Nina Hoss: ‘The left is in a state of absolute chaos – we have lost our way’
Philip Oltermann in Berlin, The Guardian
Tuesday 4 July 2017 01.16 AEST
When she was a little girl, the German actor used to sit in on her father’s union meetings. Now she’s directing her political fervour into Returning to Reims, a new play by Thomas Ostermeier seeking to explain Trump, Brexit and Le Pen
When Nina Hoss agreed to perform a Manic Street Preachers song with the Welsh alt-rockers at Glastonbury in 2014, she had no idea that the track – Europa Geht Durch Mich (Europe Passes Through Me) – would soon come to sound like a requiem. “It felt like such an optimistic song at the time,” she recalls, “and the crowds were going absolutely wild.”
For this month’s Manchester international festival, the 41-year-old German actor and her collaborators – Berlin Schaubühne director Thomas Ostermeier and Bush Moukarzel, an Irish actor, writer and director – have devised an English-language dramatisation of the memoirs of a French sociologist. The show is a sort of group therapy for liberal Europeans discombobulated by the events of the last 12 months.
Ostermeier told her he was reading Returning to Reims by Didier Eribon, a French sociologist and the celebrated biographer of Michel Foucault. Get hold of a copy as soon as possible, he said. “Reading it opened floodgates inside me,” she recalls, sitting in a shady corner outside the converted 1920s cinema that is now home to the Schaubühne. “It tried to address all the questions we are grappling with. What is going on with this generation of ours? Do we still believe in democracy? If we do, is that belief reawakening or dying? Do we still know how to organise ourselves to have influence on a political scale? And are we really interested and patient enough to get involved – or did we unlearn that in the 90s because we believed our parents had paved us a path to prosperity?”
Originally published in France in 2009, Retour à Reims became a bestseller in Germany last year, partly because it hinted at an explanation for the Brexit vote and Trump earthquakes, as well as the then looming nightmare of a far-right French presidency. It tells the story of the author returning to his hometown for the first time in decades, following the death of his father, only to find that his once staunchly communist family is now more or less openly supportive of the Front National.