Starring Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson, and Daniel Brühl, Alone in Berlin is the latest feature film written and directed by actor-turned-director Vincent Perez (La reine Margot), based on the best-selling book by Hans Fallada. We unveil here an exclusive gallery of behind-the-scenes images take by director Vincent Perez. A passionate photographer, Perez has had exhibitions of his work in France, Russia and his native Switzerland. These images, inspired by wartime black and white photography and nodding to celebrated portraiture by August Sander document a large cast of characters and extras working on the set of Alone in Berlin.
You can see an exhibition of these and more photographs in the cafe at Curzon Mayfair, where Alone in Berlin plays from Friday 30 June.
Alone in Berlin
Written by celebrated German author Hans Fallada just after the end of the Second World War, Every Man Dies Alone was one of the very first anti-Nazi novels, and remains as pertinent a depiction of human repression and resistance today as when it was originally published in 1947. Based on actual Gestapo files given to him by a novelist friend, Fallada’s remarkable tome tells the story of Otto and Anna Quangel – in reality Otto and Elise Hampel – a working class couple in Berlin who, having lost their only son to the conflict in France, wage a two-person propaganda war by writing postcards with seditious messages, urging their fellow Germans to stand up to Hitler’s ruling Nazi party.
For writer-director Vincent Perez, Fallada’s book had great personal significance. His family on his mother’s side is German and fled Nazi Germany. “My mother was born in 1939 but they, like many millions, joined the Exodus, walking for five years, then coming back after the war,” he explains. “When you have German blood it raises so many questions I needed to find the answers to, and through that book I found some amazing things. Reading Fallada forced me to build up a family history.”
And so Perez embarked on his own personal journey of discovery, keen to understand what had become of his German family under the Nazi regime. At the same time, Perez was going through his own personal crisis, albeit a creative one. After helming two features and several shorts, he decided to quit directing. “I thought I had no stories to tell, but when I read the book everything changed.”
Originally envisaged as a German-language feature, Perez tried to secure financing for years, without success. Then, as fate would have it, the book was translated into English for the first time and became a bestseller in the US, the UK, and Israel. Suddenly it made sense to make the film in English. “We wanted to make a universal story,” says Perez. “It was important to tell the story not only for Germany, but for France, for Britain, for Israel, everywhere where the extremes have a chance to pop out. It’s important to show that everyone can fight, everyone. It demands courage. Suddenly we felt it was logical to do it in English because it was opening the project to everyone. And it’s a story everyone should know.”
Alone in Berlin plays at Curzon Cinemas from Friday 30 June
(With thanks to Trafalgar Releasing and Altitude Films.)