I saw a German movie last night called Combat Girls, about two young women involved with contemporary neo-Nazism. It kicked off the Goethe Institut Los Angeles’ New German Film Festival at the Egyptian. It was a fantastic movie, beautifully acted, a story with both social relevance and spiritual scope. See it if you can.
The actor playing the leading role, Alina Levshin, was introduced after the screening, and answered questions on her work on the film. Her responses were exceedingly gracious and thoughtful. If there were ever a situation that might invite ego inflation, this would have to be it, but her palpable poise and groundedness were impressive. The inevitable question about how she found her way into the mind of a neo-Nazi was posed. She talked about interviews that the director had done with actual neo-Nazi women that she had watched, and about doing the kind of homework she had been trained to do in acting school. Then she talked about the experience of having the multiple tattoos sported by the character put on her, including one with a swastika that she covered with a bandage when she needed to, and donning the clothes, and having her hair cut for the role. She talked about being struck by the deference and even fear that the people working on the movie began to exhibit towards her in response to the way her appearance had been transformed, and how that helped her to enter the role as much as anything.
As I have written about previously, clothing is an enormous boon to the actor. With it, she can have a physical experience of the way a character presents herself to the world. She can literally walk in the character’s shoes. I strongly encourage actors to find rehearsal clothes to bring to every rehearsal and change into. Wearing the clothes has the impact that Alina Levshin described above, and changing into them can become a ritual that primes the actor’s subconscious mind and nervous system for the dynamic confrontation that scene work inevitably involves.
My ardent congratulations to Alina for her great work in this film. I can only imagine that we will be seeing more of her in the future.