the case of Til Schweiger, actor of Inglorious Basterds, shakes German cinema

the case of Til Schweiger, actor of Inglorious Basterds, shakes German cinema

Til Schweiger at the Greentech Festival in Germany on May 24, 2019. Christian Marquardt

In a long investigation by the magazine “Spiegel”, the German actor and director is accused by nearly 50 people of violent and toxic behavior on his film sets. A case that frees speech in the German cinematographic world.

There had been the Dieter Wedel affair, in 2018. This German filmmaker had poured out at the microphone of a local radio on the pressure he had suffered as a young actor, even though he was accused of rape and harassment of its actresses. Faced with such remarks, his victims then spoke in the columns of a long investigation of the weekly Die Zeit crystallizing the beginning of the movement weather in Germany. First rising in the press – so much so that he would soon be nicknamed the “German Harvey Weinstein” -, the affair had nevertheless run out of steam just as quickly.

But for several days, a new scandal has shaken the country and could well put the cases of abuse of power and sexual assault in the German film industry back at the heart of the debate. At the beginning of May, Til Schweiger, actor ofInglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino) and award-winning director, has been accused of toxic behavior on his film sets: harassment, intimidation, excessive violence, physical and verbal aggression. In total, nearly 50 people testified against him in the pages of the magazine Der Spiegel. The facts would have taken place in particular at the time of the realization of his film Manta Manta 2 (2023).

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All the stories bear witness to the almost daily “drunkenness” of the director. “If it’s not fresh, I’ll break your head,” he would have shouted, for example, at one of his employees who went to get him a beer. Nicknamed “the imperator” in the middle, “he can start a career or end it”, blew a source to Der Spiegel to explain this “atmosphere of fear”. It must be said that the latter would have already come to blows with some. One day, arriving drunk on the set of Manta Manta 2, Til Schweiger would have been invited by one of his employees to go to rest. “He was wild. He threatened to smash his face, ”reports a witness, who would have seen a slap from the filmmaker.

An open secret

Since the revelations of the German magazine, this new affair is gaining momentum in the country, and seems to free speech in the very closed environment of German cinema. Since the publication of the investigation, several actors in the industry have publicly testified to the toxic filming conditions, which would be practically customary on the sets. Like actresses Nora Tschirner and Caroline Peters. “It’s been an open secret for years,” said the premiere, reports The Guardian. And the second to complete: “I am happy that this is finally discussed in public. No one should establish his authority by behaving in an odious way with people”. Adding a little further: “And this pressure is all the more exerted on the people who occupy positions already at risk”.

The public authorities now intend to take up the subject. Claudia Roth, Minister of Culture in Germany, has just requested a “complete investigation” around Til Schweiger and his filming conditions. Intransigent on the question of violence in the world of culture, the latter thus demanded at the beginning of May a “code of good conduct”, drafted under the aegis of the professional federation of cultural institutions in Germany (Deutscher Kulturrat). To truly put an end to it, she has thus promised to remove all subsidies to production companies that do not respect their employees.

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“I say very clearly that even artistic geniuses or supposed artistic geniuses are not above the law,” she said. The days of patriarchal types abusing their position of power in the worst way should really be over. Even if it is obvious that not everyone understood it. Til Schweiger has so far not reacted to the investigation and the accusations against him.

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