Braving pain and cold for Agnes

Odine Johne plays the titular role of a woman who is willing to destroy herself to be with an older man.
Odine Johne plays the titular role of a woman who is willing to destroy herself to be with an older man.PHOTO: 20TH GERMAN FILM FESTIVAL

Actress Odine Johne is happy to be in Singapore, escaping the cold of Berlin. "I'm freezing in Germany in winter, always," says Johne, 29.

She was freezing in a more literal way in the film, Agnes, which saw her in the title role of a woman willing to destroy herself for the sake of her relationship with an older man.

In one scene, she is found in a snowbank, clad in thin clothing and paralysed with cold.

In an interview with The Straits Times, when she was in town to speak at the opening of the film last week, she says not much acting was needed to appear to be on the verge of death.

"It was a difficult shoot. The camera was on a crane - a difficult shot for the cameraman. At one point, the lights went out. We had to do it several times," she says.

But the actress ignored the symptoms of hypothermia when the shoot went on past the 15-minute safe point.

  • VIEW IT / GERMAN FILM FESTIVAL

  • WHERE: Various locations, including Golden Village Level 2 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk; and The Projector, 05-00 Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road

    WHEN: Till Sunday, various times

    INFO: For schedule and bookings, go to www.goethe.de/singapore

"I tried to breathe normally, even though I was shivering. But in the end, I had something like an attack of epilepsy - I couldn't control my hands, they were shaking so much," she says.

When actors are in the zone, as she was, they can forget about physical pain, she says.

"I was high on adrenaline... it's magic. It is hard to explain. You can relax the body and forget everything and not be bothered by it."

But she notes that director Johannes Schmid made sure the tough scenes were done on the final days of shooting, so that if anything went wrong, "they don't need me any more".

Agnes is among the films of the German Film Festival, now on at several venues.

In the movie, Johne's character is a student in a love affair with Walter (Stephan Kampwirth), a writer in his 40s. The relationship is fraught - Agnes is filled with strange motivations, such as the desire to annihilate herself, so that she and Walter can create a new story together.

It is a twist on the Pygmalion idea, in which an older and wiser male artist shapes a young woman into an object that he can love and be inspired by. But it is also a work that can be viewed as a metaphor for a love affair, which asks that two individuals lose part of themselves to make a new whole, she says.

"For me, it was important that Agnes is not passive, to be used as a muse. She has power - she is manipulating the art. She's searching for meaning, she's much more radical than the maker of the art," says Johne, who is based in Berlin and made her reputation in Germany playing characters with dangerous depths.

"My characters are often schizophrenics. I don't get chosen to play nice, beautiful girls, but I wouldn't mind being in a comedy one day," she says.

•Agnes (M18, 101 minutes) is screening tomorrow at Golden Village VivoCity at 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2016, with the headline 'Braving pain and cold for Agnes'. Print Edition | Subscribe