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“Acting is a phony profession for a grown-up man if there’s no spiritual manifestation behind it.”- Oskar Werner

October 23, 2010

Born 13 November 1922, Vienna, Austria.
Oskar Werner

Crossed the divide 23 October 1984 due to a heart attack days before embarking on a scheduled reading/reciting tour throughout Germany.
Oskar Werner

One of the rarest actors mankind had the pleasure of experiencing.

Followed the hunches and pushes and lo and behold, Oskar Werner’s last interview he gave before crossing over was indeed not on youtube as of yet. (that surprised me, usually the Oskar Werner afficionados would have put that up)
Happy to say, this is hereby remedied

Didn’t have the time to translate the entire 45 minutes, so just some of it. I don’t think this interview has ever been translated at all in the realms of the English speaking world. It’s difficult to split it in the right places, I did my best.

Teil 1/Part 1:

“Acting is a phony profession for a grown-up man unless there’s a spiritual manifestation behind it.

When you fought your entire life for the nobility of the spirit and the quality of true emotion- you simply cannot partake in defacing the great classics.

And I also think one has a responsibility toward our youth that is so very desperate and without guidance. That is why they are so violent.
I just don’t believe that one can achieve anything with smashing in windows- but with the complete opposite. They need to protest- but in a dignified manner, not without dignity.

And that’s why Schiller said (and I love Schiller passionately!) “Art is the daughter of Freedom.”- and he was right.
And Schiller told the artist something else: “The dignity of mankind is in your hands; protect it! It sinks with you! With you it will ascend.

…you can only understand things so much- as far as you have come along yourself. Nobody will spoon feed you a master piece overnight, that is something you have to work on for yourself.
That I know the [Mozart’s] ‘Magic Flute’ by heart is a blessing- it also belong to me and not just [the director] Karl Boehm.”

Teil 2/Part 2

Interviewer: “I met a colleague…and he said ‘the content is pretty nice, but I love the voice and the voice is marvelous.’ Now I ask myself- but how do you reach the audience with the message?”

Werner: “But that is why I am doing this. Because there is something that I have to communicate to them that is of concern to me.
And because I am a pacifist and had deserted in that war it is my job to tell the youth what I think about war.”

Interviewer:”Sometimes I doubt if the message is coming across, as if to say ‘Okay, here is Oskar Werner with his marvelous voice’ and that’s that.

Werner: “Oh, that’s fine, that’s not a problem. They are still coming. They are still hearing it.”

Werner”…That is also because I have said no- I have rejected over 300 movies in my life, even refused very lucrative ones in Hollywood. Because I am aware of the responsibility.
Think about it, you turn the TV on- the youth is literally being schooled in evening filling home study courses in ‘Crimes’. When you see 8 different murder stories, some might get the idea to try that, too.
They literally exercise every crime there that you could think off- I’m surprised TV even can add something new to this.”

Interviewer: ” Are you a religious person?… What do you believe in?”
Werner: “…I already told you that.
The sublime, the beautiful and that humans are more than just pigs. If you believed in everything that is being portrayed today, you’d think everyone is just a criminal, a murderer, a bank robber and nothing else. And that is why I chose my poets because there is more to us than just that.”

Teil 3/Part 3

Interviewer: “Truffaut. You later parted ways fighting. He later said you didn’t execute Fahrenheit 451 than he wanted it.”

Werner: “You see, when we did “Jules et Jim” the collaboration was excellent because I basically knew how to speak my lines in French- but I didn’t actually speak French then. It’s like being a singer who sings Italian without actually speaking Italian…it’s sort of in your ear.
But when we did ‘Fahrenheit’ he didn’t actually speak English and that might be the main reason- the generational difference of about 10 years- and that he actually is French.

But in the night of the Kristallnacht [pogrom or series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and parts of Austria on November 9–10, 1938. Jewish homes were ransacked, as were shops, towns and villages, as SA stormtroopers and civilians destroyed buildings with sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed windows—the origin of the name “Night of Broken Glass”]- I SAW how the synagogues were burning and how the SA piled up mountains and burned [books by] Freud, Stefan Zweig and all else.
So, his [Truffaut’s] potrayal of this seemed too small and too cheap. Infantile.

That Truffaut handed this over to the press is so tasteless and without tact. Even if I am arguing with my sweetheart- that’s not even my neighbor’s business, I do that quietly.”

Interviewer: “You played Mozart once. After that, you were offered to play Richard Wagner in Visconti’s ‘Ludwig’, which is now considered to be his best movie.
But you didn’t play Wagner- what was the reason for you to refuse this role?”

Werner: “Because I hate Wagner like the plague. If there ever was a genius of kitsch- which is a contradiction in itself already- then for me that is Wagner.
And my condition was that I would be able to play Wagner the way he actually was. Portray him as the pig that took advantage of people- and they told me, that’s impossible, we can’t do that on the German market.
So I said, fine, then somebody else will have to play Wagner.”

Teil 4/Part 4

Teil 5/Part 5

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Elmira permalink
    October 26, 2010 2:13 pm

    He reminds me of someone in some of his comments, although Oskar Werner is more outspoken. He reminds me of Michael Jackson in the hopes he had for mankind, the way he sticks to his principles and knowing that the messages come across anyway to the sensitive ear and mind.
    I didn’t watch the videos to be honest but I read the translation.

  2. October 26, 2010 8:31 pm

    Lol, yeah, they do feel different from one another, but they are all from the same planet.

    Seeking ecstasy through art (Werner said he’s drinking for the ecstasy and for no other reason- incredible statement from an artist-sometimes I wonder if some artists feel stuck by the limitations of their consciousness ‘down here’, so they instinctively seek ways to “raise the roof”, through various avenues), stubborn as heck, have a hard time processing disrespect toward children and the young and abhor violence and war in all forms.
    And the media intentionally misrepresented both, Oskar Werner said some interesting things about his treatment in the media. In a nutshell, if you will.

  3. November 16, 2010 12:03 pm

    Oh, you know what just occured to me?? Duuuh! Must have been blind. There’s that Schiller element in both MJ and Oskar Werner. Pretty obvious with Werner as an actor who often cited Schiller.

    And MJ actually sampled the Prelude from the 4th movement of the 9th symphony on “Will you be there”. Friedrich Schiller wrote the more famous “Ode to Joy” that everyone associates with the 9th Symphony. So MJ basically samples Friedrich Schiller second hand on his own album.

    Duuuh! Temporary blindness, there’s that universal message that Schiller stood for.

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