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by Emily Atef
With the face of a resembling Marie Bäumer we see a human, vulnerable, weak Romy Schneider whose Achilles heel is her difficult relationship with her children.
The Portrait of a Lady
What more can a feature film like 3 Days in Quiberon tell us? Not only one of the greatest actresses of the past decades, but also a true style icon, with a dramatic life, but with a smile that will enchant any viewer: Romy Schneider, the great Austrian-German actress who achieved international fame with the trilogy dedicated to the life of Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria called Sissi – consisting of Sissi (1955), Sissi -the Young Empress (1956) and Sissi – Fateful Years of an Empress (1957), all directed by Ernst Marischka – has become a true legend in Austria. It could even be said that – unlike Germany – Austria, her native country, has put the actress on a pedestal, to the point of dedicating to her one of the most important film/television awards of the country: the Goldene Romy, namely the ‘Golden Romy’.
Despite such reverence for the beautiful actress, despite the popularity she has had on the world film scene, few have tried to portray her troubled life on the big screen. With the exception of the 2009 Franco-German co-production Romy, directed by Torsten C. Fischer, no films have ever been made about her life, a biopic that really tells us about the great performer, with all her weaknesses and fears. At least until 2018, when 3 Days in Quiberon (original title: 3 Tage in Quiberon), produced by Austria, France and Germany and directed by French-Iranian (but German by adoption) director Emily Atef, was presented in competition at the 68th Berlin Film Festival first and then at the Diagonale 2019.
Based on the famous photographs taken by Robert Lebeck – and thus reflecting the meticulous black and white – the camera faithfully follows Romy Schneider during her stay in a sanatorium in Quiberon, where the actress had gone to get sober. Joined by her friend Hilde, she is to meet a journalist from Stern magazine and photographer Lebeck for an interview. Schneider, however, is more vulnerable than ever and the risk of her public image being ruined is dangerously high.
With the face of Marie Bäumer (The Counterfeiters) – who bears a remarkable resemblance to Schneider – we see a human, vulnerable, weak, protagonist whose Achilles heel is her difficult relationship with her children. And yet, the smile never fails. Just as laughter, jokes and an extraordinary enthusiasm for life. Atef’s Romy Schneider is a Romy in a transitional phase: long gone are the happy days when she was with the men she loved or at the beginning of her career, when she was still just “Princess Sissi” (a label that she will struggle to shake off for a lifetime), but the hope for a better future is not yet dead, as the protagonist often says.
The rest is self-explanatory: evocative and magnetic portraits of the actress, close-ups and extreme close-ups that often reveal a couple of wrinkles give us a faithful and painful, but all in all honest and realistic story.
Atef’s important film, especially because of this constant, almost obsessive focus on Schneider, can be accused of excessive mannerism. And this is also understandable. And yet one must also acknowledge this: in showing these three important days in the protagonist’s life, the dangerous rhetoric that refers to imminent events in her life, such as the premature death of her son or her own death, which occurred only a year later, is fortunately avoided. There’ s nothing to object to: history is history, Schneider is represented here as an important member of the film history, venerated yes, but also incredibly humanised. And, perhaps, also and above all for this reason, immensely loved.
Original title: 3 Tage in Quiberon
Directed by: Emily Atef
Country/year: Germany, Austria, France / 2018
Running time: 115’
Genre: biographical, drama
Cast: Marie Bäumer, Birgit Minichmayr, Charly Hübner, Robert Gwisdek, Denis Lavant
Screenplay: Emily Atef
Cinematography: Thomas W. Kiennast
Produced by: Karsten Stöter