Under the influence of Wagner

While studying the music of famed German composer Richard Wagner, German actor Sabin Tambrea could not help but "learn to love" it too.

The handsome star explored the musician's works extensively while researching for his title role in the film Ludwig II (right), a historical drama about the 19th-century Bavarian king who was a devoted patron of Wagner's.

In an e-mail interview with Life!, the 29-year-old rising star says in German: "I studied Wagner's operas, and looked at passages of his opera Tristan And Isolde. Everything that you're looking for in terms of emotions, whether they are positive or negative, can all be felt through his music.

"I learnt to love the Wagner universe that had such a great attraction for Ludwig too."

His movie, which follows the life of the controversial king who was more interested in funding the arts than weaponry even though his country was about to go to war, opened the 17th German Film Festival on Thursday.

The film is helmed by directing duo Peter Sehr and Marie Noelle, the same team who collaborated on films such as romance dramas Obsession (1997), starring Daniel Craig, and Love The Hard Way (2001), starring Adrien Brody.

Tambrea says that working with two directors was "great", adding: "On every question I had about my role or the story, I got double information from them. It was a gift to get such a three-dimensional view on Ludwig."

Ludwig II is only one of several films featured at the 11-day festival that celebrates the 200th birthday of Wagner, whose works are often described as the foundation for modern Western music.

British newspaper The Guardian describes Wagner's 1859 tragedy Tristan And Isolde as "a work about which we can safely say that without it, Western music since the 19th century would have taken a different course".

Other Wagner-centric films at the festival include Werner Herzog's The Transformation Of The World Into Music (1994), which looks at Germany's Bayreuth Festival, an annual event that stages Wagner's operas, as well as the documentary Richard Wagner And His Women (2005), which looks at the women who have influenced the composer's life.

Aside from Wagner, the film festival will also celebrate film-maker Jean-Marie Straub, who turns 80 this year.

Though Straub is a French national, he worked for much of his life on films in Germany, and is especially known for his two dozen collaborations with his late wife and film-maker Daniele Huillet. They are considered prominent voices of New German Cinema of the late 1960s to 1980s.

Some of the duo's films that will be screened at the festival include Class Relations (1984), an adaptation of Franz Kafka's novel Amerika, and From Today Until Tomorrow (1996), based on Arnold Schonberg's 1929 opera about a married couple who re-evaluates their relationship.

Among the contemporary releases at the festival are Hannah Arendt (2012), the biopic about the German-American political theorist and author of The Human Condition (1958), and the drama Exit Marrakech (2013) from Oscar-winning director Caroline Link (Nowhere In Africa, 2001) about a German teenager's life-altering trip to Morocco.

Festival Highlights


Director: Margarethe von Trotta

What: A biopic about famed political theorist Hannah Arendt, who coined the controversial phrase "the banality of evil" when covering the trial of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann in 1961, which describes the idea that ordinary folk do evil simply by following orders without thought. Her writings angered many people at the time, who felt that she was insensitive to Holocaust victims. German actress Barbara Sukowa, who plays the title role, has been much acclaimed for her performance, winning Best Actress awards at the Bavarian Film Awards and at Germany's Lola Awards.

Where: The Cathay Cineplex

When: Monday, 7.15pm


Director: Nico Sommer

What: When Silvi's husband abruptly calls it quits on their marriage, the 47-year-old is determined to find a new romantic partner, which leads to several comic and awkward situations. The film won for Best Film at the 2013 Achtung Berlin - New Berlin Film Award ceremony, and also garnered lead actress Line Wendel the Best Actress nod at Germany's Schwerin Filmart Festival.

Where: The Cathay Cineplex

When: Friday, 9pm, Nov 16, 11pm


Director: Bille August

What: Based on Pascal Mercier's novel, this romance drama follows the life of Latin professor Raimund Gregorious who, on a whim, boards a train from his hometown of Berne, Germany, to Portugal's Lisbon and goes on a trip that changes his life forever. Stars English veteran Jeremy Irons (right) in the lead role.

Where: The Cathay Cineplex, Cathay Cineplex AMK Hub

When: Saturday, 7pm, Nov 17, 8pm


Director: Ulrich Seidl

What: In the first part of his Paradise trilogy, which looks at three women who take completely different vacations, director Seidl explores sex tourism in Africa, where middle-class European women travel to look for young sex partners. The second and third parts of the trilogy, titled Faith and Hope, are also showing at the festival. Go to www.goethe.de/singapore-filmfestival for details.

Where: The Cathay Cineplex

When: Saturday, 11.45pm, Nov 14. 9.30pm


Director: Caroline Link

What: In this new Africa-set drama from Oscar- winning director Caroline Link (Nowhere In Africa, 2001), a German teenager flies to Morocco to reunite with his estranged father who works there. The two go on a road trip through the desert, changing their life perspectives along the way.

Where: The Cathay Cineplex

When: Nov 17, 8.30pm

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