Scen.: Hans-Jürgen Syberberg. F.: Klaus König, Kurt Lorenz. M.: Michaela Berchtold, Barbara Mondry. Int.: Romy Schneider, Michel Piccoli, Jean Chapot, Peter Fleischmann, Jean Penzer, Georg Mondi, Gunther Kortwich. Prod.: Rob Houwer per Houwer-Film, Filmund Fernsehproduktion. DCP. Bn.
Romy – Anatomie eines Gesichts, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s second feature, made for German television, offers an intimate view of the actress Romy Schneider, revealing crucial conflicts behind the image of a public figure who loomed large in the German national imagination – and within the art of movies itself. […] Filming Schneider during her skiing vacation at Kitzbühel in early 1966, Syberberg catches her at a moment of crisis in her career, which she discusses with embittered and self-deprecating candor. A target of the gossip press, Schneider expresses frank disgust for the star system that places her personal life on the same plane as her acting. Proud of her success, she also sees its limits, speaking with exasperation of her work in films that, she says, made her “the princess, not only in front of the camera” but “all the time.” Now she admits that she “didn’t want to be her anymore” and hopes to find a more artistically satisfying way of acting – and of living. To that end, she was starring in a low-budget and small-scale French drama with dialogue by Marguerite Duras; Syberberg visits the set and films her there, finding that she’s nonetheless surrounded on location by fans. Bringing subtly bold methods to bear on the talking-head documentary, Syberberg detaches images of Schneider from her voice, showing clinically tight closeups of her in the semipublic setting of a ski lift while hearing her speak in voiceover, and relying on double exposures to evoke her recollections of her adopted city of Paris. In an on-camera interview in the luxurious confines of a prince’s villa, Schneider plunges ever deeper into the pathos of her conflict-riddled confessions, delivering a performance unlike any that she gave in dramas. Syberberg was a key innovator of new cinematic modes that also created a new kind of performance, one that both offered actors a far more engaged form of artistic commitment and, paradoxically, went even further than the popular press in blurring the lines between acting and life.
Richard Brody, “New Yorker”, 28 October 2016