Iris Berben: The actress used to see whistling as a “compliment”

Iris Berben
Actress used to see whistling as a ‘compliment’

Iris Berben at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

© imago images/Future Image

Iris Berben looks back on the beginnings of her acting career. In the past, whistling was “a compliment”.

Iris Berben (72) moved to Munich in the 1960s and took her first steps as an actress. In the “Welt am Sonntag” she looks back on the beginning of her career and the earlier life in the city. Her film career started when she was “cast as a pretty girl,” according to Berben. “It was a very good motor because it drove me to prove that I had more to offer than attractiveness. Nevertheless, being a pretty girl was a good door opener at the time,” says the 72-year-old.

It is “nice to be perceived as attractive” – ​​at least “if you are not reduced to it”. She further reflects: “I was extremely shy because of my upbringing in the convent school and I was 13 years old when I kissed for the first time in Italy. I’ve never experienced orgies.” Sex was a “shameful topic” for many, and nudity in the parental home was “often taboo”.

“Much of what is seen as encroaching today was not felt that way at the time”

She remembers one experience in particular: “Once there were ‘living’ advertising pillars on Leopoldstrasse, including girls. You could put your hands in an opening and touch your breasts. I was stunned, but we didn’t think it was discriminatory at all.” Rather, it was “pure provocation in the context of a completely different time”, “against any form of bourgeoisie”. “A lot of what you see as offensive today wasn’t felt that way at all back then. We were all very physical, people whistled at you and you took it as a compliment,” says Berben.

“Of course it’s right and extremely important that we have the MeToo discussion today,” says the actress. “But we also liked freedom of movement back then. We were easygoing with each other and wanted to thumb our noses at the Conservatives.” She loses critical words about the city of Munich: “For the blink of an eye, Munich was world class. Today it has turned into a lazy dachshund with a golden bone in its mouth.”

Iris Berben will soon be seen in the film “Triangle of Sadness”. The tragic comedy won the Palme d’Or for Best Picture at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. “Triange of Sadness” will start in German cinemas on October 13, 2022.


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