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Sandra Hüller is the movie star you need to know

Sandra Hüller cautiously embraces stardom, including this photo session for Vanity Fair. (Photo: Emma Summerton.)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

For many moviegoers outside her native Germany, actor Sandra Hüller is an unknown. This year changes that.

After quietly building a body of stellar acting work over the past two decades, Hüller is finally in the spotlight. It’s a role she’s enduring rather than embracing.

Accepting the Best Actress prize at the European Film Awards in Berlin last weekend, the star of “Anatomy of a Fall” and “The Zone of Interest” — two of the most acclaimed films of the year — asked the in-house and broadcast audiences to stop and think of world peace.

“I would love to be silent with you for a few moments,” said Hüller, 45, as a hush drew over the audience for a half-minute.

With showier actors, the gesture might have seemed performative. Not so for Hüller, whose face at rest often seems to convey anxiety, and who sincerely believes “our thoughts can and will shape the world.” She prefers to have people focus on her complex screen characters rather than herself.

Speaking to the Star from Los Angeles recently over a Zoom link, she described herself as “blessed and very grateful” to be featured in two films piling up kudos and Oscar buzz: Justine Triet’s marital whodunit, “Anatomy of a Fall” (now in theatres and streaming shortly) and Jonathan Glazer’s Holocaust drama “The Zone of Interest” (opening in theatres Dec. 22).

These radically different films took the two top prizes at Cannes — “Anatomy” won the Palme d’Or, “Zone” the Grand Prix — following their world premieres there last May. They’ve been collecting more hardware since then.

“Anatomy” swept the top prizes at the European Film Awards, known as the Oscars of Europe, where the twice-nominated Hüller competed against herself (and four other actors) for the Best European Actress prize. She won for her “Anatomy” performance of a murder suspect over her “Zone” role as wife of a Nazi commandant.

“Anatomy of a Fall”

“The Zone of Interest”


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