Johanna Wokalek Gudrun Ensslin


How did you approach the role of Gudrun Ensslin?
To me an essential part of Gudrun Ensslin’s character was her relentless logic, the absoluteness of her thinking. That’s what I concentrated on when I played her, and, in a way, I had to become as absolute and relentless myself. While we were making the film, I wasn’t able to judge her because that would have meant distancing myself from her. Of course the crimes that she committed and that were committed in her name are horrific – there’s no way I can approve of murder – but my job as an actress is not to find answers to all the questions concerning Gudrun Ensslin. Ideally, the audience will be finding their own answers to questions like “How far can we go in the fight for a better world?”.

What drew you to this role?
To immerse oneself in the otherness of this person, whose actions are so alien to me, and to find some kind of truth – that’s a fascinating challenge to me as an actress. When I first read the script my reaction was: “I can’t believe all this really happened in Germany!” The history of the RAF has many facets and the film will, I think, emphasise the complexity of the topic.

How did you experience the making of the film?
Prior to filming, the main actors had to go to a shooting range and train with firearms, including machine guns. This stressed me out completely. Feeling the force of a weapon so physically was a terrible experience. The scenes in Stammheim were also incredibly stressful, because we created a very real sense of psychological pressure amongst the actors, which was very tiring. 

Like many of the other actors you also had to lose weight during the shoot. How was that?
To me it was helpful that many of us were on a “hunger strike diet.” This feeling of emaciation made me harder; it was easier for me to immerse myself in Ensslin’s relentlessness. You also have to remember that food wasn’t really very important amongst young people at that time. I talked to one of the wardrobe assistants who’d lived in the same commune as Andreas Baader and many others before they became members of the RAF. She told me that at the time everyone was extremely thin and just lived on cigarettes.