggest draw card. I've been a long-time fan of hers ever since I saw Somersault. I've been dying to work with her for years.

Question: How did you prepare for the role of Clare?

Teresa Palmer: I prepped mostly with Cate and Max in the rehearsal room. We really took apart the scenes and injected our own interpretations and discoveries of these characters and rewrote the scenes together. We found some really daring and intense parts of these characters and once we felt as though we had journeyed through all facets of them we knew we were ready to get to work and play.

Question: How was it working with Cate Shortland?

Teresa Palmer: She has been my favourite director to work with thus far. She really knows how to highlight authenticity, it's what she is interested in and celebrates. I loved how excited she would be by actions that we would take which would generally be subconscious, like the picking of our nails, the tucking of our hair, how we moved our feet etc. She wanted to capture these moments as important character pieces. I've never worked with a director who still seems to see the world through the lens of someone discovering it for the first time.

Question: What was it like working with co-star Max Riemelt?

Teresa Palmer: Max was incredible to work with. We had to really trust each other and we had to become really enmeshed during this process. I feel he created a safe space for me to explore all sides of Clare, he was such a generous actor and he was truly chilling and complex in his portrayal of Andi.

Question: What was your favourite scene to shoot?

Teresa Palmer: My favourite scene to shoot was the Christmas scene. I play the accordion, we discuss our relationship; as Clare tries desperately to find some humanity and connection with Andi. Connection is her salvation so it's a really delicate scene, she can't push too hard but she also needs to be bolder than before as she feels her time is limited. I really enjoyed playing around with it.

Question: Which scene was the biggest challenge for you and why?

Teresa Palmer: The biggest challenge was probably finding the right balance of emotion, yet control during the scene when Andi comes home once I've realised he has decided to keep me captive. I had to ensure that all the right emotional beats were being hit, yet Clare still has hope of escaping and is in survival mode, so I had to weave that in there too.

Question: What was it like transitioning between locations, Berlin and the studio in Melbourne?

Teresa Palmer: It was great! It was nice breaking up the exterior and interior shoots. Berlin was very much about our meeting and that's where we started the shoot so it was organic to have Max and I getting to know each other during that period, it worked for the filming experience. By the time we got to Melbourne we knew each other really well and could delve into the more intimate scenes in the movie.

Interview with Max Riemelt

Question: What is this story about for you?

Max Riemelt: The story deals with love with all its charm and precipices, it covers the difference between reality and one´s own perception, parallel worlds, anonymity in large cities such as Berlin. It tells how fragile life is in general and how fast it can change in one moment.

Berlin Syndrome can be seen as a sort of twisted love story that begins with fantasy, desire and adventure in a romantic way and evolves into a horror story. We discover the psychological depths of Andi that lead the audience through the tragic progress of the relationship between Clare and Andi. Clare learns to protect herself and to behave to a degree of pretended normality. However, you will find traits of love and humanity behind the often brutal and cold face that Andi puts on to protect himself.

Question: What was it about this story that you were drawn to?

Max Riemelt: I have never played such an extreme character before. The dark, double life of Andi both fascinated and challenged me. His intelligence, charm and sincere feelings make him a very complex character.

Question: How did you prepare for the role of Andi?

Max Riemelt: We had intense rehearsals in which we created and talked about the complexity of the characters, their backgrounds and history. In addition to the preparation of certain scenes, there were general acting exercises to get inside the character and connect with them. I went through a permanent dialogue that went on far longer than the rehearsals themselves. It was a constant struggle with Andi's feelings that helped me make the character more human and therefore more understandable. To learn about the work of a teacher, I even attended a school.

Question: How was it working with Cate Shortland?

Max Riemelt: Working with Cate Shortland was not only an honour but also a lot of fun. She kept asking for my opinions and was happy about ideas and proposals which she could incorporate into the project.

She is not only a great director but even more so a warm, empathic and a sort of caring mother, who took a great interest in everyone on the movie set. She works very intuitively and is very open and interested in her surroundings.

She treats actors and team members more like equals, so that you are constantly challenged but also satisfied at the same time. I always felt very supported and protected. She also opened up to us about her feelings and thoughts regarding certain things, so that I could not help myself but to also reveal my feelings. She is definitely one of the best I've ever worked with.

Question: What was it like working with co–star Teresa Palmer?

Max Riemelt: Teresa is a great actress, woman and mother. Next to my character she was the biggest challenge for me, as she is just so experienced and has no fear regarding her work. She is a family–oriented person and therefore very loyal and honest. Her personality made her acting very natural and believable. She doesn`t take herself and others too seriously, so it never gets boring with her. When I had trouble with the English language she always helped, but also laughed about it at the same time.

Question: What was your favourite scene to shoot?

Max Riemelt: I think my favourite moments were when Andi was pretending everything was fine but inside he had sort of killed someone. Moments when he snaps and gets kind of helpless and vulnerable but through that unwillingly funny at the same time.

Question: Which scene was the biggest challenge for you and why?

Max Riemelt: The scene when my father just died and I come back into the apartment and switch from being a crying helpless boy into a sexual, grim beast. That was definitely a big challenge to play.

Question: What was it like transitioning between locations, Berlin and the studio in Melbourne?

Max Riemelt: Starting in Berlin was good to get to know everyone on set but also to get to know my character from the inside and outside. There we worked on all Berlin scenes and parts outside the apartment. Later in Melbourne the work concentrated on the apartment and therefore on the psychological depth of the story. It was such great set and felt so real that I sometimes forgot I was in Australia.

Berlin Syndrome
Release Date: April 20th, 2017


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