Wessendorf, who began acting on stages at home in Germany in her youth, has since carved out a prominent position for herself as an international actress through her multiple leading roles in films such as “Gone,” aka “Verschollen,” where she worked alongside award-winning producer Judith Schöll (“Crooks LTD.,” “Killing all the Flies”), and “CPH” from director Eitan Sarid (“A Trip to Jaffa”), which was chosen as an Official Selection of the Jerusalem International Film Festival.
Though Wessendorf grew up in Hamburg, Germany where she first began her career on stage, she has since performed all over the world, including on the stages of Paris, France and Tel Aviv, Israel.
Maybe it’s her experience working as an actress in various countries that has endowed her with an unusual multi-cultural appeal, or perhaps it is just something she was born with-- regardless of the reason behind it, there is definitely something special about Wessendorf.
Up next for Sarah Wessendorf is the film “Berlin in You” where she plays the starring role of Greta, a small town girl who’s life gets turned upside down by the big city. We were lucky enough to catch up with Wessendorf for an interview where she gave us some inside information on the story and her role in the upcoming film, which is slated to release later this year. Enjoy!
SW: “Berlin in You” follows my character Greta and her experience moving from a small German town to the German capital, Berlin. Greta plans to finish her master studies in linguistics and philosophy at the University in Berlin. She is very much focused on her career development and building a strong education for herself, however, when she moves to Berlin her focus starts to shift.
She is introduced by a fellow student to Berlin’s pulsing nightlife and she is immediately enchanted. People are so free, so rebellious, so in their own core. From that moment on this becomes Greta’s new priority. She wants to feel as alive as the people she sees out enjoying Berlin’s nightlife. Step by step she loses contact with the former vision of how she thought her life should play out, and she begins creating a new one. She used to plan months ahead, now she lives day by day. For the first time she feels alive and in her body, but it takes her a week to recover from those long nights out, and slowly her life takes an unhealthy turn. She can’t pay her rent because she spent her parents’ money on partying, and she begins lying to her parents and to herself, but she continues to tell herself that she has found the true meaning of life. Although the film makes a point of never becoming judgemental or trying to tell the audience what to think, it becomes apparent that Greta will have to make changes if she does not want to drown in Berlin’s excessiveness.
ELA: Can you tell us about Tim, Greta’s love interest in the film?
SW: One night out she meets Tim, who becomes her boyfriend. Now Tim in the film is not portrayed as the hero who saves Greta’s life, this would be too simplistic. Rather Tim becomes a wake up call, a symbol of the importance of balance, of getting in touch with self love and the awareness of how to live life well.
Slowly Greta understands that it is the middle way that will make her feel happy and fulfilled. She will eventually find herself, but every experience is important for that. Everything around her can become a tool to dive deeper into who she wants to be. At the end she will have to decide that for herself and for that she has to become close and intimate with herself.
ELA: Like Greta, you also lived in Berlin for a time. Was your experience there similar to your character’s?
SW: Living in Berlin changes you forever. This city has a way of making you question everything you have believed to be true and right. The things that give you security, whether they are right or not. In a way Berlin throws you into a bit of a whirlwind, one where you have to understand that the only compass you need is yourself and your inner voice. This, as with Greta’s story, I can very much relate to. Berlin’s nightlife is happening every night and you sense that every night could be an important one, one that makes you feel vibrant, bigger than yourself and alive. I very much understand the temptation of focusing too much on this aspect of the city and the influence it has on your being. I think most people that move to Berlin are going through a phase of this.
ELA: How was you experience different from Greta’s?
SW: In my life I have always made a point of staying focused on my goals. I knew very early what I wanted to be and what I wanted that to look like. Other than Greta, my mother is from Berlin so you could say I am a half Berliner and was never all that blinded by the big city. Also I am from Hamburg, which is a bigger city in and of itself as well.
Berlin always felt like a necessary step, but not one that I wanted to stay on. I always wanted to have a life outside of this city and that is why I never got too attached with any specific way of living here. I understood the club culture and I saw how some people very much identified themselves with it. That was never me. I was observing it, I was participating at times, but I always knew when to change it up, because I have other influences in my life too. I found this to be a much healthier approach to this city.
ELA: What kind of trouble, specifically, does Greta end up getting into?
SW: Greta just gets too deeply connected to people who need to party to feel alive. The life outside of the club just begins to seem too boring, too mundane, too conservative. She loses touch with the beauty that is life in any other shape and form. The beauty of being in nature or laughing with friends, the beauty of being alone.
Greta is in a way gets trapped identifying with the club culture and aside from that, she finds her life worthless. The friends she has are not heart to heart connections, rather they are people who share the value of celebrating as the key to life’s happiness. When she cannot pay her rent and starts to lie to her parents it becomes clear that she is selling herself an idea. The idea of being more real and authentic when in fact it is a mask, a fun one, but one that hides insecurities, loneliness and the inability to find self love.
ELA: Was the film shot in Berlin?
SW: Yes the entire film was shot in Berlin. This city offers so many amazing locations, of course we were not able to shoot in any of the real clubs here. There is a very strict no filming, no pictures policy which is rooted in the effort to protect the identities and privacy of its guests. But other than that, everything was shot in actual places in Berlin.
ELA: Tell me a little more about Berlin. What is your favorite thing to do or place to go in the city?
SW: For me personally I like to find my happy place in nature. There is a big park next to where I live and I love to just take walks, jog or be there. Especially in summer, this place is amazing because it includes an open air cinema where you can watch films surrounded by trees. It almost feels like an amphitheater. It is beautiful!
I don’t really go out anymore. Those times are pretty much over, but I do enjoy going dancing from time to time, to feel free and to just soak in the moment. This is something that is very special to Berlin, to have the freedom to feel free of judgement or expectations of who you should be or become. But I strongly feel that it is time for me to move on from that.
ELA: Is there any other story or part of your experience in “Berlin in You” you’d like to share?
SW: Shooting in Berlin was a very fun experience. People here are said to have very big opinions that they are not afraid to hold back. And this was how it felt. I remembered a lot of stories my mother told me about Berlin, about her growing up there and her experiences. How she would get ready for school putting on make-up in a department store, the same one we would later be shooting a scene in. It felt very full circle.
Also my mother told me that my grandmother who flew to Berlin with her mother from Prussia would complain that Berlin’s streets are ruining high heels. I usually do not wear heels but for the role of Greta I did and it reminded me of this. In a way it was a journey down the road my family had in Berlin. At least my mother’s side. It felt quite nostalgic and somehow sentimental.