Writer-director Maren Ade discusses Toni Erdmann, rehearsing with actors to craft realistic performances, and handling dual protagonists.
Writer-director Maren Ade’s third feature, Toni Erdmann, opens on the image of a front door. “First, it’s empty for a while. I found it funny to watch that door,” said Ade. A postman finally arrives with a package for “Toni Erdmann”, but it’s Winifred Conradi (Peter Simonischek) who answers the door, claiming the package is for his brother, recently out of prison. A minute later, Simonischek returns to the door, this time dressed as Toni: without a shirt and with ridiculous false teeth.
Ade recalled, “I often asked myself, ‘Do you know immediately that he’s doing this? That it’s a joke. It’s not the brother?’ I think it’s a good characterization of him. On one side, it’s bizarre what he’s doing, but he excuses himself for doing that joke. For me, there was this longing for him for a new form of communication, not just the postman coming giving the package, how would it be normally. I thought it would be a good introduction to Toni later because you had to see where it comes from. You had to see the part of the Toni that already existed before. It’s the only time when we’re really surprised, when we don’t know who is that guy [Toni]. I wanted [viewers] to make up our own opinion.”