• Karoline Herfurth © Anne Wilk
    Her kind of recipe for
    successful filmmaking

A portrait of director Karoline Herfurth

Karoline Herfurth © Anne Wilk

Karoline Herfurth is no longer a newcomer, not even as a director. Born in Berlin in 1984, the actor has now directed four feature films in parallel to her acting career. Two of them, WUNDERSCHÖN and EINFACH MAL WAS SCHÖNES, were released in German cinemas in 2022 (following delays due to Covid). But she is still as nervous as ever in face of an upcoming premiere.

Certainly, Herfurth laughs loudly at my question whether a cinema release six years after her debut SMS FÜR DICH cannot be casually chalked up as routine: “It’s not as if I have the recipe for a film that works perfectly. Besides, every film takes two to three years of work, and not just for me. That’s why as a filmmaker you bear a lot of responsibility for every story. And it never becomes commonplace to make yourself naked somehow and visible in this way, because there is a lot of personal stuff in every film, from humour to values.”

Herfurth, who is also involved in each of her films as a screenwriter, does have a kind of recipe for success: like few others in German-language cinema, time and again she manages to deal with issues that are important to her while deliberately appealing to a wide audience, skilfully balancing seriousness and light-hearted humour. “I want a film to have great emotional moments,” she comments. “It has to be able to go deep, emotionally, as well as being dramatic. And at the same time, I want to keep intercepting that and framing the story with lightness.” Which doesn’t mean that she wants to commit herself to tragicomedies for ever: “Maybe the humour will take a back seat at some point. But the emotions are unlikely too; for me, they are simply part of storytelling.”

Choosing which material has whatever it takes to become her next work as a director is anything but an impromptu decision. “A project like this is not something I can just pick up casually. You need to love both the story and the characters a lot if you are really going to spend several years rethinking, defending and protecting them,” Herfurth emphasises. “I immerse myself in every little detail, from sound design to editing, and follow a film completely, from front to back. That’s why such decisions are never easy or frivolous for me.”

Whereas other actors who are drawn to work behind the camera place a special emphasis on working with the ensemble, Herfurth is still attracted to directing by those aspects that were strange to her: “I know the daily routine on the set, I grew up with it, although of course from a different perspective. That’s why I find it particularly exciting to get to know the other fields that I wasn’t familiar with before. Getting to know areas like preparation and especially post-production – that was a real feast for me.”

According to Herfurth, a team of trusted colleagues who accompany her from one project to the next is also crucial to the success of her films. “I’m a big fan of having a familiar space, a basis. It creates a protective field that you have built up together and that ist the be-all and end-all on set,” she says, referring to long-term companions such as writer Monika Fäßler, cameraman Daniel Gottschalk, set designer Christian M. Goldbeck and composer Annette Focks. “Of course, there are also new encounters on a regular basis; after all, not all our team members always have the time. That can be very nice, and inspiring as well. But it simply makes the work easier and deepens it tremendously when – like in the editing room with Linda Bosch – I have someone at my side that I know I can rely on 100%.”

She is also a permanent member of the team. So far, she has been in front of the camera as an actor in each of her directorial works, “simply because I still like acting very, very much and feel very lucky to be able to do both at the same time. At least as long as I fit into the story as an actor.” But as far as 2023 is concerned, first Herfurth is looking forward to having someone else direct her again: “I haven’t been able to concentrate completely on acting for a long time. I think it will be nice to be able to work on someone else’s vision once more and to implement ideas that I might not have thought of myself. After all, that’s also very enriching.”

Patrick Heidmann