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Culture

Isabella Rossellini to announce Berlin film festival winner

For decades, Isabella Rossellini has captivated audiences with both her acting and beauty, and most recently, with her directing. Now, she's heading the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Portrait of Rossellini, who has continued to reinvent herself

Rossellini has continued to reinvent herself

"I was very proud to be selected in the jury, but my ego swelled to be asked to be president of this fine festival," said Isabella Rossellini at a press conference Thursday, just ahead of the opening of the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.

Rossellini will view films from morning to night with her fellow jury members until February 19, when she will award the Golden Bear to one of 16 films at the final ceremony.

Concerning the imprisonment of Iranian director Jafar Panahi, who had been asked to sit on the jury, but is now imprisoned in Iran, Rossellini noted that "art is about free speech, artists need to feel free to raise their voices, no matter what the form of art they choose; film is no exception."

Issabella Rossellini as the unforgettable Dorothy in 'Blue Velvet'

Rossellini as the unforgettable Dorothy in 'Blue Velvet'

Rossellini knows the ins and outs of the film business, having learned acting and directing from the cradle up. The daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian director Roberto Rossellini, she was born in Rome in 1952 - 34 minutes before her twin sister Ingrid.

David Lynch's 1986 film "Blue Velvet" launched her to stardom as an actress. In recent years, she's made a name for herself as director of the short film series "Green Porno" and "Seduce Me," about the compelling sex lives of animals.

Off-beat characters

Rossellini was just five years old when her parent separated. Following their divorce, she grew up living near her father in Rome, and later began a career as a journalist and model. She made her film debut in a brief appearance alongside her mother in "A Matter of Time" in 1976, with her first role following in the 1979 film "Il prato."

She grabbed attention in her first American film, the dance movie "White Nights," in 1985, but what followed was unforgettable: her role as a torch singer in "Blue Velvet."

Wearing a long, dark wig, Rossellini - as Dorothy Vallens - sings the film title song in a nightclub and is then stalked by a young man, who ultimately witnesses her performing bizarre sexual acts with sociopath Frank, played by Dennis Hopper.

Rossellini magnetized audiences with her ability to embody both the vulnerable and the domineering sides of this complex female figure.

Roberto Rossellini

Rossellini has written three books, including one on her father, shown here

Off screen, the actress was romantically involved with director Lynch, with whom she lived for four years. She made another movie together with him, "Wild at Heart," in 1990. In an interview with the German journal Zeitmagazin, Rossellini called Lynch "the love of her life," adding that their separation was very difficult for her.

Prior to that relationship, the actress was married to American director Martin Scorcese.

Hollywood and indie

Rossellini has not just made her mark in American films, but in numerous European ones as well, such as in the 1998 Dutch movie "Left Luggage" about a family of orthodox Jews living in Antwerp.

Keeping true to her eclectic roles in both Hollywood and independent films, she ventured into the Western genre, acting in Lawrence Kasdan's 1994 semi-biographical portrait "Wyatt Earp." In 1996, she teamed up with New York cult director Abel Ferrara to shoot the crime-drama "The Funeral."

A Jewish mother unable to understand her slightly disturbed, older son (played by Joaquim Phoenix) in James Gray's 2008 film "Two Lovers" was her last big role.

From filmmaker to jury president

Rossellini promoting her series 'Green Porno'

Still seducing audiences, here as director

With her diverse talents, it's no wonder Rossellini has distinguished herself as a director and producer. Her award-winning, funny short films in the series "Green Porno," created for the Sundance Channel, celebrated their debut at the Sundance Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival in 2008.

In Berlin, where she is now presiding over the jury of the International Film Festival, she may just be as captivating when she announces the winner of the prestigious Golden Bear as she is in front of or behind the camera.

Author: Jörg Taszman / als

Editor: Kate Bowen

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