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Isabelle Huppert Wins Berlinale 2022 Golden Bear Prize: A Look At The French Actress' Journey

She has appeared in nearly 150 film and TV productions, displaying her versatility through a wide range of characters. Even though she has also acted in comedies, Isabelle Huppert is arguably most renowned for portraying cold women who behave in unexpected ways. Described by various critics as "one of the best actresses in the world," Isabelle Huppert is now being honored at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival.

Along with an homage program featuring her films, she is also recognized with an Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement, which will be awarded on February 15. The film "About Joan," directed by Laurent Lariviere and co-starring Huppert and Lars Eidinger, will also premiere as part of the Berlinale award ceremony.

However, the acclaimed actress will not be able to attend the festival, having tested positive for COVID-19. According to a press statement, she does not feel ill, so Berlinale organizers plan to go ahead with the ceremony and will join Huppert via a live link from Paris.

Encouraged by her mother to begin acting

Born in Paris on March 16, 1953, Huppert was born into success. Her parents — a mother who taught English and a father, an entrepreneur — were well-off. Although her father was of Jewish heritage, Isabelle and her four older siblings received a Catholic education. The fine arts had a natural place in their home.

Isabelle Huppert began attending her first acting classes at the age of 14, and was later admitted to the Conservatoire National Superieur d'Art Dramatique in Paris.

By 18, she was in her first movie. At 23, she became an international movie star.

Despite achieving stardom early in her career, she would never claim to have been lucky. "Luck does not just fall miraculously from the sky," she once said in an interview with the women's magazine "Brigitte." She rather believes that everyone can create the conditions of their happiness.

Huppert, the intellectual?

She appears to be continuing to create the conditions she likes. Isabelle Huppert is relentless. She has a considerable body of work, and has been starring in two to three films a year for decades. Five titles are listed for release in 2022. Her trademark roles are extraordinary women marked by tragedy and surrounded by mystery.

Her choices in roles and collaborations with some of the most renowned directors in the world, such as Michael Haneke ("The Piano Teacher") and Claude Chabrol ("Violette Noziere"), have earned her a reputation as an "intellectual actress."

This is however inaccurate, she said in an interview with "Zeit Magazine," because her films — even if they could be seen as intellectual — do not say anything about her. She rather sees herself as a "tool" of the directors, following their instructions exactly, with hardly any improvisation.

Strong characters through minimal gestures

Huppert expresses the moods and mental state of her characters with precision and great sensitivity. Her seemingly expressionless face and sparing facial expressions have become something of a trademark.

Fiction has a tendency to inflate things, she told "The Financial Times" in July 2017: "But when I look at people on the street, I find that most of them are pretty empty in their eyes. I have to do even less." To observe, she has been taught, you have to take away, not add something.

But her acting style, one of reduction, has meant that audiences and critics often view Huppert as unapproachable, cold. It's an image that does not do justice to the French woman, who is just 1.5 meters (4'9") tall.

She has been in a relationship with writer, producer and director Ronald Chammah since 1982; the couple have three children.

Art and photography are among Huppert's passions. In her home, she collects photos and books: "I want to hold tight to the positive memories from my life," she said.

Women on the edges of society get a voice

Huppert has appeared in around 140 films since 1972.

She has found herself working with some directors repeatedly: Michael Haneke, Paul Verhoeven, the late Claude Chabrol and Bob Wilson.

Working with them, she can inhabit extreme characters — "survivors who can be victims and rebels simultaneously," the actress said. "My films give these women a voice. Because even though they live on the edges of society, they are there: women who live brutal lives. It's a brutality that they themselves never sought out," Huppert told Zeit Magazine.

Her portrayals in these challenging roles have already earned her numerous awards, including the most important ones in the film industry: the French Cesar, the European Film Award, Berlin's Silver Bear, Cannes' Best Actor Award and the Golden Globe. The statues decorate Huppert's home. All that is missing is the Oscar, an award for which she was nominated for the first time with "Elle" (2017), directed by Paul Verhoeven.

Absolute confidence

Of her acting capabilities, she says she has "unlimited self-confidence."

"I never doubt. I have absolutely no fear," she told The Financial Times. "There are so many other areas where I am not that ... Crossing the street, meeting people ... Everything that's vital. But acting, nothing can intimidate me. Acting is never an obstacle. I do it without thinking. It's like eating or drinking."

Now, as she is crowned in Berlin for a lifetime of continuous success, one might ask: What more can Isabelle Huppert hope to accomplish?

As she told "Brigitte" magazine, sometimes, she does feel "this slight meaningless phase of lazy exhaustion," though if she were to quit, she wouldn't know who to hand in her resignation to. She sometimes fantasizes about what she'd do instead. "Clearly, though, I am in opposition to this daydream."

Update: This profile of Isabelle Huppert was updated on February 15, 2022, ahead of the Honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement ceremony, along with the news that she could not attend the festival.

This article was originally written in German.

Source: DW

Story first published: Wednesday, February 16, 2022, 21:25 [IST]
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