Mr. Schilling, the film adaptation of Dominik Graf’s “Fabian” will be released in theaters on Thursday. You play Fabian. When did you first come into contact with Erich Kästner’s book?
I received a request from Dominik Graf three years ago to play the role. Then I read the script and then the original novel “The Walk to the Dogs”.
What did you feel while reading it?
In preparation for a role one seldom reads as freely as usual. I read the book to see if I could learn something from it for my portrayal of the role. That is a demanding reading. I keep hearing people say this is their favorite book. I am very open: it didn’t knock me off my chair. I think there are places that have not aged well, and then there are chapters that are so zeitgeist.
Do you think the novel is too postmodern?
Yes. I think you have to put it in context. I had a hard time getting into the role. What was related to my personal situation at that time. I was looking. I questioned a lot and above all myself. And I struggled to develop the drive I needed to turn. Then you look for every anchor you can find. And in this book I found more questions than the help I was looking for. This story is about decency. Quite often I didn’t know: what was he thinking? What does he want? Fabian is bigoted. He always talks about how depraved Berlin is and then lets himself drift. Dresden was also represented as a province. I had my problems with that.
You said that you were hooked by the love story between Fabian and Cornelia. Why?
I’ve done my job my whole life in such a way that I’ve thrown a lot of personal things into it. Even if the roles were far from me, I took them to me and made them my thing. When you’re not doing so well yourself, it’s hard to work. And it’s hard to portray something that has nothing to do with you. Then I approach roles with the question: What can I get out of this? And in the book there was the aspect of desperate love. That Fabian just can’t be happy. That corresponded to my life at the time, and that was the emergency anchor to be real. Which also worked well. In terms of the love story, I find the book and the film incredibly profound and sensual.
Do you always need this anchor point?
Yes, an anchor in the sense of not fake not to overdo your own feelings.
Have you always dreamed of having a competition film at the Berlinale? How was it for you that Fabian was accepted into the competition this year?