"It was quite an accident, really," Birgit Minichmayr said of becoming involved in Maren Ade's "Everyone Else," the German relationship drama that opens in U.S. theaters today. "I went to the casting. [Maren] did the casting together with the male lead, not alone, because for Maren it was important to find the couple that would be right for the film. I met Lars [Eidinger, her eventual co-star], and when Maren saw us together, she decided we were the perfect couple for the movie."
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"Everyone Else" centers itself around Gitti (Minichmayer) and Chris (Eidinger), a seemingly happy German couple whose relationship begins to implode while on a Mediterranean vacation. Considering the challenging emotional journey these characters are placed in, Ade's casting decision was most definitely as important as she suggested, and her instincts with Minichmayer and Eidinger worked out quite nicely. The film debuted to raves at last year's Berlin International Film Festival, and has been finding very nice notices Stateside as well. The New York Times' Manohla Dargis wrote that while the film "might not be perfect, so much is right and true in this lovely, delicate work that it comes breathtakingly close."
Reviews have been particularly kind to Minichmayr (who won a Silver Bear for best actress in Berlin), who critic Karina Longworth called "phenomenal." Based in both Austria and Berlin, the actress currently divides her time between both film and theater. Despite small roles in high-profile films like Tom Tykwer's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer," and Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall," she has generally been best known for the latter.
"I have been doing a lot of theatre work - working mainly for the National State Theatre, called the Burgtheater, in Vienna. And I will continue to do a lot of work there," Minichmayr told indieWIRE on the phone yesterday.
One of the most renowned and prestigious theaters in Austria, Minichmayer has made quite the impression at the Burgtheater. In 2007, Cate Blanchett ran backstage after watching her performance in a production of "King Lear" to tell her how much she admired her.
But with "Everyone Else," Minichmayer seems to have gained numerous admirers outside those lucky enough to make it to the Burgtheater, though her character in the film might not be as popular.
"It was funny that there were quite different reactions," she said of people's take on her character's relationship with her boyfriend. "I couldn’t say whether this has something to do with being a man or woman but that was interesting to watch." Continuing she added, "What came up quite clearly is that the people often identified with one of the two. Some said: 'Oh that’s such an awful asshole to have as a boyfriend!' The others said: 'Oh, Gitti is such a hysterical person!' This is also what Maren had in mind.. this ambiguity that you couldn’t say it’s the fault of the woman or it’s the fault of the man when the fights came up. It was funny the reaction that people always had and they sided with either her or him. It’s quite interesting."
Minichmayer said that though relating to these characters was an imperative part of what she noticed about "Everyone Else"'s audiences, she herself avoided identifying with Gitti.
"This is not my way of acting," she said. "I don’t take life as a script for my films. Of course there are parallels or something, but this 'oh, it all happened to me as a person' thing is something I don’t believe in. For me the work has more to do with imagination than it does taking private situations to feel it. That’s how I [handle] my profession."
As for what she hopes U.S. audiences take from the film as it begins its release here, she said simply that it's up to them.
"It’s hard with a film like 'Everyone Else' to tell what people should get out of it or what they should see," she said. "It depends on them. The only hope I have is that I don’t bore people with my work. That’s the important thing for me."
It's probably safe to say Minichmayer has nothing to worry about in that regard.
Tobias Rauscher and Basil Tsiokos contributed to this article.