The irresistible lightness of being

Tribute to Andrea Rau

Belgian filmmaker Harry Kümel, whose »Daughters of Darkness« is considered one of the key films of the 1970s, said of her: »Her charisma was that of a superstar. Even the great actress Delphine Seyrig, who had to know, considered her a sensation on the screen.«

We are talking about Andrea Rau, who’s devoutly mysterious appearance exudes Countess’ Bartholy’s maid with infinite eroticism and melancholy. In German cinema, it was Ulrich Schamoni who captured her irresistible blend of recklessness and eroticism on the screen. Her first film, »Quartet in Bed,« Schamoni’s counterculture comedy about the clash of old West German values with the anti-establishment in Berlin’s Kreuzberg in the fading 60s, made her an instant icon of the Sexual Revolution. Her nonchalant way of changing the beds of the four anti-heroes in Schamonis »Quartet in Bed« hit the zeitgeist. A Star was Born – way more careless and sensual than the »nation’s sweetheart« Uschi Glas, who could never quite shake off the air of the bourgeois. An Anna Karina, only lacking a Belmondo at her side. Never femme fatale, always nouvelle vague.

But for Andrea Rau, as for Ulrich Schamoni, the West German film industry was far from living up to their potential. Domestic cinema simply couldn’t shake off its shackles, far too grounded between the increasingly ossified New German Cinema, and an entertainment industry that, after the huge success of Oswald Kolle’s sex-education films, shifted its focus to the million-dollar revenues of sex comedies under the guise of the Sexual Revolution.

By the time she reunited with Schamoni in 1971 to act in his still far too unknown gem of German cinema »One«, Andrea Rau had made a good ten of these erotic comedies that made her a superstar. »One« was Schamoni’s act of defiance against the rigid system of film funding, which denied him funds because he wanted to shoot without a script, as he had done with his previous films. He drove to the south of France in an old Mercedes with a few sketches of ideas, a few friends and no budget, and made everything part of the film from day »One.« And Andrea Rau, by now a busy star, was flown in quite adequately and at the same time introduced, virtually from her day »one« into the story, which oscillated so delightfully between the documentary and the improvisational. Her arrival at the airport, the greeting and her relationship with Schamoni’s character of the young capitalist are narrated as ambiguously as the whole film. From aloof star, she transforms back into the Andrea Rau who longs for spontaneity, lightness and the camera eye that sees her and shows her as she is. Never femme fatale, always nouvelle vague.

It all started with a dance education under the great British choreographer John Cranko and a few roles in various musicals. In the summer of 68 she became famous as the cover girl of the legendary satirical magazine »Pardon«, which she helped to explode in circulation within a few months with her presence. Andrea Rau was the face and the beautiful body of the sexual revolution. Curse and blessing in a country that lost itself in times of upheaval before it could readjust. In its 1968 review of »Quartet in Bed«, the weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel admiringly, but also almost awkwardly, tried to describe Andrea Rau, this the new and exciting star of German film: »an exemplarily shaped human being«.

Abroad, who should be surprised, she left a deep impression in two extraordinary films. In 1974, alongside David Hemmings and Alida Valli in José María Fourqué‘s fascinating exploitation drama »It’s Nothing Mama just a Game,« she portrayed a strong woman who played out her eroticism between submission and dominance so intensely that the main character, embodied by David Hemmings, breaks from his machismo.

Three years earlier, she made her mark in Harry Kümel‘s »Daughters of Darkness« as the gentle and mysterious maid Ilona. The film which – as Harry Kümel fondly remembers – led the great Delphine Seyrig to consider Andrea Rau a sensation on the screen.