Best of 2023: Daniel Brühl on Past Lives

The award-winning star of Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia on his favorite film of the past 12 months, plus his award season viewing habits.

I absolutely adored everything about Past Lives: the poetic tone, and how moving it was without being without manipulating you. It’s sheer perfection. And it’s a debut film, which makes it even more impressive.

I saw it in the cinema, which is unfortunately a rare thing for me, as I’m a father of two. I also moved to the countryside, which has made it even more difficult to go to the cinema, but my wife and I celebrate the times we do get to go like it’s our wedding day! We enjoy it so much, so we carefully choose something to watch that we both will probably like. When we saw the trailer for Past Lives, we both agreed that this would be the film for us, and it moved us tremendously. It’s just one of these films that you carry in you, which burns for a long time after you’ve watched it. Over time, even more pieces come together in your mind, as it makes you think of your present, your past, your relationships, love, romance – all of that. It was an unforgettable experience.

The next film my wife and I are planning to watch together is Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, though it is not out yet in Australia, where I’m shooting Ron Howard’s Eden right now. Vanessa Kirby is one of the other actors I’m working with on Eden and I’m a big history buff, so I want to see her in Napoleon. I’m not sure she’s going to join us, but my friends and I are going to go watch it. The other film that I want to watch, because I’ve worked with Bradley Cooper and have a very friendly relationship with him, is Maestro. I’m very impressed by the journey he went on with Bernstein.

These are the films out now in Australia that we can watch here on the Gold Coast, and other than that, I’ve been watching a lot of classics in preparation for Eden. I’m always am interested in what films the director I am going to be working with was inspired by, so I’ve rewatched Walkabout by Nicolas Roeg and Peter Weir’s The Mosquito Coast, plus a beautiful film I’d never seen before that is an an absolute masterpiece, The Emigrants, with Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. Whenever I have the time and my children are not screaming or trying to kill each other, I try to watch an old movie, either on my laptop or, if I’m at home in Berlin, in my little home cinema, where I can see films in dignity.

I love award season and the greatest thing about being a guild member is that if a film has still not come out in the territory where I am, I can watch it in a screening room. I obviously want to see as much as I possibly can, so this is what I do. It also makes me aware of all the good things that are out there, which helps me to continue trying to make films. I have a little boutique production company out of Berlin and, with all the crises cinema is facing, it’s a constant fight as a producer to pull together the budgets to make movies. Sometimes I ask myself, “What am I doing this for? Shouldn’t I just make cottage cheese in Mallorca, where I’ve spent so much time? I would have a much more peaceful life!”

But when I see a great film, I think, “No, it’s worth it.” Some of the people who are dear to me, like Malte Grunert, my producing partner, or Edward Berger, the director of All Quiet on the Western Front, saw Poor Things and said it was masterful, a reinvention of cinema. That’s why I cannot wait to see it, because it will give me a kick in the ass to just take a deep breath and continue doing this madness. When I was young, the reason I wanted to make films was because I saw Vinterberg’s The Celebration and Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. I remember when I watched The Celebration, it felt like a punch in the face. That’s what it’s all about for me.

Award-winning actor Daniel Brühl, who currently stars in the new sports thriller Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia, broke through as a performer with his role in the German film Good Bye, Lenin! Quentin Tarantino brought him to Hollywood for Inglourious Basterds and he played Formula 1 driver Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush, which earned him a nomination at the Golden Globe Awards 2014. He has also starred in films such as The Fifth Estate and Captain America: Civil War, and in 2019 he produced and starred in Julie Delpy’s My Zoe. In 2018, he starred in the title role of the series The Alienist, based on the international best-selling novel by Caleb Carr, for which he was nominated as Best Actor at the Golden Globe Awards 2019, and resumed his role as Zemo in Marvel’s 2021 series The Falcon & the Winter Soldier. With his production company, Amusement Park, he produced All Quiet on the Western Front, inspired by the best-selling novel by Erich Maria Remarque. In 2022, he made his directorial debut with Next Door from a script by best-selling author Daniel Kehlmann based on an idea of Brühl; he also starred in the movie and produced it through Amusement Park.