Romy Schneider

5 April to 24 June 2012

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Romy Schneider, the German actress who became an international film star. The Art and Exhibition Hall pays homage to the actress with an exhibition devoted to her multifaceted work. A selection of original costumes, unpublished photographs, posters, private papers, film clips and personal items from Romy Schneider’s estate document not only an international career but also three decades of European film history.

Born on 23 September 1938, the daughter of Wolf Albach-Retty and Magda Schneider, both of whom were popular actors, Romy Schneider had her film debut at the age of fifteen. By the time of her death at only 43 years of age she had starred in more than sixty films. Her consummate professionalism, her talent and sensitivity enabled her to make an utterly convincing transition from the naïve teenager she played in the 1950s to the sophisticated woman of her later films. Her subtle emotionality and raw vulnerability have never ceased to captivate large audiences.

In her first films Romy Schneider was the archetypical innocent teenager: fresh-faced, cheerful, naïve with just a hint of coquettish flirtatiousness. The three Sissi films only reinforced this image and led to increased demands for her to play similar parts. In the imagination of national and international audiences the actress became one with her role. She was inundated with film offers, but firmly typecast as the ‘innocent teenager’.

Her dissatisfaction with this situation and her ambition to play different roles – expressed publicly and repeatedly as early as the late 1950s – were deliberately ignored. In 1958 Romy Schneider went to Paris to film Christine with Alain Delon. Much to the jealous dismay of her German public she moved to Paris and became engaged to the French actor. In 1962 she caused an ever bigger outcry in Germany with her role as an aristocratic wife prostituting herself in Luchino Visconti’s episode of the anthology film Bocaccio 70. German condemnation notwithstanding, her performance gained her international recognition as a serious actress. Following the Kafka adaptation Le Procès (The Trial, 1962) directed by Orson Welles, she filmed in Britain, the US and again in France, where her performance in La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) in 1968 established her reputation as an accomplished French actress.

In the early 1970s Romy Schneider settled in France for good and set about carving out a new image for herself. Instrumental in her reinvention of herself was the director Claude Sautet, with whom she made five films between 1969 and 1978. She played modern, outwardly self-confident women who plunge themselves and the world around them into emotional turmoil. Several of her French films, among them her last film, La Passante du Sans-Souci (The Passerby, 1982), deal with Germany’s Nazi past, which few German films addressed at the time.

Romy Schneider died in Paris on 29 May 1982. To this day she is celebrated as an international film star and has a devoted audience of millions of fans.