"These Movies Bring Out The Kid In Me Again!"
International Film Festival Schlingel in Chemnitz: Actor Uwe Ochsenknecht in an exclusive interview about children’s films, order and fantasy.
Even at the age of 66 Uwe Ochsenknecht is still a jack of all trades as an actor: since 1972 he has been involved in a good 175 productions. He first gained international attention in 1981 with Wolfgang Petersen’s war film Das Boot. Four years later, the actor and singer, born on January 7, 1956 in Biblis in southern Hesse, whose strictly Protestant parents left the GDR in 1951, made his final breakthrough alongside Heiner Lauterbach in Doris Dörrie’s comedy Men (Männer). In the following conversation with FIPRESCI juror Marc Hairapetian, which took place on the occasion of the world premiere of Ali Ramadi Ahmadi’s half live action, half animated movie The Mucklas… and how they came to Peterson and Findus 9 (Die Mucklas…und wie sie zu Pettersson und Findus kamen) at the Schlingel International Film Festival in Chemnitz, he talks for the first time in more detail about films for children and young people.
Q: Uwe, after your role as King Alfons the Quarter to Twelfth in Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver (Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer) and Jim Button and the Wild 13 (“Jim Knopf und die Wilde 13) you are now playing the exterminator Karl in the partially animated live action film The Mucklas… and how they came to Pettersson and Findus. Have you developed a soft spot for children’s and youth films, even though your children are grown up now?
Uwe Ochsenknecht: What is a soft spot? If you ask me and I like the role, then I’m always happy to do it. It’s hard to believe today, but I used to be a kid myself and watching these movies brings out the kid in me! I know how nice it is for a child to go to the cinema. When I first went to the cinema, films were still shown in black and white and I saw Dick und Doof (known worldwide as Laurel and Hardy). Everything has changed, not just the colour. It’s great fun when you have kids of your own and see how excited they are to go to the movies with you. Today with the technical means it’s even better. You can really build a fairy-tale fantasy world and make it look real. The children can totally lose themselves in it. Acting in children’s films myself gives me great pleasure, especially dressing up.
Q: So now also with exterminator Karl, who wants to get the fur of the cute earth spirits Mucklas?
Uwe Ochsenknecht: Villains are especially fun, of course. Children are frightened anyway. (laughs) Only in the movie, of course! And then it’s good when it’s over again.
Q: You didn’t have to act in front of a green screen this time?
Uwe Ochsenknecht: There was still a lot of green screen in Jim Knopf. With the Mucklas, on the other hand, you “only” had to imagine the characters. But as an actor you should have a good portion of imagination for the job anyway. In that sense, it wasn’t that difficult for me. It’s also fun to work on children’s films because as an actor you can always exaggerate a bit, for example when I adjust my voice and say (speaks in the deepest bass like Darth Vader if he had swallowed Gollum): “I know exactly where everyone lives! And I’m coming to visit you tonight!”
Q: Creepy! Let’s talk about the Mucklas again. You love clutter. Your dinner date with the wonderful CrisTine Urspruch throws her into total chaos. Is it really tidy at your house?
Uwe Ochsenknecht: Not really…
Q: So the Mucklas would feel comfortable with you?
Uwe Ochsenknecht: I hope not. But there has been a certain order in me over time. But I had to learn that too. And order is learned from girls and women. They teach us men order. And that’s just as well.
Q: Do you have a favourite children’s film yourself?
Uwe Ochsenknecht: There used to be more fairy tale film adaptations, the best came from former Czechoslovakia. Three Nuts for Cinderella (Tři oříšky pro Popelku) is truly a masterpiece in the genre. But as someone who was born and grew up in the West, I also really liked the GDR film adaptation of Snow White and Rose Red (Schneeweißchen und Rosenrot) from 1979. In contrast, the West German adaptation was a bit stuffy. And then I loved the Augsburger Puppenkiste very much. When the request for Jim Knopf came, I thought it was all the better that I could take part.
Q: The 1955 version of Snow White And Rose Red was the first movie I saw in the cinema! After all, it was a rudimentary innovative attempt to free the German fairy tale film of the 1950s from its studio rigidity with outdoor shots from the Bavarian mountain forest.
Uwe Ochsenknecht: Yes, for us such a fairy tale film was incredibly fascinating at the time. If only we could have watched Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings when we were kids. Unthinkable! What is possible today with digital means is of course amazing! I think that inspires children’s imaginations too.
Edited by Amber Wilkinson
© FIPRESCI 2022