3 Days in Quiberon by Emily Atef is a compelling slice of a few days in the life of actress Romy Schneider as she gives her last interview.
The Bitter Tears of Romy Schneiderby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
In her day, Romy Schneider was probably the best-known European actress. She was also known for her private life, when she left her native Austria to live with actor Alain Delon in France.
This brief slice of a biopic catches her on a few days in 1981, a year before her death aged only 43. She’s in a rather spartan spa hotel on the coast of Brittany on a strict regime, preparing to give an extended interview to Germany’s Stern magazine, her first in depth for many years.
But she’s a chain-smoking emotional wreck. Her son, on holiday in the US, has just told her he doesn’t want to live with her any more, her ex-husband has committed suicide and the public remember her for a cult series of films she starred in when young and don’t perceive her as the serious actress she wants to be seen as now.
For the film, the Stern journalists gave director Emily Atef their memories of that time they spent with Romy. She’s incarnated here by Marie Bäumer, who has an uncannily close physical resemblance to the actress and who totally nails her captivating, capricious, charismatic charm, her childlike candour and her private anguish. There’s a memorable scene where she and her companions stumble into a local wedding reception that shows both her magnetic personality and the affection her fans had for her.
Stern’s Michael Jürgs (Robert Gwisdek) really did do the interview. It was probing and intrusive but in spite of this Romy wanted to do it, thinking this would reveal her true self to people who had underestimated her. He plied Romy, a borderline alcoholic, with wine and she ended up a ball of misery on the floor. Photographer Robert Lebeck (Charly Hübner), close to Romy, took a memorable series of black and white pictures – which is why Atef also creates the mood in black and white.
The film is closely based on the real events and people, though it creates the fictional character of Hilde (Birgit Minichmayr), Romy’s sensible, grounded childhood friend. She’s an observer of events and we see what happens through her eyes. She has joined Romy to keep her company while she’s undergoing her treatment but when she sees how vulnerable she is, she tries to protect her from being manipulated by the journalists who are seeking to exploit her for their own ends, and also from herself – Romy wants to reveal too much and her hold on reality seems so fragile that when she doesn’t rouse for any reason it makes us fear for her life.
Marie Bäumer’s performance is riveting and the film is worth watching for her alone. She plays a fascinating character who’s unravelling before our eyes, who’s maddening and yet so open-hearted and magnetic that you have immense sympathy for her. Though perhaps the film doesn’t add too much more for anyone familiar with Romy Schneider’s life, it’s a behind-the-scenes snippet of a compelling character’s life that I found fascinating.
3 Days in Quiberon screened at the Berlin Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival and is released on 16 November 2018 in the UK.