Anneliese Römer was one of the great actresses of the Schiller and Schlosspark Theater Ensemble in Berlin. When I met her to take her
portraits, she was already in her forties and had just had a
difficult, life-unsettling breakup. The details I do not know, but
when I arrived at her villa in Berlin, she and a number of close
friends, including the film actor Paul Hubschmidt, were all around
her pool, the friends all trying to buoy her spirits.
Her face was wonderfully expressive, but not pretty. That made this portrait session complex, as it was necessary to bring out her expressive qualities and catch the warmth, humanity and depth of her person. The session took a very long time, but she did open up and we also became close friends. After that, I often stopped by when I needed some real warmth and humanity.
As an actress, on stage she came alive wondrously and was equally at home in serious and comedy roles. Of course, at the time, there were few comedies in the German language. But seeing her in "Minna Von Barnhaim" (Minna of Barnheim) at the Schlosspark Theater was one of the truly delicious delicatesses of all theater. She had a voice like no one else. It could be like a trumpet and had a certain grit to it that commanded attention when grand, but could melt the coldest of human souls when expressing warmth, sympathy and womanly love. Her personality on the stage was all-enveloping. And that voice. That wonderful voice.
What a pleasure to scan my portraits of her. They bring me back to one of the great, suffering, warm, sympathetic, truly human women of my life. Other great women I knew were grand, magnificent, etc. Anneliese could be all those things. But beyond that she had a vulnerable, Ur-woman-like suffering and sympathetic warmth and humanity like no one else I knew. And she was all that without ever becoming grandmotherly or motherly. Her empathy was way beyond that.
These photos are unretouched. At the time, some smoothing was undertaken on the photos chosen for commercial reasons, because she did wear makeup (very sophisticated makeup) in film and theater. But now, I do not think she would want that any more. She died at 81 in November of 2003.
©2006 Mark B. Anstendig. All rights reserved.
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