Hilde (2009)

Hilde is the story of Hildegard Knef (or Hildegard Neff as she was known for a while), who was an actress and singer. It’s a German movie, starring Heike Makatsch, Dan Stevens and Monica Bleibtreu and it’s directed by Kai Wessel.

The movie starts with Knef’s [Heike Makatsch] acceptance into acting school in Nazi Germany. It then chronicles her life and her career up to a concert in the 60s, at the height of her success.

The movie was pretty mediocre, altogether. While I don’t mind having watched it, I don’t think that it’s necessary to see it in the cinema and spend money for it.


It seems pretty clear why the movie was financed. “Marion Cotillard and La Vie En Rose were so successful, let’s do a German edition! Hmm… who could we do our movie about? Let’s see… Ah! Yes! Hildegard Knef! Her life was rather interesting, she died not long ago AND she sang chansons! The titles of  “La Vie En Rose” and “Für mich soll’s rote Rosen regnen” sound moderatly similar, let’s do it!”

Unfortunately, this movie has several issues. First is the script – I felt like the most interesting parts of Knef’s life were glossed over or not shown at all.
Apparently, her mother abused her as a child (it was mentioned that she broke Hilde’s nose) and their relationship at first was portrayed as rather problematic. And suddenly, her mother lives with her and everything seems to be alright.
Knef had an affair with a married Nazi film officer. (His family, btw, is never shown.) He arranged for her to have a role in a movie, which was never finished. In 1945, towards the end of the war, he was conscripted and Hilde pretended to be a man and followed him. There are a few kind of non-sequitur scenes of them fighting, or being shot at, before they get captured by Russians. They are seperated and Hilde finally goes free. How? I don’t know, it’s never shown.
The man is later executed. Does Hilde know? How does she react? On the basis of this movie, we’ll never know.
The whole Nazi thing is not really illuminated at all. Hilde was a child when the Nazis came to power in Germany, yet she never was a member of the party. She has no problem fighting for them, but when asked about it, she says that she doesn’t know anything about politics and never cared about it. But later she gives rather political statements. What’s going on there?

It may well be that this is all a question of time – the movie’s already more than two hours long. But I think that these are rather essential things in her life and should have gotten more attention.


The other big problem the movie had was Heike Makatsch. While she vey much looks the part, her acting was uneven and mostly wooden. When she tries to sound like Knef laughing, I wanted to cringe out of my seat. Plus, she plays Knef from 18 years old to Knef 40 years old and the only change you notice is the hair cut and the make-up. Neither does she get younger or older looking, it’s also not visible in her acting.

Monica Bleibtreu, who is a wonderful actress, appears only a few times and then mostly to say only a couple of words and disappear again for a few years.

The most exciting thing, though, might be Dan Stevens who plays Knef’s second husband David Cameron. His acting is good, going from soft to enraged in seconds and lending his character, who doesn’t get much introduction or motivations, a fine depth. Plus, despite being a “pretty boy”, he still manages to be sexy, which is also quite a feat. :) And his German is really very good.


Stanley Townsend plays David Selznick. Although his accent is off a few times, he manages to paint a convincing picture of Selznick as a slimy asshole. I don’t kow if he actually was one, but I guess chances are pretty high.

What surprised me was that there was very little singing. In fact, In the first 3/4 of the movie, the only mention singing ever got (with one exception, a nice little scene with Roger Cicero, who is a very talented German singer) was that Hildegard Knef couldn’t sing and wouldn’t sing. Then suddenly, she had a very successful Broadway show and she writes her own songs, which she wants to record. It’s a kind of “when did that happen?” moment.

(And you can think of her singing what you like, I think she had a very expressive voice and she wrote wonderful songs.)


Summarising, the movie has multiple issues, but it is still rather entertaining. Just don’t spend much money on it.


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